Via Monday Evening I discover an amusing post, Anthony Esolen’s Welcome to the Mental Ward. The author points out that, in our day, the people who have power have reached such a point that their demands make no sense, even from their own point of view. The article is impossible to epitomise, but is well worth reading.
The author fails to make the connection, but there is one. The common link is convenience. These are the demands of people who feel that they have total power, and feel no need to be logical. Whatever they want, they want, and that is an end of it.
Those who see this as the consummation of the 60’s generation, the “if it feels good, do it” generation, are very likely correct.
But how should we respond to all this? It would be easy to read the article as a right-wing rant against the PC society. But I think we must look beyond this. Those of us who are Christians need to recognise that the picture is fair, and assess that picture against eternity.
We must, of course, refuse to be conditioned. There is nothing to be said, rationally, for conforming willy-nilly to the demands of such people. We must keep their nonsense out of our heads, despite the bombardment they make with the mass media. It is hard, in truth. Nor should we disengage with society, for we must talk to the fellow-souls here on earth.
We must also beware of allowing our political tendencies to shape our response. Those on the political left have it harder here, for the rulers are of the left; they may find themselves tempted more than those on the political right. The right may be tempted to bewail the “good old days”, not least because baiting the right is part of the policy of the masters. But both must resist being contaminated, either by conforming or reacting. Instead we must conform our minds to Christ, and submit to the word of Scripture.
It is easy for us to feel anger and fear at the actions of the dominant groups in our society. Nor are these irrational responses; these groups are full of hate, fond of intimidation, and quite happy to send people to prison for doing or saying what every man and woman in the west has said or done for a thousand years. But we should remember that God is in charge. None of these people may do anything, without Him allowing it.
It may amuse us to learn that, in England, these people have abused the power of appointment to ensure that no Christian has been made a bishop since 1997, and all candidates have to be in favour of making women and homosexuals bishops. I do not entirely despair to seeing the same people, one day, obliged by the puppeteers to endorse the appointment of a horse for archbishop.
With that, we may recall how it was in the 1st century AD. The emperors brought Roman society into contempt. Educated Romans mocked at the worship of the gods. Martial and Statius flatter Domitian, suggesting that Jupiter and Hercules are far inferior to the god on the Palatine, on whom they depend. Other writers of the period make their doubt that there are any such deities explicit.
Readers of Martial’s De spectaculis can see how the Romans began to depict their religion in the arena. Those brought up to revere the courage of Scaevola, who sacrificed his hand to the flames rather than betray his country, were able to see a condemned man do the same, because he had been threatened with being burned alive if he did not. In the process, the Romans must have been led to think less of Scaevola. The selfishness of the era of Nero and Domitian degraded those who practiced it, and dissolved the religion and society which they lived in.
We may recall, however, that the same people were quite willing to persecute Christians for not sacrificing to the gods in which they themselves did not believe. For their real belief was to bow to the powerful.
Let us instead look beyond the purely human side to this. The scripture tells us that we must obey the authorities, but that we must see that we battle with powers and principalities in this life. These people, whom we despise or fear or treat with disgust, these debauched creatures desperate to debauch others, are victims themselves. They profess to be wise, yet they are playthings of a mightier intelligence, one that is not their friend. They have chosen to place themselves in Satan’s power. They have chosen to reject God; and He has punished them, by allowing them to experience the consequences that they desired. They have rejected his wisdom, as inadequate, and He has allowed them instead to fall into madness. Against this, humanly, we may have little power. But God is mighty, and prayer effective.
In human terms this nonsense will not last. It is far too toxic for any society to endure for long. History is a series of reactions against preceding periods. As the baby-boomers die, sanity will reassert itself. In 30 years we will look back and wonder at the craziness. But in the meantime we must endure it, but not be stained by it. It will limit us, in what we can do in this society. But do it we must. Quietism is not an option.
We must also pray. We must pray for God’s grace, that we may keep safe. We must put on our armour each day.
We should pray for the victims; those whose lives are ruined by vice, greed, selfishness and the consequences thereof.
Finally, we must pray for those men and women who do the evil. For they are doomed, unless God takes pity on them and causes them to repent.
It doesn’t matter if the world goes to hell. One day it will, or so the scripture says. But it matters a great deal how we respond to the world as it does so.