At the risk of seeming a bit verbose, I humbly submit the following:
- Evil exists. In the classic Christian worldview, sin, death, disease, the devil, and the like, are real. All of humanity and all of creation is affected by this. There is not one aspect of life that has not been affected by what we in the church call “original sin.” Until Christ comes to restore all things, we should expect evil things to happen. Now, that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a pursuit of truth, justice, mercy, etc…, but we should be prepared to be disappointed if we are looking for “heaven on earth.” No political candidate or political system, no amount of lawmaking, court decisions, media awareness, dialogue, educational system, economic opportunity, or the like, will solve or eliminate the problem of evil. The purpose of government is to restrain evil, promote the good, and protect the life and property of its citizens. As Chesterton said, “Once abolish the God, and the government becomes god.” Looking to flawed people in a flawed system to fix a flawed world will always result in despair and disappointment. The ultimate solution to evil is found in a manger, a cross, and an empty tomb. However, we do have a duty to expose, confront, and at times, eliminate evil when it appears for the love of neighbor, especially from the “kingdom” that wields the sword (government).
- Worldviews matter. Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What should we do about it? Can you answer these questions in a coherent and systematic way, and by doing so, account for what is observed in the world? How you answer these questions will lead you to better understandings of things like natural law, justice, freedom, the purpose and role of government, etc…If we can’t agree on the answers to these questions, how can we agree on what things like truth, justice, or virtue are? If we have very different understandings and definitions of these words, our conversations will be nonsensical. If you believe that all of the world should be under the banner of Islam, your answers to these questions will be different than one who holds to classic Christianity, or secular progressivism for that matter. Beliefs have consequences, and not all beliefs or actions are equal or beneficial.
- We are living in an era of both transition and dissolution. For centuries, western civilization operated under certain assumptions about the universe, man, the rule of law, and the pursuit of truth and virtue. These assumptions, such as a created and rational universe, a fallen but redeemable humanity, and the pursuit of objective good and beauty, are no longer held by most, and in fact are under attack in some quarters, and have been for several generations. When this happens in a culture, there are “growing pains” or perhaps “death pains,” and a constant sense of anxiety and uncertainty. As communal beings, all us of crave a sense of “connectedness” and purpose. By removing the foundations, people fall and flail and lash out to try and grasp at something that makes sense and creates a form of cultural coherence. Because the west has emphasized a sort of “privatization” principle about anything important (keep your religion to yourself and only on Sundays), what used to unite communities is now a pariah. Rather than a common language, music, history, religion, virtue, calendar, etc…we now are supposed to find our identity in amorphous principles of “democracy,” “rights,” or “equality” without any sort of coherent worldview and culture. In fact, trying to create or preserve such a culture is considered “intolerant” or “bigoted” or (insert-prefix)-phobic. So we want the benefits of thousands of years of cumulative western civilization, but reject the reasons for that civilization. And we wonder why we are anxious, confused, and divided? Should we wonder why we can’t seem to confront the rise of “political Islam” or “Jihadists” in any systematic way?
- The good news is that this level of cultural chaos and volatility is simply unsustainable. Bad ideas, bad decisions, and bad philosophies will die, and the truth will have its day. However, it is certainly possible that things could get much worse before there is any sort of “revival” or cultural renewal. In history, this sometimes came because of significant war or complete economic collapse (often both). While we can remain hopeful and prayerful that we can avoid something of this magnitude, we need to honest and realistic about the challenges ahead. So let’s start working on our worldviews as we confront evil, pursue truth, and winsomely present that worldview and culture that made Western Civilization such a potent force for good.
And finally, remember that in the end, a broken world isn’t our final destination anyway, since we also believe in “the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” (Nicene Creed).