Friday, May 4, 2012

Explaining That Latest Post

Yesterday I posted the quickly written poem, Bad and Worse. It was inspired by a contention made by Marilynne Robinson in the chapter “When I Was A Child I Read Books” in her book of the same title.

Twice she asserts, in that chapter, that the struggles (dialectics she calls it in one place) of this world are not between “good” and “bad”, but rather between “bad” and “worse”.

Robinson is not morbid, nor does she fail to see beauty in our world, or goodness in the works of mankind. But she recognizes a dangerous tendency in humanity; the propensity to label that which one prefers or supports (capitalism or socialism for example) as “good” and then to cast the opposite as “bad”.

The first fallacy in this approach is to assume that any human endeavor is even mostly good. It may, as may all other human endeavors, contain some good, perhaps some great good, but an honest appraisal will force one to admit that it contains much that is not good, perhaps some elements that partake of great evil.

The second fallacy (or perhaps we should say “fault”) is that it segregates society into camps working against each other. Just that image alone – “working against each other” – should be enough to reveal the wastefulness of such efforts. It would be akin to nosing two tractors against each other for the purpose of plowing a field. All the energy that could have resulted in a plowed field would be expended in a futile attempt to move the tractors forward.

Undoubtedly the owners of the tractors would have good reason for opposing each other. Each would think his tractor the best for the job of plowing the field. They might even call their own tractor “good” for the job and denigrate the other as worthless when in fact each tractor would have strengths and weaknesses if observed objectively. A careful coordination of the tractors, using their strengths to best advantage and minimizing the effects of their weaknesses, could result in the field being plowed more quickly and efficiently than either tractor alone could accomplish.

Mankind is always pronouncing the miracle cure, the perfect solution; fighting the war to end all wars, building the unsinkable ship, devising the foolproof scheme. But all talk of that sort is blasphemy – it makes of God a liar. Jesus asked the rich young man who came to him and called him “Good Master”, “Why do you call me good. There is none good but God.”

All human endeavors are laced with pride, ambition, greed, and unseemly competitiveness. There is none that is righteous – not one. Every ideology – even every theology – partakes of the curse of man’s fallen nature. It is therefore unwise – even unchristian – to become devotees of any man-made system of thought or organization, political, economic, philosophical, or theological.

Christians should be the world’s most iconoclastic critics of  the systems of this world, not rejecting the good that is in them, but neither bowing down to worship them, lining up to march on their behalf, going to war for them against their competitors.

Christians should be eclectic, choosing the best regardless of where it comes from, exposing and rejecting the bad without qualm or hesitation even if it is espoused by others as “good”.


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