Monday, September 27, 2021

Totalitarianism is our savior. . .

What have we learned in the past years?  Well, we learned that people cannot be trusted to do the right thing (mask, distance, and vaccinate) and that stronger threats are needed to force the unwilling to do what is deemed in their best interest.  We learned that a free marketplace is either unwilling or too slow to adopt the changes that will reduce our carbon imprint and that a country like China can force people to do what is in their best interest but not their desire.  We learned that freedoms may be and should be abrogated to provide an insular and safe society -- free from the threat of those who disagree with same sex marriage, abortion, the incorporation of all sexual preferences into the norm, and the changing shape of gender identity.  We learned that putting people out of work is sometimes in the best interest of society and that rewarding those who were rendered unemployed is the duty of those who continued to work and pay taxes.  We learned that the freedom of religion is a private right and that the government may not prevent belief but it can and should prevent its practice when that government deems it in the best interest of the whole.  We learned that the second amendment is also a right that can be abridged by the larger goal of protecting people but those who protect us (police) can be reduced in size and their numbers in scope if we decide this will also serve a larger good.  We learned that we are hopelessly and impossibly a racist nation, with racist institutions, governed by racist laws, and that the government might need to use inequality to bring about more equality.  We learned that eating meat has to stop and if it doesn't the government may have to act to force us to eat differently.

While you can debate the individual points, it is clear that to many in America democracy and freedom are impediments to the creation of a society and its institutions and laws that would better serve the goals and purposes of the visionaries who know best what is in our self-interest.  It is also clear that many Americans seem poised and willing to surrender their democracy and freedoms in pursuit of a safer, more protected, more just, and more equitable America.  America was once a revolution from the bottom up but the shape of the future may be from top down.  We are increasingly being instructed by an educational and scientific elite that has captured not only the halls of government but the boardrooms of some American companies.  With this comes the increasing difficulty to retain the right to disagree or to publicly express that disagreement.  These forces are adept at using shame to silence opposition and to make sure that only one message, the approved message gets out.  What is even more concerning is how the media are playing a part in this.  Whether you like or hate Trump, do you think that Facebook is right to censor anyone who disagrees with the political mood of the moment?  In the end this is not even about Trump but about the free exchange of ideas that was once the hallmark of American society.  Will there come a day when rigorous controls are either imposed or voluntarily placed upon social media and the public media the way they are routinely done in China and other societies with no guarantees of liberty?  Will WE be the ones who willingly surrender our rights for the privileges of an insular and protected life?

In the middle of all of this is the Church.  For those who have abandoned the Gospel in favor of doctrine and witness that merely echoes what our culture says and polls prove, this is not a problem.  But for those who seek to be faithful to Scripture, to creed, to confession, and to liturgy, this will be a problem.  In fact, it is a problem.  The world has shifted its hope and trust away from any religion and onto a scientific vision of what is in our best interest -- even when that may not be popular.  Here and throughout the world there are forces working to restrain freedom -- including the freedom of religion -- in order to achieve what they believe is a better world.  Christians, tempted to trade a better future for the moment for an eternal one, are often swept up in the pressure.  Pastors who fail to preach that our hope is not a better or safer tomorrow but an eternal one by God's design and brought about by God's hand, contribute to this temptation.  When the Gospel ends up being equated with social justice or cast aside in the pursuit of science for a greater good, sinners are left in their sinful condition and hope dies -- the real hope that will outlast today and eternal.  The totalitarianism that we need to address is not simply one of a political nature but the fears for which we are willing to surrender rights and privileges that were earned over years by the sacrifices of many.  Totalitarianism is certainly efficient but not at saving anyone or anything.  Instead the only real savior is the One whose blood was shed upon a cross, whose body lay in the tomb, and whose resurrection triumph gives us a future and not simply a past or a present.