It seems to me ironic that the last four years of socialist rage were finally met by pandemic. We who work in the field of peace know that it is violence more than anything else that begets more violence, in an escalating wave that becomes a tsunami. I’ve seen it in Venezuela, in Uganda, in Congo and Rwanda and Mali and Pakistan and beyond. These days its as if the earth itself internalized all that negative energy from a disgruntled world and manifested it.
Of course that’s nonsense, the two have nothing to do with each other – except to lay bare that great, sad, unchanging truth: there will be no utopias. Nature will see to that. Because after all the tantrums, it is the natural order which will, in the end, exert itself. More on that in a second. I have found myself these days trying to imagine a path ‘out’. I’m pretty sick of stupidity; I’m pretty annoyed at what Jose Ortega y Gasset calls the ‘mass man’. I don’t want really even to engage with them, much less take orders from them. And orders is all they seem interested in giving. My out: a beach paradise where somebody drops me my cheese with a drone? A mountain hideaway where I can protect my sacred library and read only books that make no reference to the mass man’s “stock of commonplaces, prejudices, cigarette-butt-ends of ideas or simply empty words which chance has piled up within their minds…”, where I need not even know about them much less submit them to debate.
Simultaneous to this quest, I have been proceeding apace with my son’s religious education. Mostly through nightly devotionals, reading the Bible. That greatest of revolutions bequeathed to us by Luther and then popularized through Gutenberg and the most important technological advance in history – printing. We are in Acts of the Apostles, the stories of how the first Twelve fearlessly built the church; the tale of how Christianity went ‘viral’.
And therein, in the lives of the first Christians, are to be found the lessons. “You reap what you sow,” and “give to all those who ask of you,” and of course “do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Then the greatest of all, the beatitudes of Jesus (not in Acts, but Matthew and Luke). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” The beatitudes were what turned Frederic Nietzsche violently anti-Christian. They didn’t fit with his conception of ‘superman’; from his madness he saw them as the greatest of weaknesses, not – as they really are – the source of all strength. Blessed are the poor; the meek; those who mourn. Blessed are the peacemakers; the merciful and the pure. With their corresponding blessing: The poor will inherit heaven; the mourning will be comforted; the meek will rule; the peacemakers will be the sons of God. The merciful will know mercy – and the pure will see God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake, they will get everything!! And Luke, because he was a doctor, because he felt the world more through his experience with the sick and the physical realities of a suffering population trying to make it on our hard planet also accompanied his retelling of the blessings with woes (curses, perhaps). Woe to the rich, for you’ve already got your reward; woe to the well fed, for you will hunger. Woe to you who laugh, for you will weep. Woe to you if you are loved by men, because men love charlatans. Ouch!
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; and who are persecuted because of it. They get it all. But what is righteousness? It comes from morality, from following the laws of nature and nature’s God. Up, down; right, wrong; male, female; positive, negative. Faith and unbelief. Binary mostly, because we live in a binary world – a world of good and evil. We can try to defy these laws; like we can try to defy gravity. But if you jump off a building, you will go splat anyways. Law doesn’t care much if you feel aggrieved by the oppressive nature of gravity as part of the intersectional conspiracy against you, designed to keep you down. And it is here that the godless socialists have a real problem. They certainly love the talk of “blessed are the poor” and “blessed are the hungry.” And they LOVE Luke’s “woes” – a curse upon their lips to damn those against whom their ire is directed. But righteousness, surrendering to the laws of nature and nature’s God for their just rewards? Isn’t God just another oppressor?
Murky water indeed. Last night I was reading the part of Acts where Ananias and Sapphira were struck down by God for lying. Their crime? They held back some of the profits of the sale of their land, which they were giving to the church, and lied about it. But this is not the tax man – it was voluntary. Peter even said as much, “Why did you lie? This was yours to give freely of.” “God,” I told my little boy, “Is a terrible God!” – “Terrible…,” he said, frowning. “But God is good.” “Yes, little man. Not bad-terrible, but terrible like lightning.” But wicked men do not like God in the first place, He’s an inconvenience. Much less a terrible God.
And back to my point, bringing it all together here, sorry. In my quest to ‘escape’ the nasty intercourse with the godless which leaves me feeling a little sullied, I was allowing myself to succumbed to the same temptations of the godless socialists. The idea that my rewards could be found on earth. Because, even if they succeed in pulverizing our cities in their re-distributive violence and seizing what they think is their right (like happened in Venezuela) – even if I succeed in selling a million copies of my novels and retiring to a pristine mountain lake to no longer be forced to entertain their stupidity, we both are headed for the same hard stop. The law of nature’s God – time will catch up to all of us. There are no utopias, neither of violence nor of peace, here upon this world. It is that which Matthew and Luke are telling us. We cannot build places on earth, because even if we do, we might catch a cold and die, or simply perish of old age — but die we will. And that is what the pandemic is reminding us of, it is all ashes and dust and the laws of nature will be followed, whether we like them or not.
So what do we do about it all? We live with our feet firmly planted upon this sad, unequal, violent planet fighting the fights which come our way with Jesus’s purity at the front of our imaginations – and we keep our gaze firmly set over the horizon, to that great utopia of righteousness that will be our reward, but only if we persevere.