Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Significance, Self-Acceptance, and Utopianism

We yearn for significance. I must confess that I find myself turning to my new emails in hope of receiving an invitation from a nationally prominent publication begging me to write for them. However, when I now perceive this craving, I can laugh at myself. This is only because my pursuit of significance has now been decisively satisfied by the God and Creator of all creation who has promised to never stop loving me and infusing me with His glory.

Okay, it would still be nice to get that email, but it’s something I no longer need. But how does someone who doesn’t have Christ deal with this craving? There are several options:

1. The pursuit of personal glory or accomplishment! However, there are countless testimonials of successful people who never are able to find a place of rest and self-acceptance. John D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much more money will you need in order to be happy?” He confessed, “Always a little more.”

2. Denial! (Nihilism) Life contains no glory, meaning, or purpose. You survive as pleasurably as you can, and then you die.

3. Identification with a utopian cause! This puts you in the vanguard along with the other elite, intelligent, caring and discerning people. Utopianism can take many forms. You can prove your significance by dying for what is regarded by your sub-culture/religion as a righteous cause.

I think that we fail to recognize how pervasive this last option has been. David Limbaugh writes of Mark Levin’s new book, Ameritopia:

• In "Liberty and Tyranny," Levin laid out the conservative vision and contrasted it with the liberal vision. But "Ameritopia" examines more deeply the historical and philosophical roots of the utopian ideal, for it is that ideal that has always animated the liberal worldview.

• Levin takes us through the seminal thoughts of some of the most noted political philosophers and writers who laid out the utopian vision — from Plato to Thomas More, Thomas Hobbes and Karl Marx — and then unpacks the contrasting vision of John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu and others whose ideas greatly influenced America's founders.

• Liberal utopianism is a fantasy of arrogant philosophers and philosopher kings who believe their vision is superior to those of other lowly mortals. Levin calls them the "masterminds"…They believe they are proponents of enlightenment thinking and rationalism who could construct the ideal society if deniers and other obstructionists would just get out of their way. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/david-limbaugh/2012/01/17/mark-levin-proves-leftism-predicated-utopianism-new-masterpiece-amer

According to the liberal, the “obstructionists” are the Christians. We’re the bad guys. We’re the ones who oppose enlightenment and advancement – the liberal utopian vision. Of course, the “vision” is so wonderful, paradisical and positively transformative, that it’s worth whatever the price-tag. Sadly, the price-tag often involves revolution and human lives. Consequently, the French revolution, the Spanish revolution, Nazism, and Communism all justified murdering priests and pastors (among other dissidents) to eliminate the vermin who had long impeded with their utopian vision. In their thinking, it was a small but necessary part of the price-tag.

Why has it been that these utopian failures have failed to sober-up their champions? For one thing, they all have failed to see the limits that human nature imposes upon our visions. I had lived in Israel from 1970-72 in a vain attempt to find the perfect community. I had tried out many Kibutzim from the most extreme socialistic camp – the Hashomer Hatziar. They had been so strict in their vision of utopian socialism, that they didn’t believe in any form of ownership. The children were not the possession of the parents but the community. Wives and husbands were non-existent, as this institution was also regarded as a form of ownership. Consequently, any long-standing sexual relationships were discouraged in favor of multiple sex-partners.

Nevertheless, human nature called an abrupt end to this experiment in every community. Men became husbands; women became wives, and children were all claimed by their biological parents.

Why then did the American revolution succeed? Limbaugh writes:

• Standing in stark contrast are America's constitutional framers, who rejected the folly that certain superior representatives of the species could change the entire species' intrinsic nature. They believed in man's natural rights and cherished the individual liberty flowing from those rights. As students of history, philosophy and human nature, they refused to follow the path of utopians who rejected the realities not only of human nature but also of the evidence of its outworkings in history, especially in man's endless experiments in statecraft. With wide-eyed recognition of human nature, they crafted the American Constitution to maximize individual liberties, despite the natural tendency of man toward absolutism.

Clearly, there is a place for idealism, but idealism must be guided by reality or it will breed destruction. Why then do the utopians fail to take note of reality-imposed limitations? I think that it gets back to our dogged and sometimes invisible lust for significance - to be part of an ennobling cause. When our vision of self depends upon this cause, we blind ourselves to everything that might contradict this vision.

As a social worker for many years, I’ve watched many idealistic social workers come and go. They entered with great ideals and visions of transforming their clientele. However, reality seldom matches our visions, at least not here in this life. Our clients seldom measure up to the vision that we have for them, depriving us of our hoped-for sense of significance. Secretly, we had hoped that we might become their savior. Consequently, many social workers join the ranks of burned-out saviors and end up by hating their clients.

When Christ comes into our lives, we begin to understand that we are beloved for who we are and not for what we do. We no longer have to prove ourselves! This has a liberating effect, as Jesus taught:

• "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)

No comments:

Post a Comment