Thursday, October 2, 2014

Understanding Humanity and Utopia: The Great Divide

The way we conceive humanity and our problems determines the nature of our solutions. Gandhi disdained technology and thought that the return to the simple life would solve many of our problems:

  • Gandhi’s idea that technology was evil and that a simple, natural life was morally superior came from British idealists like John Ruskin. Sensitive people like him had become critical of England’s Industrial Revolution because of the exploitation, oppression, and other evils associated with its “dark satanic mills.” Mahatma Gandhi brought this opposition to technology to India. (Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization,111)
Shakti Gawain, author of Creative Visualizations, taught that our problems arose from alienation from the inner self. Therefore, her answer consisted of learning to trust the “truth” we find within:

  • “When we consistently suppress and distrust our intuitive knowingness, looking instead for external authority, validation, and the approval of others, we give our personal power away…Every time you don’t trust yourself and don’t follow your inner truth, you decreased your aliveness and your body will reflect this with a loss of vitality, numbness, pain, and eventually physical disease.” 
Meanwhile, Joseph Stalin was convinced that attaining paradise was a matter of changing the environment – the State and its economy:

  • Whatever is the mode of production of a society, such in the main is the society itself, its ideas, and theories, its political views and institutions. Or, to put it more crudely, whatever is man’s manner of life, such is his manner of thought.
Similarly, The Humanist Manifesto II asserts that “Using technology wisely” can produce the “abundant and meaningful life”:

  • “Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.” 
Many other utopian schemes rely upon the removal of the repressive or capitalistic elements. The Occupy Wall Street movement seemed to suggest that if we could simply remove the capitalist oppressors - the top one percent – we could have a better world. Other movements placed their hopes on the elimination of those deemed evil or less evolved.

Interestingly, all of these “solutions” have one thing in common – a belief in the essential goodness of humanity, or at least of their particular group, and the superficiality of our problems. Those who believe that humanity has been corrupted by society, also believe that humanity can be easily reformed by a radical change of society.

When we believe that our problems are superficial, we will generate constant flow of utopian dreams. Such dreams are usually revolutionary. They are not content to merely improve the present system but to remove it.

When confronted with the horrors of National Socialism, Communism, and ISIS – and various other utopian movements, each promising to create a better world – the “believer” will insist that these are mere aberrations, easily corrected by the right people and re-education programs. Such hope is inevitably based upon a benign assessment of humanity.

However, what if the genocides, rapes, and abductions are the result of deeper problems that social changes will not touch? What if we are not controlled by rational argumentation or the means of production but by baser instincts?

And here is related consideration. What if there is a human nature that requires a certain kind of care? Then we have to ask the question: “Is this nature best served by sexual liberation? Communism? Finding one’s own truth? Psychotropic drugs?”

This is the Mason-Dixon Line – the great polarizing divide. It depends on our understanding of humanity. How fluid and remedial is our nature? The progressive answers, “very fluid and remedial.” The conservative answers very differently, and these answers determine how readily we will pursue radical change.

The Bible testifies of the pervasive sinfulness of humanity.  According to Jesus, we are normally addicted to darkness, the denial of the truth (John 3:19-20). The veracity of His assessment is evident at every turn. One Sabbath, Jesus healed a man with a “shriveled hand.” Instead of praising God at this miraculous deed:

  • The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:11)
This same hatred of the Light of God is ubiquitously evident. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after four days in the grave:

  • Some of [those who saw the miracle] went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him. (John 11:46-48) 
They were unwilling to consider the implications of this great miracle. Instead, they plotted together to kill Jesus and eliminate His unbearable Light.

Jesus even prophesied that the enemies of the Light would not only eliminate Him but also those associated with Him, all the while convincing themselves that they were performing a virtuous act:

  • They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. (John 16:2) 
According to the Bible, human perversity is so deep-seated that it requires radical surgery. We must be changed from above. In light of this understanding, utopianism is sheer fantasy, like building a mansion on a cesspool.

We are that cesspool. This is a truth that I had denied, disguised, and suppressed for years. It was just too unsettling! However, through the assurance of my Savior’s love and forgiveness, He granted me the courage to face the disorienting Light, and the closer I came to it, the more I was enabled to see the ugliness within.

Fire can either consume us or free us from our bonds. Rather than psychologically crippling me, the Light freed me. I no longer have to hide and put on a facade. I can non-defensively bask in the truth, knowing that my worth is unassailably buried in His love and care.

This does not represent a rejection of social change, but instead a recognition of our human limitations.

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