In the past couple of years, I have to admit that I have only partially been paying attention to politics and societal “problems.” So much of the conversation that surrounds it is so disingenuous and vapid, that any attention paid seems like a waste of time to me. There’s nothing foundational ever considered and so there is never anything other than whim to which people affix their ideas.
Take, for example, the violence that occurred last August in Charlottesville, VA when neo-Nazis and Antifa “protestors” clashed. As far as I could tell at the time, there was no real reason to pay attention (other than to pray for everyone involved) … and there were several different reasons to disregard both the editorials and the “news” about it. First, the neo-confederates and Nazi sympathizers who made up the group of idiotic racist marchers are virtually no different from the empty-headed Marxist “anti-fascists” who protested them. Both groups are disgusting, violent and worthy of every bit of condemnation that they get and therefore aren’t worth spending any more of one’s time and consideration on than it takes to call them the animals that they are.
Second, it seemed that virtually no one covering the rally/protest/fighting had either: a) an interest in decently assessing the hideous nature of both ideologies, or b) the awareness necessary to honestly make an assessment of the underlying cause of the two ideologies. I make the first accusation because all I saw from “both” sides of the media was stupid comments about the other; something which undermines any moral ground they claimed simply because they couldn’t see the same reprehensible conduct from their own side. I make the second accusation for a related reason. Specifically because, if the arguments that the media or commentators present ever progressed beyond pointing the finger at the other side, it usually never got beyond the peripatetic political garbage which ends up excusing one side for their crimes (presumably because it has “honorable motives”). But where is the “honor” in beating – physically or verbally – someone who differs in opinion from you? Especially when the difference – as in this case – amounts only to a matter of degree?
A final reason (partially related to my first) for not paying any attention to the Charlottesville lunacy was that everybody automatically looked at the problem as politically binary. Essentially, there was – and still is – an automatic belief that this is a “left” versus “right” issue and therefore if you’re not on one side, you must necessarily be on the other. For some reason everybody seemed – and still seems – to have bought into the ridiculous notion that the opposite of Marxism is Fascism, and vice versa. But … weren’t the Nazis Marxist? Maybe not. But they were certainly Socialist – and what’s the difference other than a matter of degree? Marxism and Fascism being opposites is a false assumption reinforced by people who either cannot understand nuance or who have a vested interest in spreading Socialism in whatever bent it takes.
I think that people just don’t seem to realize the foolishness of leaning so far into one political party – or political leader – that you take their platform as your moral compass. This unawareness by the average man is how the two major parties here in the United States have duped so many people into voting against their best interests (or worse, against morality and truth). The parties have done this by selling their party’s policies as that average person’s only hope. The simple fact is that there are a lot of different ways to look at the problems of life and you can splinter people into a thousand-million groups if you’re sufficiently dedicated to the task; and our nation’s two parties seem very dedicated to that end – knowing that they can then capitalize on the chaos with the politically-binary option we have in this country.
Taken together, these three things made me quickly lose interest in either the coverage of the goings-on or the repartee about it. It was all meaningless then and it’s all meaningless now. All of the words of the editorials are like a thimble-full of water being poured onto a wildfire – it turns to vapor as soon as it is poured out and leaves the issue still burning just as hot as before. Or perhaps you could say that the ideas of the editorialists are like a match lit in a deep subterranean cave: they reveal very little of one’s surroundings and they won’t last long enough for you to get out of the caverns and into the sunlight.
The reason that I say all of this is because, as with all problems in this world, it comes down to a spiritual issue. I already pointed out that there are lots of different ways of looking at the problems of life … but contrarily there is only one solution to those problems. With the tagline of this blog being, “No matter the topic, God is the theme,” you can probably guess what that solution is. And, if you’re patient with me as I lay some groundwork, I even think that I can illustrate this spiritual issue physically.
Think for a moment about centrifugal and centripetal forces. Centrifugal force is a “tendency of an object following a curved path to fly away from the center of the curvature” (Diffen). To describe it more familiarly, centrifugal force is what you feel when you’re suddenly pulled against your car’s left side door when you take a right hand turn too quickly; your body wants to continue on its trajectory as the car moves in a different direction. Meanwhile centripetal force is “the force that keeps an object moving with a uniform speed along a circular path” (Diffen). To put this another way, centripetal force is what keeps our earth a more or less constant distance from the sun. Centrifugal force is in the moving body’s inertia of motion, while centripetal force is external – holding the body on a uniform path (via gravity or some other restraint).
Why does this matter and why should you be subjected to this short science lesson? Because the principles of these forces aren’t just physical … they’re also societal. A people can only hold together if there is a sufficiently strong centripetal force to hold them together. For some time in the United States (I won’t hazard to say how long), it seemed like the vast majority of American citizens had at least the semblance of respect and love for what the United States represented. I think that, even though we all might have disagreed on certain specifics regarding how to best live life, there was still an appreciation for the ideals of mutual respect and hard work which took precedence over the immediate wants of the individual. People were even willing to die for those ideals! But today, instead of mutual respect for differences of opinion, bolstered by mutual appreciation for higher ideals, we’ve degraded into a hypocritical philosophy of forced-endorsement of anything BUT an absolute. Essentially, we’ve replaced real, workable, and politically-neutral ideals for an ethic of immediate satisfaction of individual wants. Incidentally those wants are simultaneously fleeting, unstable and often injurious to others. For example, instead of endorsing the ideal of hard work we’ve degraded into 350million whiners all looking for handouts from the all-powerful nanny state. And when you’ve got a chaotic I’ll-get-mine-no-matter-what attitude which becomes prevalent, it results in a breakdown of the outside, centripetal, force which holds us together so that individual – centrifugal – force is all that remains. In other words, our own personal inertia breaks the bonds of fellowship caused by a stronger, deeper, more powerful – centripetal – ideal.
When societal morals and integrity have been undermined in the past, we’ve seen the bonds holding those societies inevitably decay. However we humans don’t seem to be too bright when this begins to happen. Instead of comparing our time and situation to historical examples and then recommitting to the stronger ethics which have proven to be proper and fraternal, we’ve tried substituting them for a more “modern” ethic which serves only to proffer again the same follies which destroyed societies in the past. The selfish, individual, centrifugal force easily overcomes the phony, modern, transient “ethic” and, as a result, societal bonds begin to tear apart.
Therefore, we might begin asking the questions: What ethic is right? What morality will heal us? What integrity can be found to make us strong again? And this is the point at which we’ve made a leap beyond the silly, surface-level questions and musings of the editorial set – as illustrated in the Charlottesville scenario. This is the point at which we actually are digging deeper into LIFE! The arguments about the merits of Fascism or Marxism (if there are any merits), or even the Republican or Democrat party platforms, are meaningless because they presuppose that whichever ideology or group a person chooses will then determine their ethic! It becomes the proverbial tail wagging the dog. Instead, we should have a central and all-encompassing worldview which determines our ethic which then, in turn, makes us choose an ideology which is consistent with that ethic.
To answer those questions (“What ethic is right?” etc.) one must necessarily ask the question, “What IS right?” It is a question that cannot be answered satisfactorily by looking internally. To answer it internally will inevitably lead to a centrifugal arc away from anything lasting, because our appetites and desires are short-lived. Personal inertia leading us away from anything which might possibly bind us together. Therefore what is “right” must be something both external and eternal. And what is eternal except our Lord?
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” is how King Solomon put it in Proverbs 1:7. If “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” then nothing outside of the fear of the Lord can be considered “knowledge.” It is all nonsense. It is all meaningless. It is all fleeting and useless. The fear of the Lord is our starting point and we make forays into other ideas and ideals with that as our foundation, our go-back point, our anchor, our foundation. We judge all by how it survives the shining glare of the glorious truth of God.
Incidentally, “fear” of the Lord isn’t just an anxiety about the dangerous power and wrath of God. It certainly has that connotation too, but there is a second aspect of it. It is also like the fear that a child feels of a father whom he loves and wants to please. We should love our heavenly Father in a way that respects Him and desires to make Him proud. That kind of “fear” and love will inevitably lead us to truth … because HE IS TRUTH.
Similarly, Proverbs 9:10 and Psalm 111:10 both say that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” That’s very similar. Knowledge is not the same as wisdom and yet they have the same source: the fear of the Lord.
Proverbs 14:27 says that, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.” This idea of “turning a person from the snares of death” calls to mind the centripetal – or external – force that prevents an inertial arc into death.
Proverbs 15:33 says, “Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.” In other words, humbling one’s self through the fear of the Lord leads to wisdom and honor. Conversely that means that wisdom and honor are external to man and our fleshly inertial arc takes us away from them!
Perhaps the most poignant verse which shows the centripetal effects on a society which fears the Lord is found in James 3:17f, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” Wouldn’t you love to live amongst a people like that? How beautiful is a pure heart? How peaceful would life be if all were considerate and submissive to others? How wonderful would it be to be amongst the merciful, impartial and sincere?
But James’ words are simply a glimpse of Heaven. While we are in this world our societies will not submit to the Lord, much less fear Him, and therefore wisdom, knowledge and peace will never be found in this world. Nevertheless one day James’ words will be reality for the society of God. We can rest assured of that.
Sometimes it is hard to believe and have hope of a better society. Sometimes it seems a dim and hopelessly naïve idea. But there is something glorious out in the future – something wonderful to behold, if we strain our eyes and concentrate hard enough. It is like Paul’s promise in 1 Corinthians 13 regarding how true love will envelop us so that no force of inertia will ever spin us centrifugally from it: “For now we see only a reflection [of what will come] as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we are] fully known.”
A society will never be healthy and whole until fear of the Lord is its foundation.
“Centrifugal Force vs Centripetal Force.” Diffen.com. Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 14 Aug 2017. <http://www.diffen.com/difference/Centrifugal_Force_vs_Centripetal_Force>