Are We Going to Hell in a Hand-basket? 2 of 5

I went into the discussion on private property because as I said, there was a counter-revolution of sorts against industrialization made by Karl Marx, and many others. It comes out of the three-pronged idealism of Marxism—Communism, Socialism, and Progressivism—that began to sweep the Western world. Its two main pillars were anti-capitalism (especially private property in all its forms) and anti-religion. Put another way it was the State against the individual.

There is a fanciful myth so many love to break out in this kind of discussion: primitive man eschewed private ownership of property. They love to point to the hunter-gatherers who were nomads and had no need of private ownership of land. This lasted for 2.5 million years, so we are told. Then some 10,000 years ago people settled down and began growing and harvesting their food and property took on a different meaning. Even when the Puritans came from Europe to the New World in the 1600’s there were those, who were living here first (typically called Indians), who like their hunter-gatherer ancestors supposedly didn’t own property.

This question of ownership can be seen in the debates between Plato and Aristotle who had contrary views on private property. “Plato (Republic, 462b-c) argued that collective ownership was necessary to promote common pursuit of the common interest, . . . Aristotle responded by arguing that private ownership promotes virtues like prudence and responsibility: ‘[W]hen everyone has a distinct interest, men will not complain of one another, and they will make more progress, because everyone will be attending to his own business’ (Aristotle, Politics, 1263a). Even altruism, said Aristotle, might be better promoted by focusing ethical attention on the way a person exerciseshis rights of private property rather than questioning the institution itself (ibid.). Aristotle also reflected on the relation between property and freedom, and the contribution that ownership makes to a person’s being a free man and thus suitable for citizenship.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Property and Ownership” foundHERE.)

Everyone having everything in common never works in a chaotic world—the only world we have known—but only in an ideal world, say like the New Jerusalem mentioned in Revelation. Short of that, competition drives our behavior and competition feeds the need for private ownership. This isn’t to say that private ownership is systemically wrong and evil and we should fight against it like the bubonic plague. While it is inherently idealistically wrong it has its pragmatic uses and even if it’s evil on its face it’s necessary in the world we live in. If your only choice is between two poisons choose the least poisonous. To hold out for no poison is a fool’s errand.

Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed in a Social Contract as a way to recreate an ideal world. Why the need of a social contract? Because the world was both chaotic and malevolent. Not one person ever alive (except Adam and Eve for a time) was totally good. But we must not forget this one truth; there must be more good in the world than bad or else the world would collapse. And where it is collapsing the balance is shifting away from good. Noah found a complete shift to bad. Those at the Tower of Babel had shifted to the bad side but this time the world, not just a few, was saved by the intervention of God by confusing language making it harder to conspire.

Those actors when speaking about the kinds of roles they like to play say they love playing the bad guy (male and female) because the bad guy has more depth, more shades of character, more intrigue, more complexities. The good person is too boring. Honestly, when I think about heaven I can’t imagine a life where everyone is good, everything you do succeeds, there are no tensions. I’m reminded of one old Twilight Zone story that takes place in a billiard room and the person every time he takes the cue stick and hammers the white cue ball, every billiard ball goes in the pockets. Every time. Where’s the fun in that. That’s not heaven, it’s hell.

Every fictional story has to have points of tension. Just watch those feel good Hallmark movies and you know in the end the girl is going to get the guy or the guy the girl but in between the beginning to the end they have to go through bad times that puts the end in doubt. And then they kiss and live happily ever after.

What makes The Princess Bride such a classic movie? In the story A young girl named Buttercup falls in love with the farm boy Wesley, and we’re swept into their wonderful love. But Wesley knows he could never as a farm boy support Buttercup so he leaves her to find wealth. But he doesn’t come back and five years later Buttercup agrees to marry the creepy Prince Humperdinck. “Before the wedding, she is kidnapped by three outlaws: a short Sicilian boss named Vizzini, a gigantic wrestler from Greenland named Fezzik, and a Spanish fencing master named Inigo Montoya, who seeks revenge against a six-fingered man who killed his father. The outlaws are pursued separately by a masked man in black and Prince Humperdinck with a complement of soldiers.” It’s all these colorful characters and the different tensions they go through and the twists and turns of the love between Princes Buttercup and Wesley (who we now see through the eyes of the dreaded pirate Roberts) that make this story so interesting.

The book written by William Goldman took him 493 pages to write this story. Take out all the tension he could have written it in 30 pages or less.

There is a strong argument that goes like this: We wouldn’t know what good is if we didn’t also know bad for comparison. That was the Serpent’s argument in the Garden of Eden. I’ve always rejected this argument holding that we don’t have to know bad to know good. It is a wonderful feeling when I have a headache (the bad) and two aspirin takes it away and I might be heard to say, “That feels wonderful not suffering from this headache!” Not having a headache reminds me of what it feels like not having a headache. Before the headache I felt no pain, everything was wonderful. Did I not know this feeling as the perfect feeling? Did I have to suffer the pain of the headache to understand the perfect feeling before it and after it was over? No. But this might be too philosophical a concept, knowing the good without having it defined by the bad.

Yes it is a wonderful philosophical argument. But the reality I (we) live in isn’t so philosophically pure. Having eaten the fruit from the tree of the knowledge (experience) of good and evil the only world we know is a conflicted world. In this we are not limited to the saying, “We know what good is because we’ve experienced bad”; we can turn it around and say, “We know what bad is because we’ve experienced good.” The bad doesn’t have to define the good, the good should define the bad.

My presupposition that defines my worldview is built on there being a God defined in a limited way through the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Can only Jews and Christians know this God? No. Every religion is an acknowledgement that there is a God and is an attempt to know God and our role in God’s world. That we end up with sometimes wild variations in defining God doesn’t exclude us from knowing God, though we might have to go through a lot of trappings to find this true God. God’s intent was to use the Hebrews and Christians to carry to the world a truer picture of Himself even if sometimes this truer image is confused by our confusion.

If you reject either the idea of God or God, and there are many who do, your hope for a better world is hopeless. I know some of you disagree vehemently with me and I’m sorry but I don’t find any real hope in your hope. That hope is driven by some kind of hope that we imperfect people can create a perfect machine to take our place that fixes all the impurities in mankind and the world we inhabit. But if we do that we will never know because we will be replaced by a machine. Good luck with that.

I’m travelling down this road setting the realistic groundwork for this nation (indeed in the end the world) going to hell in a handbasket with no hope of recovering and returning to what we were. I know some of you are taking pushpins and pinning me to the wall of pessimism because I’m denying the chance of hope. I do hope our fall into the abyss doesn’t happen, that more of us than not will confess our sins and change our lives. I just find that our reality is against us doing this.

Yes, we did it twice before; once when so many left Europe for the New World and secondly during the Great American Awakening that led those original 13 Colonies to form a new and wholly different nation. This scripture from Hebrews I once used as the basis for a manuscript (unfortunately I’ve since completely lost that manuscript and don’t have the strength to rewrite it) but it certainly fits here: “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.” (Hebrews 6: 4-6 NIV.) My thesis was, and I find it true here, this isn’t a judgment by God but us building walls to protect ourselves from the guilt of what we did, walls so high that we can’t climb over them and so thick that we can’t knock them down and we don’t really want to do either. In this case it’s death by suicide, by our own hands, not another’s.

Here’s part of reality: there is this romantic notion that because so-called primitive man is so close to original man they are pure in nature. Being closer to original nature they are also more in tune with how to live in harmony with nature. It was the mythical story in the movie starring and directed by Kevin Costner, Dancing With Wolves, sort of juxtaposing Americans with native Indians exposing the war loving Americans with the peace loving Sioux. The feeling you were to walk away with from the movie was contempt for Americans and love for primitive man so close to true nature. We learn this hard truth through the eyes of First Lieutenant John J. Dunbar as he makes this discovery of truth. It’s only a myth.

We come to this idealistic image of “pure” honestly. Remember that letter from Thomas Jefferson wishing that America would remain agricultural because living so close to the land one was more in touch with all the goodness of life. Sort of goes hand-in-hand with my idealized romantic notion of the forest and the sky representing Reality clearer than city life. And I recognize it may just be me. Growing up on a peach ranch, and even when we moved to the very small farming community nearby I continued to work the fields and sheds and always felt a mystical connection to the land. But the trappings of mysticism can be dangerous to your mental and spiritual health because not all the images you receive are real but can be conjured up to feed whatever you’re creating in your mind. Especially when you’re recalling the good old days with fondness, too much fondness.


[1]Since God is not shy using the masculine pronoun “His” and “Father” neither will I be shy. Subsumed in “His” and “Father” is “Her” and “Mother,” neither the masculine or feminine pronoun representing an actual male or female (though Jesus was actually a male). I find it difficult to call God an “It” to get away from masculine or feminine references.