Material poverty doesn’t cause murder, rape, or terror. Moral poverty does. That’s one of the great divides between Left and Right. And it largely emanates from their differing views about whether human nature is innately good.
I read that and I was stunned because the viewpoint not only affects how we understand the problem, but also how we try to solve it. My thoughts were steered in part by this article from London:
But it’s hard not to notice that recent Second World War anniversaries have been rather low-key affairs, with an emphasis on grief and remembrance.
Maybe nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. The 50th anniversary of V-E Day, when I was 13 years old, was an unashamed celebration of the triumph of good over evil. There was a street party, Union Jack bunting, jelly and ice cream. We sang war songs full of blue birds, white cliffs and Lucifer matches. Of course, many people did similar things to mark the occasion in 2015. But 1995 was bigger and more loudly patriotic.
The author discusses how moral relativism has affected the modern view of the war, and he is right – but it goes even deeper. We do not want to face the evil that was Nazi Germany, an evil that it is worth celebrating victory over, because it will force us to acknowledge the bad in ourselves and once we do that so much around us will come crashing in.
You see, when we acknowledge the bad in ourselves we are forced to turn apart from ourselves for solutions. When we acknowledge the bad in ourselves we learn that no program, government or private, can fix all our problems. Such things, because they are made of people, are as prone to corruption as we are individually. Final solutions require something incorruptible – something other than us.
That’s a pretty good place to start defining God – incorruptible and other than us.
Caveat – human institutions devoted to God are as prone to corruption as human institutions of a purely secular nature. Again, they are made up of very corruptible people. But because they are devoted to God, they contain within them a self-corrective – they will at some juncture look outside of themselves and discover their corruption, and hopefully attempt to correct it. Absent such a look outside of the self the horrors of Nazism, or something like it, becomes almost inevitable.
And so again we see the value of religion in ordering society. It helps us understand our limitations as well as our capabilities. When we understand our limitations we craft our solutions to problems with those limitations in mind. When we understand the bad that is in us we understand the wisdom in the instruction to “lean not on your own understanding.”