Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Relishing A Messy Society

No Mess, No Life

A free society is always a mess.  Because folk don't like a messy society, they end up wanting to curtail freedoms left, right, and centre.  As Chesterton acerbically put it, when people stop believing in God they end up believing in anything and everything.  One of the things they inevitably come to believe is that society can get rid of all messiness; virtual perfection is attainable.  If we had this authority, that rule, a new extension of government regulations and powers every messy problem we face would be duly solved.

A Christian society, on the other hand, is a mess.  Always.  Why?  For two reasons.  The first arises out of an acceptance of human limitations.  We are finite creatures, with limited understanding and abilities.  The second and worse cause of mess is that we are fallen creatures, in a fallen world, with hearts that are deceitful and desperately wicked.  Yet it is Christian society which maximises freedoms (even while accepting the inevitable messiness.)  In this sense, Christians love the mess, because the alternative is unthinkable.

The Christian accepts both the messiness and the duty to advocate for a free society.  The Christian can do this with sanguine hope and positive joy because we believe in Providence--the faithful governance by God over all things, both visible and invisible.  God devolves His authority to men, and promulgates His law both authorising human rule over the creation, and, at the same time, delimiting the extent of human rule and authority.  Because parents are given special authority and competence to bear and raise children, it does not mean the state, or the church, or the school or any other authority can subvert parents and replace them.  There are boundaries the state and other authorities may not cross--without putting mess on steroids.  This holds true, even when parents make a mess of raising children.  The messiness of some homes does not justify setting up kibbutzim so the state can become the uber-parent.  (If you didn't like the dysfunctional state of some homes, wait until you see the dysfunction wreaked upon us all when the state becomes the Parent of everyone.) 

These days, because the State is the only authority and power to which secularism can appeal, every mess requires a statist solution.  Is there unemployment?  The government must sort out the mess by welfare payments for those out of work, forcing interest rates lower, and vastly expanding government jobs.  Are there drugs on the streets?  The government must declare a war upon drugs, expanding government powers, surveillance, and punitive punishments.  Are pupils leaving school unable to read or write?  The government must step in to define and control curricula and teaching standards to ensure literacy and numeracy.  And so it goes.  Without end.

At each step, freedom diminishes; external, illegitimate authorities and controls are extended.  And the people love it.  For them, mess and uncertainty are the problem.  The Christian man, however, knows that mess is a necessary and intrinsic part of a free society.  He also knows there is a God-directed way to deal with mess.  Sometimes it requires benign neglect. Some problems ought to be ignored.  Under the loving hand of Providence they will self-correct and diminish.  Sometimes decisive action by local civil society or neighbourhood groups is required.  At other times, it requires interdiction by the Department of Defence.  But the existence of mess, in and of itself, does not provide an argument nor justification for extensions of statist power.

In our secularist atheistic culture messiness becomes the fuel for a white hot nuclear core which relentlessly expands the mandate, role, and grip of the state until the inevitable meltdown. 

Without freedom, there will be no mess.  When there is no longer any messiness, we will all be dead. 

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