Opinion

Living Well Within the Politics of Crisis: The Christian Worldview

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Posted: Dec 16, 2020 12:01 AM
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Living Well Within the Politics of Crisis: The Christian Worldview

Source: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Part 2: The Christian Worldview

As Big Media and the politicians and bureaucrats for whom its propagandists run cover continue to report breathlessly upon the rising number of COVID “cases,” the millions upon millions of Americans who have spent the last nine months observing “social distancing” protocols and sporting their facial coverings are conspicuously incurious as to how it is that “the pandemic” continues to rage despite assurances by “the experts” to whom these Americans have deferred that, “alone together,” all of their precautionary measures would “flatten the curve!” and “save lives!” 

For nine months, our society has sustained incalculable damage, but most definitely not due to any “pandemic” (and never let anyone tell you otherwise); the material, familial, communal, psychological, and social devastation is the product, not of any virus, but of the power-obsessed designs of self-interested economic, political, and ideological partisans.

But I digress. The virus narrative actually fits rather well within that political framework that has, by and large, been the dominant paradigm within Western civilization since the emergence of nation-states some 500 or so years ago. American politics, thus, have always unfolded within it as well. 

It is what has been called, “the Politics of Crisis.”  

As Rahm Emmanuel memorably remarked, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Republicans may have acted shocked when Obama’s one-time White House chief of staff issued this categorical imperative, but they knew that the Democrat who would become mayor of Chicago was telling them something that they had already been studiously observing.

In times of crisis, Emmanuel elaborated, politicians have an opportunity to do things—to accumulate more power and advance their agenda—that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. Thus, the tireless quest on the part of both Democrats and Republicans for every new crises.

However, that many, and probably most, of the crises over which the government-media axis swoon are contrived, the fact of the matter is that life is indeed filled with crises of one sort or another. Since this is how it has always been, we would be well-served to revisit the wisdom of the past, of the species, when facing challenges in our own affluent generation.

C.S. Lewis is hardly a sage from the distant past, but he was a sage in his own right. More importantly here, though, is that Lewis represents the Christian perspective, a perspective embodied by the main of the Christian tradition extending back into antiquity and persisting throughout the centuries.  

He speaks to our time when he supplies an answer to the question that arrested the attention of his contemporaries: “How are we to live in an atomic age?”

Lewis replied:

“‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat at night; or indeed, as you are already living an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’”

Lewis the Christian (like the representatives of wisdom traditions from around the world) knew of the dangers to arise from “exaggerating the novelty of our situation.”

And he knew, as all wise men and women know, that “you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented[.]”  

Thus, it “is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.” 

Lewis’ message is a message of encouragement. If the bomb is going to wipe us all out, then “let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.”

While bombs “may break our bodies,” they “need not dominate our minds[.]”

Obviously, what Lewis says regarding the crisis de jure of his generation applies even more so to that of our own, for an atomic bomb, at least, is an indiscriminate killer that promises to destroy everything in its wake.  Not so much the premiere corona cold virus of 2020 (that, with a mortality rate of one-tenth of one percent, is no match for an atomic bomb). 

He also, though, reminds Christians and all who believe in good and evil that political conflicts over, say, the atomic bomb or a virus are ultimately spiritual in nature.  Such conflicts are the function of worldviews: politics are never just about politics. Yet one needn’t be a Christian or, necessarily, particularly religious in order to appreciate the following reminder that he offers for dealing with crises, a reminder that is representative of his Christian faith.   It is worth quoting him at length:

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“It is our business to live by our own law, not by fears; to follow, in private or in public life, the law of love and temperance, even when they seem to be suicidal, and not the law of competition and grab, even when they seem to be necessary to our own survival.  For it is part of our spiritual law never to put survival first: not even the survival of our species. We must resolutely train ourselves to feel that the survival of Man on this Earth, much more of our nation or culture or class, is not worth having unless it can be had by honorable and merciful means” (emphases added).

His conclusion is to the point:

“Nothing is more likely to destroy a species or a nation than a determination to survive at all costs.” 

Lewis admonishes his contemporaries to let “the bomb find you doing well” when it comes.

Such a tragedy for our country—and the hundreds of millions, billions, of human beings around the world who have been victimized by the crisis-hunters and the citizens of the affluent countries that so readily permitted themselves to fall prey to the fear-mongering—that more people didn’t have Lewis’s attitude back in March.

But it’s not too late for us to paraphrase Lewis: If “the virus” finds any of us, let it find us doing well.  And since, unlike the atomic bomb, a COVID attack is something from which the overwhelming majority of people survive, we can say of the virus that it shall find us doing well if it hits, and doing well again after we prevail over it.

And let this be our attitude toward all of life’s challenges.