The future of mankind

In the latest New Criterion, Paul Johnson distills the history of human depravity into a beautifully-crafted essay.  He comes to the conclusion that wickedness is only checked by spiritual impulses, specifically Christianity, and even that isn’t enough to stop all the horrors we perpetrate on each other.  But, he refuses to give up hope entirely, because as long as there is the chance of preserving the influence of Christianity in the world, or even extending it, we may halt this descent.  His last paragraph sums it up:

It is when one looks at such stupendous creations of the human mind, body, and spirit, and into the rich past which made them possible, that the sense of despair about the future begins to lift, and hope is re-ignited in our hearts. And the lesson is clear. Somehow we have to bring back into our private lives, and into our public life, the spiritual element, the sense of awe at the magnificence and possibilities of creation, the pride in goodness and altruism, the fear of wrong-doing and materialistic arrogance, the poetry of the numinous and, above all, the love of our fellow human beings which is inseparable from the belief that all human life, in some way, is created in the image of divinity. We have to do this, or perish, and to do it we must take risks. Humanity was made to live spiritually and to do so we must live dangerously. Karl Jung loved to quote an apocryphal saying of Jesus Christ: “He that is near me is near the fire. He that is far from me is far from the Kingdom.” How do we live near the fire and so near the Kingdom? That is for wiser heads than mine to say. What is clear to me is that humanity is now poised between continued but precarious survival, and the abyss of self-destruction. And I believe that our fate will be decided by the extent to which we can retain the flame of spiritual belief in our lives to warm and illuminate them.

In order to retain this flame of hope, we must start on a local level.  Just today, a group of young adults from my parish went to lunch with one of our number who had just been ordained to the transitional diaconate en route to ordination, God willing, in June.  While we each face extraordinary difficulties in living out our faith in our professions, whether it be in medicine, biological research, business, or being a literature professor at a local university, there is a palpable sense that we’re not the rear guard on a long retreat, but rather, working on the front lines of the renewed evangelization of a nearly dead culture.   May we be granted the strength to go out into the world and spread the hope that Johnson rightly maintains.

(HT: Mercatornet)

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