There are too many ideas rattling around in my slightly warped mind to stop blogging, so I’m going to try to balance writing stuff with learning medicine, for now…
I made the mistake of watching some of the Super Bowl last night. Not because I wasted a couple of hours watching teams I care nothing about, but because I saw Barack Obama’s latest ad. Here’s the transcript:
We want an end to this war and we want diplomacy and peace. Not only can we save the environment, we can create jobs and opportunity. We’re tired of fear; we’re tired of division. We want something new. We want to turn the page. The world as it is is not the world as it has to be.
That sounds inspiring on the surface, but look a bit deeper and it becomes chilling. There are a lot of things that “we want,” but in reality, can “we” achieve them without making unintended sacrifices? History is riddled with wrecks left behind by idealists of days past. Lenin and his comrades justifiably wanted to break the shackles of centuries of monarchic oppression, but in the process, they killed more people–millions more–than Ivan the Terrible ever contemplated. A professor at the University of Wittenberg–a monk, no less–fanned the flames of religious dissent sparked by a corrupt Medieval Church, leading to countless lives being lost in the “Wars of Religion.” Communists or Protestants, Fascists or Puritans–the labels matter not–men since the beginning of recorded history have sought to make the world other than it is, and the results have uniformly confirmed that the world remains as it is when the battle is over. We in the United States aren’t immune, either: with malice toward none, more than half a million men gave their lives to keep a hypothetical union together from 1861-1865. Step back some four score and seven years before that, and another generation of men fought and died to form that same more perfect union.
What makes such an illusion–that we can change the world–so attractive? I suspect that it’s because we know, deep down, that what Obama said is very true: that the world is not as it has to be. But, there’s a catch: we–on our own–can’t transform it. We, being fallible, can never foresee what our striving to “save the enviroment” or “make peace” or “heal division” will bring. But there is Someone who can, has, and will change the world to as it ought to be. Secular messianism can never replace the real thing.
So, what does this mean? Should we never seek to change anything? Should we accept everything that the world dishes out? Hardly. But, with humility, we should look toward the Cross, and realize that only by imitating Him–being united with Him–can we truly change the world. Our secular politicians should stick in the secular realm rather than invoke utopian dreams. There’s a reason why St. Thomas More called it utopia, not eutopia.