It is liberating to grasp that every human endeavor is doomed. I may not believe in Calvin’s Total Depravity but I have come to believe in Total Futility, a very different concept, in which humans are capable of great good and love as well as a great deal of bullshit and nastiness. But whatever good they intend is doomed to be mixed with human cupidity and lust and stupidity.
Which does not mean one does not try.
For in spite of the proverb, the road to hell is not paved with good intentions. It is paved with everything but. Which does not mean that our best intentions do not often make little hells all around us.
The World, etc.
I did not realize that the term ‘the World, the Flesh and the Devil’, which in Western spiritual tradition summarizes the enemies of the soul, did not come from Scripture, but from the Book of Common Prayer. But whatever the source that about sums it up.
Me, I think that they are listed in order of the danger, which is just about the opposite of the way most Christians view it.
And by ‘the World’ I mean every human endeavor, every concept, every construct, good, beautiful, ugly and in between. Church people may think themselves apart from ‘the World’ because they abstain from certain parts of it, but they are not. ‘The World’ is just as present in a monastic community or a strict Mennonite assembly as it is in a strip club or a corporate boardroom.
You know how in high school history you read the formative documents of American history? And that one of them was the sermon by Calvinist divine Jonathan Edwards entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God?”
Can you imagine how different American history would be if that sermon was called “Sinners in the Arms of a Loving God”?
Or if it was called “Children in the Arms of a Loving Father”?
One of the few good things to emerge from the recent deplorable news cycle is the widespread outrage over the militarization of the police. I have written about this for years, of cops in camouflage on small town streets, of arbitrary traffic stops, of breaking down doors in the middle of the night for minor offenses, of the killing of unarmed (most often black) Americans, of the neighboring town of Orrville, Ohio, population 9,000, home of Smucker’s, whose police department owns an armored personnel carrier.
America, apparently, has had it. When The National Review agrees with the left and the libertarians and the ACLU? Well maybe the days of the police state are numbered. Granted, true to form, NR framed this as overpaid government union employees, with, egad, pensions, misbehaving.
Guess we have to take what we can get from that corner.
But it is important to remember that issues of cowboy cops are local issues, where democracy can still work. County sheriffs and city commissioners and other bureaucratic functionaries are directly elected.
None of this is hard to remedy.
Painting by Georgia O’Keefe