Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Sleeping on the Job

Socially, there are conservatives and liberals.

Geopolitically, there are globalists and nationalists.

Philosophically, there are uniformitarians and catastrophists.

The vast majority of us find our way into one or more of these camps by default.

Default Globalism and Liberalism

For example, many globalists wouldn’t ever call themselves globalists. When they embrace policies like free trade or the use of offshore workers to replace locals, or when they outsource manufacturing halfway across the world, they are merely doing what everyone else in their industry is doing. They are just trying to keep their businesses profitable and make sure they can continue to pay their mortgages. If you ask them, they would say they are pragmatists or realists. But really, they are just globalists-by-default who haven’t thought through the inevitable consequences of their actions. Klaus Schwab doesn’t need to convince them to get behind his Great Reset; they are already doing his work for him. And as beneficiaries and dependents of a system in the process of globalizing, their families are default globalists too.

Likewise, many liberals are socially liberal (and many conservatives socially conservative) because of where they grew up and who they associate with. Their beliefs about how our corporate interactions ought to be ordered are not so much carefully thought through as they are absorbed by osmosis from their familiar surroundings. One of my friends has voted NDP (Canadian left-of-left, but not quite as far left as the Greens) his entire life for no better reason than that his father did. Never mind that both the NDP’s voting base and policies have changed drastically since his father’s day, orange remains orange. He is a big government guy by default, not by intelligent persuasion.

Default Uniformitarianism

But more than any of these other positions, uniformitarianism is the natural default position of the human race, not because history tells us things always stay the same — far from it — but because it is an exceedingly comforting philosophy.

Uniformitarianism tells us life is sufficiently predictable that we can safely plan our futures and expect things to work out more often than not. Uniformitarian assumptions enable us to save for retirements that may never happen, enter into mortgage agreements we may never pay off and calculate our car payments without going into a blind panic. They are easier to believe than the alternative, which is almost invariably unpleasant. Ask the Ukrainian people how many of them thought war with Russia was inevitable three weeks before it broke out. If they are honest, the numbers are probably not high.

Of course, we know uniformitarian thinking must inevitably let us down at one point. Cancer, car accidents or even COVID may intervene in our plans, and the death rate for members of the human race remains at 100%. Nevertheless, we expect today’s mortality stats will have someone else’s name on them, not ours. Told he had two years to live exactly two years before he died, a dear Christian friend refused to really accept his prognosis until the last week of his life, which made things more difficult than they had to be for those handling his estate. He wasn’t unwilling or unhappy at the prospect of meeting the Lord. He just wasn’t expecting to do it right then. He still had plans.

Christians and Catastrophe

Many Christians who are quite prepared to challenge uniformitarian assumptions when it comes to the matter of origins are totally unprepared to confront them in our own lives. That is unfortunate. A catastrophe was not always a bad thing, as I pointed out in this word study. Originally the word simply meant a change or reversal, not necessarily a disastrous one. J.R.R. Tolkien coined the word eucatastrophe to describe a cataclysmic change for the good.

And the Christian position is necessarily catastrophist. For the Christian, life goes on as it always has until the moment it does not, and we always need to keep that catastrophic moment in mind and in our prayers. If we lose sight of that, we will never witness in faith because “people don’t change”. Well yes, they do. Scripture teaches it and experience confirms it.

The Christian is literally waiting for the end of the world. The devout believer is praying for it day by day: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, in spirit if not word for word. Peter writes about this expectation. The scoffers may say, “Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation”, but the Christian knows his history: Creation, the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah. The coming day of God’s righteous judgment is as sure and certain as these historical events. The default position of the Christian faith is not uniformitarian. We “wait for his Son from heaven ... Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come”. The moment we stop thinking that could be any day, we are not thinking rightly.

The Rich Fool

Even with respect to our daily lives Christians could do with a little more catastrophism. Sure, we have to make basic assumptions about how long we will probably live in order to plan an orderly exit from this world that doesn’t leave a mess for our loved ones. We have to make basic assumptions about the ongoing stability of our society in order to use the banking system or to make investments. But we must never let these uniformitarian defaults to become our personal expectation or, worse, allow ourselves to think of them as some kind of entitlement. “Relax, eat, drink, be merry” is not Christian thinking. Remember the rich fool.

The COVID experience has demonstrated unequivocally that most Christians are closet uniformitarians at heart, just waiting for “normal” to return. Many of us have a deep desire to believe the things we are being told by the authorities for no better reason than that it is comforting to think human ingenuity can solve our problems and get us back to our familiar routines. That is not something history bears out, and it is not something scripture teaches.

Change is not always bad. A catastrophe is not the worst thing that can happen — unless we have fallen asleep on the job and are unprepared — and the Christian hope is not a quiet death in a warm bed.

Am I right?

No comments :

Post a Comment