When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
One key driver of the contemporary crisis in the United States is the problem of righteousness. Righteousness is a core driver because, having cast off much that Christianity has taught, we now are consumed with the monumental task of rebuilding this concept from the foundations up. And, the tools by which this rebuilding project is being conducted are the least capable implements that one could imagine — those being the mob-inducing, narcissist-encouraging, mind-numbing, spirit-destroying Social Network Platforms.
This thought crystallized across exposure to numerous sources. Initially I was struck by this paragraph in an article from The Federalist (emphasis added):
When I look at this generation, I see young people fiercely, desperately trying to be good. A righteous fervor is sweeping America, shaming and punishing all who do evil. Yet the standards for “good” and “evil” seem unfamiliar and arbitrary. This is a strong indicator that the post-Christian agnosticism is over, and a new religion—one I’ll call progressivism—is rising from the ashes.
So yes, I can easily agree that our “young people” are “desperately trying” to be righteous. But the reason that they are starting from scratch is because their elders (i.e., parents, teachers, pastors, coaches, politicians, bosses, etc.) have somehow failed to pass on the Christian-derived civilizational wisdom that should be their inheritance. I must include myself within this failure as all three of my beloved children are currently not looking to Christianity for the answers to their most fundamental questions.
A second source brought into sharp focus the nature of that Christian-derived civilizational wisdom along with the most influential challenging ideology to it. The source is Jordan Peterson’s preface to the The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (emphasis added).
And it is exactly the necessity for interminable sacrifice that constitutes the terrible counterpart of the utopian vision. “Heaven is worth any price”—but who pays? Christianity solved that problem by insisting on the sacrifice of the self; insisting that the suffering and malevolence of the world is the responsibility of each individual; insisting that each of us sacrifice what is unworthy and unnecessary and resentful and deadly in our characters (despite the pain of such sacrifice) so that we could stumble properly uphill under our respective and voluntarily-shouldered existential burdens. But it was and is the opinion of the materialist utopians that someone else be sacrificed, so that Heaven itself might be attained; some perpetrator, or victimizer, or oppressor, or member of a privileged group. A cynic might be forgiven, in consequence, for asking: “Is it the City of God that is in fact the aim? Or is the true aim the desire to make a burning sacrificial pyre of everyone and everything, and the hypothesis of the coming brotherhood of man merely the cover story, the camouflage?”
The implication of this dichotomy between our Christian heritage and the newly resurrected materialist utopians is profound. For, whereas in a Christian society members are encouraged to look into themselves to find the source of evil and suffering; the people seeking a materialist utopia try to divide the world into the evil oppressors and the spotless victims. But, as Mr. Peterson goes on to explain, there is no way to draw such a line in a just and stable manner.
Thus the doctrine of group identity inevitably ends with everyone identified as a class enemy, an oppressor; with everyone uncleansibly contaminated by bourgeois privilege, unfairly enjoying the benefits bequeathed by the vagaries of history; with everyone prosecuted, without respite, for that corruption and injustice. “No mercy for the oppressor!” And no punishment too severe for the crime of exploitation! Expiation becomes impossible because there is no individual guilt, no individual responsibility, and therefore no manner in which the crime of arbitrary birth can be individually accounted for. And all the misery that can be generated as a consequence of such an accusation is the true reason for the accusation.
Finally, just why is it that the attempt to create a human-made righteousness that excludes God has proved to be not just difficult, but rather a genocidal failure? Here I found the following statement by David P. Goldman in his review of Chumash Mesoras Harav – Complete Chumash with Commentary Based on the Teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Claremont Review of Books, Vol. XIX, No. 1) to be of great help (emphasis added).
Man has free will, but never knows to what extent his will is free. The penitent cannot know the full extent of his guilt. He cannot escape “the unknown and irrational” because his powers are limited. He is declared not guilty when he accepts that ultimate knowledge and power reside in God. God not only summons man to partnership, he consoles him in his lowliness.
Yes, we cannot ever escape the unknown and irrational nature of our existence by our own human resources. For we are ultimately a mystery even to ourselves, let alone to others. We can never fully understand and therefore prove our own righteousness. We can only go on erasing and drawing lines that attempt to define who is righteous and who is not. But the lines always eventually fail to accurately and definitively separate the righteous from the unrighteous.
And so a war of all against all ensues. For to be declared unrighteous is to suffer humiliation, social isolation and physical want. To be found within the bounds of the righteous means automatic moral superiority, social preeminence and wealth. But those who seem safely inside the bounds of righteousness today can be thrown out into utter darkness tomorrow. Thus is explained the paranoia and destabilization that we see throughout our society.
What is happening now are the skirmishes that precede the total war that always accompanies a utopian totalitarian project. We need not go to war. But to avoid such a conflagration those of us who know better need to take a stand.