Jenga is a great game for young and old on a dripping wet Friday night.  It's fun to watch our children attempt to build a tower higher with blocks removed from its foundations.  It calls for a deft, tender touch.  No matter how carefully they proceed, some poor soul always removes one block too many, and the game ends rather rapidly.  Structures work that way: we weaken them slowly, they collapse suddenly.  

For much of the last 60 years, Western Civilization has been attempting a similar scheme on a much grander scale.  Public intellectuals have been gaily removing the specifically Christian foundation stones of culture.  Nothing is sacred.  Everything is up for grabs.  One after another these ancient stones have been torn out.  Of course, they confidently tell us, we no longer need them - look the tower still stands!  Can't you see, its even growing taller?  Apparently, we no longer need god to be good, we can be good all by ourselves.  Didn't you get the memo?

But what if this continued stability is only apparent, and ever more fragile?  What if this abiding stability finds its root, not in the deconstructionist's clumsy efforts, but rather in the solidity of the original structure and the genius of her original Architect?  And what if though the tenacious tower of Western Civilization can survive the removal of many foundation stones, what if there really is one stone too many?  If that stone is removed, what will become of us?  If Jenga is anything to go by, our fall might not nearly be as pedestrian as our decay.

In the midst of such musings, I have recently been reacquainted with the writings of Theodore Dalrymple, a British Psychiatrist and writer with considerable experience working in the English prison system.  A quintessentially English pessimist, his insights come with the refreshing tenderness, tact, and political correctness of 'double aught' buckshot.  Take the following rather lengthy - but worthwhile- Insight:

One might have supposed, in the circumstances, that a principal preoccupation of intellectuals, who after all are supposed to see farther and think more deeply than ordinary men and women, would be the maintenance of the boundaries that separate civilisation from barbarism, since those boundaries have so often proved so flimsy in the past hundred years. One would be wrong to suppose any such thing, however. Some have knowingly embraced barbarism; others have remained unaware that boundaries do not maintain themselves and are in need of maintenance and sometimes vigorous defence. To break a taboo or to transgress are terms of the highest praise in the vocabulary of modern critics, irrespective of what has been transgressed or what taboo broken.

A review of a recent biography of the logical positivist philosopher A. J. Ayer, in the Times Literary Supplement, enumerated the philosopher’s personal virtues. Among them was the fact that he was unconventional – but the writer did not feel called upon to state in what respect Ayer was unconventional. For the reviewer, Ayer’s alleged disregard of convention was a virtue in itself. Of course, it might well have been a virtue, or it might equally well have been a vice, depending on the ethical content and social effect of the convention in question.

But there is little doubt that an oppositional attitude toward traditional social rules is what wins the modern intellectual his spurs, in the eyes of other intellectuals. And the prestige that intellectuals confer upon antinomianism soon communicates itself to non-intellectuals. What is good for the bohemian sooner or later becomes good for the unskilled worker, the unemployed, the welfare recipient – the very people most in need of boundaries to make their lives tolerable or allow them hope of improvement. The result is moral, spiritual, and emotional squalor, engendering fleeting pleasures and prolonged suffering.

(And so) Intellectuals propounded the idea that man should be freed from the shackles of social convention and self-control, and the government, without any demand from below, enacted laws that promoted unrestrained behaviour and created a welfare system that protected people from some of its economic consequences. When the barriers to evil are brought down, it flourishes; and never again will I be tempted to believe in the fundamental goodness of man, or that evil is something exceptional or alien to human nature... ...(In all this) There has been an unholy alliance between those on the Left, who believe that man is endowed with rights but no duties, and libertarians on the Right, who believe that consumer choice is the answer to all social questions, an idea eagerly adopted by the Left in precisely those areas where it does not apply. Thus people have a right to bring forth children any way they like, and the children, of course, have the right not to be deprived of anything, at least anything material. How men and women associate and have children is merely a matter of consumer choice, of no more moral consequence than the choice between dark and milk chocolate, and the state must not discriminate among different forms of association and child rearing, even if such non-discrimination has the same effect as British and French neutrality during the Spanish Civil War.
— Dalrymple, Theodore (2010-11-03). Our Culture, What's Left Of It (Kindle Locations 365-370). Monday Books. Kindle Edition.

This is why, when it comes to fixing our culture's deepest and truest wounds,  Politicians have nothing to offer.  Like drunks, they swing widely for answers, without having any idea as to the original and underlying problem.  To complete Dalrymple's diagnosis, we might simply add that, as a nation, we have forgotten God and seem determined to remember only ourselves.  This life philosophy makes us little better than animals, who live only to satisfy their baser appetites.  And we wonder why our "culture" continues to dissolve into a toxic quagmire of violence, hatred, addiction, and poverty, all littered with the detritus of shattered families and broken children.  We mustn't be too hard on the animals, of course, they have no higher appetites from which to choose, but as those made in the image of God, we really ought to do better.

In face of this, the politician offers little hope and even less constructive advice.  The Left prescribe the remedy of an even bigger government with more power to legislate and control the populace.  The right proffer exactly opposite as a remedy.  What society really needs, they say, is a smaller government with more liberty for the people.  As a constitutional conservative, I have no desire for a bigger government, very much the reverse is my preference. However, as our society continues to unravel, we do well to ponder what good adult liberties will be for infantile citizens.  Will we use our liberty responsibly?  This is no argument for it's deprivation, of course, but it 'might should' lead us to catch our collective breath as we observe the next generation ride, boldly ride wherever the notion takes them.  

Wild animals may not be happy in pens, but neither are they tamed by wide open fields.  The law has no power to fix the human heart.  And liberty is little help to those mad enough to abuse it.

Run, John, Run, the law demands
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
Better news the gospel brings
It bids me fly and gives me wings.
— John Bunyan

This is the answer for America and it is beyond the reach of politics.  This is the only source of real and lasting hope for our beloved country.  God has done similar works of transformation before, and we believe He can do the same again. After all, was this not our condition as individuals when Christ first met us in the gospel?   And, but for the sanctifying, enlightening, restraining, and preserving grace of God, this self-same soul-sickness would stand ready to overwhelm us again at every step. 

“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:3–5, NASB95)

May God do for our Country what America surely cannot do for herself.  "Restore us Lord and we shall be restored."  There is not a corner of America today that can pride itself as immune from the reach of this prayer.  Rich and poor, black and white, donkey, elephant, stand-with-Rand libertarians, we all need what God alone can give: REVIVING GRACE!

Sadly, however, the game of Jenga is too much fun to stop mid course.  The quest for just one more block, one more level, keeps us going until it is too late.  I suspect it will probably be the same for America.  It will probably take the loss of everything before we will come to God with nothing - the one thing most men never have.

Whatever the case, the Christian can rest content in the arms of a Sovereign Father.  Even when the wicked do their worst, they succeed only in fulfilling God's best and most glorious purposes for His unshakably enduring Kingdom.  "He frustrates the plans of the peoples and nullifies the counsel of the nations, but the counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.  How blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord!"

We do not know what the future holds, but we do know Him who grips all things (us and future included) firmly in the two-handed grip of invincible, irresistible grace.  Fear not little flock: God is the ruler yet.

Comment