In the “The Third Way” series, we have been seeking a moral and spiritual way forward for the deeply troubled global civilization of the 21st Century. The world can no longer be treated as a set of loosely connected cultures and societies. We are all in the same boat, one which unfortunately most closely resembles the Titanic.
When the Titanic sailed to its doom in April 1912, it was an unwitting time capsule. Its passengers and crew were from all classes and backgrounds—the mega-rich to the dirt-poor seeking a new life in a new land. Their accommodations and the ship’s physical division into segregated class areas reflected the huge disparities within society. So did the crew. The ship itself embodied all the latest and best that technology, engineering, and scientific advancement could then offer—especially to those who could afford it.
As we look at the people aboard the great vessel, we find ourselves looking in the mirror. After all, it is only two less than average lifetimes ago. Then, as now, the rich were not all bad and greedy people and the poor were not all nice and kind people. Most of the passengers and crew believed in God, at least nominally, but, like us, most of them had little time or use for the Creator, except to “Dial 9-1-1” in an emergency, as most of them were soon to do.
A great deal has been researched, discovered, written and speculated about why that icon of human progress went to its doom with so much needless loss of life. Mostly, it boils down to pride, hubris, stubbornness, selfishness, neglect, and human error. Then, as now in a crisis, some stepped forward with acts of selfless heroism and bravery while others revealed the worst about themselves, mastered by their fear or their sense of entitlement regardless of the needs of others, and their over-inflated (and downright wicked) belief in their own indispensability and petty godhood. Crises have a way of swiftly clarifying what is really on the inside.
Now, aboard a global Titanic, we are full of our own “I, me, me, my” ideology, with all the rampant entitlementism possible to conceive. Even so, multitudes have a dawning sense that a great glacier drifts towards collision in the current. Heedlessly, the elite-class tycoons still control and manipulate everyone for their own profit and greed while they urge our “Captain Smiths” to push on at “full-speed ahead” in enabling the economy to achieve new levels of magnitude. The middle-tier passengers just want to be left in peace to enjoy life comfortably, while the steerage classwant a little recognition and a “fairer piece of the pie.”
In the current in which our ship is caught up, the angry, recriminatory, name-calling, blame-attributing, self-aggrandizing and self-justifying ethos is toxic. With a smidgen of ‘sense and sensibility,’ it should be clear that the promises of a great golden age of general peace and prosperity based on fair treatment and justice for all, inspired by the great achievements of science, technology, and the benevolence of generous leaders is hollow. Two things mitigate against it: our militant selfishness, and the accompanying rampant pillaging of Earth’s resource base with its concomitant contamination of its (our) environment. We do not need more of the same old; we need a new heart and mind. We need a revolution of the soul and spirit, what the Bible calls a heart transplant – a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone.
“The Third Way” begins with some straightforward ideas: the recognition that there is a Creator; that the Creator is a personal Being we usually call God; that the Creator made us as reflections of Him/Her-self; that we are stewards and trustees of the creation we find ourselves in, particularly here on Planet Earth; that we are made for relationship with our Creator, and that the Creator’s primary (but far from sole) manifest personality trait is abounding, passionate love for all the He/She has made.
But He/She will not wait forever for us to turn the ship. The iceberg is still there in our path. Turning to the Creator with more than tokenism will take our focus of ourselves and begin to change our minds about exploitation of the creation and others around us. It may yet teach us enough humility to humble ourselves before Him/Her. It may give our rudder enough of a nudge to avoid the fate of the Titanic.
Secondarily, we must admit the inadequacy of our crippling cultural and social paradigms based on defective worldviews. In this respect, the two major old rivals in the West remain in place: (1.) an inadequate version of syncretistic Christianity often named “Christendom” and (2.) the Enlightenment’s atheistic “scientific materialism.” Neither of these will do any longer. On the one hand, Christianity must break free from its obsession with (re)gaining power and control— bowing to what the Apostle Paul called the “god of this age.” On the other hand, scientists and Scientism must resign their hubris and find a new paradigm that does not a priori decree, “Thou shalt have no other god before me.” When they look into the marvels of creation, they must remove their wilful blindness and see the eyes and hear the voice of the Creator looking and shouting back, like the Whos in Whoville, “We are here! We are here! We are here!” (Dr. Suess, Horton Hears a Who).
What would “The Third Way” look like in practice? I would not presume to more than suggest a few characteristics. The Creator’s Spirit will guide us in the way as we humbly search it out. I strongly believe that, as we humbly and sincerely go seeking the Creator, we will find Him/Her. I fervently trust that true-hearted seekers will not end up finding and adhering to a counterfeit. Anything that leads away from peace, love, mercy, and compassion is not from the heart of the Creator. Anything that excludes any person or persons based on ethnicity, age, gender, or any other of the hateful forms of discrimination practiced so often in the name of God and religion (or “scientific” or other “racial purity”) is not the Way of the Creator. Religion can also be a hindrance to truly seeking the Creator, although it may serve if the seeker’s heart is turned aright. After all, God is not limited to abiding by our human expectations of discovering Him-/Her-self according to our pre-defined dogmas when we come seeking Him/Her “in spirit and in truth,” as Jesus once put it.
There is no conclusion to a quest such as this. It is integral to the journey of life, and, ready or not, believing or not, each of us will meet our Creator sooner or later. Personally, I would rather it be before my body “gives up the ghost.” It makes more sense to do something about getting acquainted with this Someone before I “step over” and rudely discover that He/She has been there the whole time waiting for me, but I have arrogantly and presumptuously chosen to ignore or even deny that there is “any such Person.”
Not that the meeting won’t be a surprise and shock (I trust in a positive sense) in any case. I am sure that even the best hypotheses, philosophies, and theologies are but pale shadows of the Reality they so inadequately attempt to categorize and classify. That is why died-in-the-wool dogmatism and rage-engendering, foaming, murderous fanaticism are so wrong. The fanaticism of “superior understanding” is quieter but just as deadly in the long run. Fanatics assume we can put the Maker in a box (or pretend He/She doesn’t exist to hold anyone to account) to suit our own utterly arrogant (and sinful) fixations and deluded self-justifications.
The personal Name the Creator gives Him-/Her-self in the Jewish and Christian Bible is “I am Who I am/I will be Whom I will be”. This is light-years from our modern conceit of “God will be for me what I want and I will take Him/Her/It on my own terms.” To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, ‘God is not a tame Being’ – (“Aslan is not a tame lion.”)
We have become so full of ourselves that we think we can make God into whatever we like or need at the moment and owe Him/Her homage only to the degree we need to persuade Him/Her to meet our needs. I suspect that the Creator of the Universe, Multiverse, or whatever version of creation we may choose to fancy is not impressed by the pretensions of beings of microscopic proportions in relation to His/Her creation and Him-/Her-self.
My personal conviction is that the Christian story and worldview is most compatible with the nature of reality and the evidence of science and human experience. The sad fact is that, in our present social and cultural climate, it has become almost impossible to communicate meaningfully about these supremely important questions. Rather than dialogue, many run away from them and ignore them.
Almost every issue is now polarized into questions of “individual freedoms and rights” that are in fact an entirely self-centered, strident insistence to hold any opinion, even the most outrageous and offensive, without having to defend it in any rational way. It is, in reality, the running amok of the desire to be accountable to no one and to avoid responsibility for anything not centered on oneself (and often not even that). It is our addiction to personal godhood, self-actualization, and total validation of anything I choose to do and be. And the consequences of this delusion of total self-importance and self-absorption are extremely self-destructive, and incidentally highly damaging to society at large. It is “b–l-s—t” that my personal choices concern no one but myself. Ask the people closest to you how true that is! Ask youself when they make those kinds of “personal choices.”
Evolutionary mythology is irrelevant to the two main constants of discernible history: 1. that we humans are inextricably rooted in Planet Earth in our physical nature and in relationship with the Creator in our spiritual nature; 2. that as far back as we can see into the past, the records tell us that human nature has not changed in any fundamental respect. We are no more “advanced” in any meaningful way than our genus homo progenitors of as many generations ago as we can find evidence for and imagine behind that.
Shalom and Pax tibi till your next visit, dear reader.
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2 thoughts on “The Third Way, 19: Titanic”
Great read as usual! Thanks, Vince.