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Lesson 120- Struggle, Growth and Progress

In my last program I concluded my summary of Brave New World and ended it with the following statement:

 

“In his book, Brave New World Revisited, one of Huxley’s characters quotes from a work by the Russian writer Dostoevski. He says:

"In the end they (the people) will lay their freedom at our (the controller's) feet and say to us 'make us your slaves, but feed us,”

This is the basic flaw in the secular humanist position. They believe that “man can live by bread alone” and that if you provide for his physical needs it will be enough to make him happy. St. Paul says that the Gospel message is the message of the Cross which seems foolish to those who are perishing. Hegel says that the law of life is struggle and without antitheses we are incapable of developing. Brave New World is an anti-Christ society that has dedicated itself to removing all antitheses and crosses from its people’s lives and, in the process, it has prevented them from moving from what Eric Fromm calls a destructive relationship based on dependency to a productive one based on freedom and love.

That is why the Church supports the Principle of Subsidiarity because it requires that each of us accept the responsibility for our own lives to the degree that we are capable. The problems and crosses of life are there to help us grow and only those who face the Crucifixion will experience the Resurrection. Thus, to be truly free and to experience the fullness of life we have to move from “other control” to “self control.” EVIL is LIVE spelled backwards and it suggests that everything that is anti-life is evil. If this is so, then Brave New World epitomizes EVIL.”

Brave New World is evil because, by removing all the obstacles, challenges,  or antitheses that God has placed in the world for the purpose of training our souls,   it interferes with God’s plan to teach us how to be free  and to experience the “fullness of life” We are so used to looking at things from the hedonistic point of view of our “flesh” that we have blamed all the problems in the world on the devil. To us, a “perfect world” is one without any problems, which is the same as saying “one without any crosses.” Yet Jesus said, “if you want life and you want it fully, pick up your cross and follow me.” When Peter tried to tell Him that He didn’t have to go to Jerusalem and die, He reprimanded him by saying, “Get Thee behind me Satan. You are looking at this from the eyes of man and not of God.” And that is why in the scriptures God says “Your ways are not my ways. As far as the East is from the West so far are your thoughts from My thoughts.” It is also why the scriptures say that the flesh can never satisfy God. The reason is that the flesh operates on feelings and sensations and thus concludes “whatever gives me pleasure is good and whatever gives me pain is bad.” If Jesus had followed this premise, He would never have freely chosen to face His Passion and death. In fact, the scriptures describe the struggle between His flesh and spirit in the Garden of Gethsemene when His flesh, crying and sweating blood, pleads with His Father to avoid the terror and pain that He sees coming. Yet, in a heroic effort of His will, He says, “Not my will but Your will be done!” At that moment He defeated the greatest obstacle that stands in the path that leads to the “fullness of life”. It is the obstacle that comes from our flesh and animal nature that wants to evaluate life from the point of view of feelings and thus concludes that the goal of life is “ease and comfort” rather than “effort and struggle”.

You might recall that in a previous program I told of my wife’s experience when we were getting ready to be prayed over for the release of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” She was sitting on the steps, with an opened book on her lap,  crying as I pulled up in my car after work. When I asked her what the problem was, she answered, “Well, tonight we are suppose to be prayed over for the release of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” and I have been worried because I have never been so emotionally dry in my life. In the past, I have had deeper religious feeling while on retreat and I have been worried because I am approaching this experience with no feelings at all. Then I picked up this book and opened to a page that said, ‘Feelings don’t count!’”

Did you hear that? Do you get it? Do you really get it? Sometimes I think that I do and then I find myself drifting back into the old mental habit of basing my understanding on my feelings, which are subjective, rather than on the facts, which are objective. For example, after I went through the Baptism of the Spirit, I felt the presence of God in my life every day for seven years. Every morning I woke up with the sense of His presence and every night I fell asleep with the same sense. Then one day it was gone and I began to panic. What had I done? Why had He deserted me? Yet, as the time passed, I continued to see the evidence of His presence in my life even though I didn’t feel it. Then it dawned on me that this is what Jesus experienced to even a greater degree on the cross when He cried out “My God…. My God… why have you forsaken Me?” It sounds like He has lost all hope and is full of despair but in reality He is quoting Psalm 22 that states:

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me and from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you don’t answer… But You are holy… Our fathers trusted in You. They trusted and You did deliver them. They cried out to You and were delivered. They trusted in You and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, a “no man.” A reproach of men, and despised by the people. They scorn me and laugh at me. They shake their heads and say ‘You trusted in Jehovah. Let Him rescue you, seeing He delighted in you.’

But You took me out of my mother’s womb and made me trust when I was upon my mother’s breast. I was consecrated to You from the womb and You have been My God since the time my mother bore Me. Be not far from me for trouble is near and there is no one to help me…

The look upon me…And I am poured out like water. All my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax. It is melted within me. My strength is dried up and my tongue cleaves to my jaws and You have brought me to the door of death.  A group of evil-doers have enclosed me. They have pierced my hands and my feet. They have numbered all my bones. They look and stare at me and they divide my garments among them and for my vestures they cast lot.

But don’t be far from me, O Jehovah, my relief, hasten to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword…from the power of the dog and the lion’s mouth….

 I will declare Your name unto my brothers. In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.

All you that fear Jehovah, praise Him. For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted,. Neither has He hid His face from him. Rather He heard him when he cried out…”

Jesus, at the moment when He felt most abandoned, quoted a scripture that described what was happening to Him and, instead of despairing, He reaffirms His commitment to His Father and His trust in His presence. He felt abandoned but he knew that He wasn’t. Paradoxically, what looked like His greatest defeat in the eyes of His enemies, was, in reality, His greatest victory because He had conquered the greatest fear that defeats and immobilizes all of us: the fear of death. As St. Paul says, “O death, where is thy victory… O death, where is thy sting?” Or as he says in another passage:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

Thus Jesus, who the scriptures say is the “visible image of the invisible God”, through His Passion, death, and Resurrection agreed to model for us the basic law of life: the law of growth and development through struggle, death, and resurrection. When we look upon the crucifix, we are looking at the very nature of God, who is Sacrificial Love. 

Thus, St. Paul says in Phillipians 2 that we should take on the nature of Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Therefore, if the role of a Christian is to take on the nature of Christ, who is Sacrificial Love personified, then Brave New World is an Anti-Christ world designed to appeal to our flesh while it destroys our spirit. This is what the man who had been present at the institution and collapse of the Communist system in the Soviet Union meant when he said, “The worst thing that happened when Communism came to Russia was that charity disappeared.” In other words, a super-welfare state had replaced the individual as the provider for the needs of his neighbors and fellow citizens.

The implications of this for a Christian is clear. When at the Last Judgment Jesus divides the human race based on how they responded to His needs in the guise of our fellow human beings, the response of those who were members of a super-welfare state will be, “When You were hungry, or naked, or imprisoned, it was the job of the state social worker to take care of you, not mine.” And Jesus will respond, “Then you didn’t understand what Mother Theresa meant when she said that the poor that she cared for were My gift to her because they taught her how to love. I didn’t come to save the state. I came to save you and by turning your responsibility for others over to the state you blocked the path to your own salvation. My Kingdom is the Kingdom of Sacrificial Love and, unfortunately, you never learned that.” 

By now it should be clear why the Church supports the Principle of Subsidiarity and opposes the super-welfare states of Socialism and Communism that are the darlings of the Secular Humanists. In an insidious way, they dehumanize us by assuming responsibilities that rightfully belong to us.

Let me quote again both John Paul II and Benedict XVI on the threat of the welfare state to our spiritual growth so that we fully understand the point that they were making concerning the Principle of Subsidiarity and why the “soft slavery” of Brave New World is more dangerous and insidious than the “hard slavery” involving whips and chains. 

 

In an encyclical in 1991 on  “The Vatican and the Welfare State” John Paul II wrote:

“ In recent years the range of (government) intervention has vastly expanded to the point of creating a new type of state, the so-called “welfare state”. This has happened in some countries in order to respond better to many needs and demands, by remedying forms of poverty and deprivation unworthy of the human person. However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoked very harsh criticisms of the welfare state, dubbed the “social assistance state.” Malfunctions and defects in the social assistance state are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the state. Here again the “principle of subsidiarity” must be respected: A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the social assistance state leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbors to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response that is not simply material but is capable of perceiving the deeper human need. One thinks of the condition of refugees, immigrants, the elderly, the sick, and all those in circumstances that call for assistance, such as drug abusers: All these people can be helped effectively only by those who offer them genuine fraternal support, in addition to the necessary care.”   This Rock April 2006   p. 32

 

And in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est,  his successor, Benedict XVI wrote

“ We do not need a state that regulates and controls everything but a state that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: It is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ,. This love does not simply offer people material help but refreshment and care for their souls, something that often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialistic concept of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone.” (Matt. 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3)- a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What both popes are saying is not that the state doesn’t have any responsibility for the welfare of it citizens but rather it should be the “court of last resort” in accordance with the Principle of Subsidiarity. This principle, may I remind you, states that the smallest unit in society that is capable of handling a problem, should assume the responsibility for it.” We should repeat that to ourselves over and over again, as the World Controllers in Brave New World repeated the slogans that served their interests, until it became a permanent part of their people’s mental framework. In fact, as Christians, we should create our own axiomatic premises to guide us towards the creation of God’s Kingdom. Some of them might be…

“It you want the “fullness of life” pick up your cross and follow the Truth”  

   Jesus

“Whatever doesn’t kill me, strengthens me!” Nietzsche

“Becoming is better than being…” Unknown

“He who takes the antithesis grows, he who avoids its remains the same or

 regresses.” Hegel

“No pain, no gain!” Weightlifters

“Without struggle there is no progress..” Fredrick Douglas

“suffering produces perseverance; perseverance (produces) character; and

  character (produces) hope…”  St. Paul

“Life is the process of giving birth to oneself. We should be fully born when  

    we die but unfortunately most people die before they are born…”  Eric

     Fromm

“Yesterday’s history; tomorrow is mystery; today’s the present…that’s why it’s called a gift”  “Doc” TV series

 

These and other axiomatic sayings do not mean that Christianity calls us to be masochist who delight in suffering for suffering sake. Rather it means that life, as Hegel noted, is about struggle and everyone sooner or later will face the problem of suffering and loss. The Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, have addressed this problem by assuming a meditative indifference to the exterior world. Thus, the basic premise of Buddha, who was concerned with the problem of human suffering, was that life is about wanting, and wanting, sooner or later, leads to disappointment, disappointment causes suffering, so to get rid of suffering, get rid of wanting. Thus, the path to peace, is to reject the outside world as an illusion and to aim inward through meditation until one has reached a state of Nothingness or Nirvana, which, by the way, is the same as Gehenna, the place of “empty thought” that is the Old Testament word for hell. 

To a true Buddhist, all things are equal and nothing is to be preferred above anything else. Pain and pleasure are equal; satisfaction and dissatisfaction are equal; so are life and death; fulfillment and stagnation. In fact, all dichotomies through which we divide the world are illusions and therefore should not be valued one above the other.

As a result, when one visits areas that have been influenced by this outlook and other Eastern religions or philosophies, such as Hinduism, , there tends to be a mass indifference to the solution of human problems. I have already mentioned in a previous program how one of my teacher friends who attended her adoptive son’s wedding in India told me about the frequent kidnapping of young children in a predominantly Hindu area. They were blinded and crippled by their kidnapper in order to turn them into beggars to work for him. When I asked why someone didn’t do something about it, she replied because they believed that it was the child’s Karma or Fate that had been determined by some infraction in a previous reincarnation.  These beliefs foster a Yin attitude of receptivity and acceptance in which the goal of life is seen as a circle and the purpose is simply to exist. Freedom and progress are seen as illusions and any type of struggle to change the existing reality is hopeless and futile because progress itself is the greatest of all illusions. Like a merry-go-round, the faster we try to go, the sooner we return to where we started.

Where these philosophies ultimately lead is best seen in the philosophy of Schopenhauer who rejected the Christian worldview for that of Eastern thought. He complained that “life was a business that doesn’t cover expenses” because the more one tries to get ahead, the more one falls behind. Thus, he hated God because he believed that He had created a universe designed to frustrate us. We are born with all sorts of innate needs and desires that we erroneous believed will make us happy once they are satisfied. Thus, we struggle for satisfaction only to discover that once we have our heart’s desire, we no longer want it, we want something else. Only after years of disappointment after disappointment do we come to realize that the game is “fixed” and that we will never be satisfied. Desire is infinite and satisfaction is finite. So like Buddha, Schopenhauer solution is to quit the “game of wanting” by getting out of this farce called life. Buddha through meditation; Schopenhauer through suicide.

But even this was not enough for Schopenhauer. First, he wanted to commit suicide by “holding his breath”, thereby throwing this so-called “gift of life” back into the face of the Creator by overcoming his unconscious instinct for life, and second, he wanted all of us to renounce reproduction since we should not bring new children into a world that makes promises that it never fulfills. Thus, since as I mentioned before that EVIL is LIVE spelled backwards, Schopenhauer’s philosophy is EVIL because it involves a preference of death over life.

On the other hand, compare this to Hegel’s philosophy that was based on his Christian beliefs. Hegel says that life was not made for happiness, if by that we that we mean periods of pleasure and amusement. 

Periods of happiness, he says,  are blank pages in it for they are periods of harmony and order (Thesis), and this dull existence is unworthy of man. History is made only in those periods in which the contradictions of reality, (Racism vs. Civil Rights), are being resolved by growth (Synthesis). History is a dialectical movement. All revolutionaries and geniuses become the instruments of God.” (Jewish View of History). Periods of happiness are blank pages not only  in history but in each person’s life because no growth is taking place. According to Hegel, Struggle is the law of growth; character is built in the storm and stress of the world, and a man reaches his full height only through compulsion, responsibilities, and suffering. Every pain has its purpose: it is a sign of life and a stimulation for reconstruction” In other word, pain is a stimulant for change and reform because it let’s us know that something is wrong and motivates us to do something about it. Even evils, according to Hegel, have a good purpose because in Wisdom’s way of looking at them they are stages or steps towards the fulfillment of the good. In other words, they motivate us to bring about the reforms to correct them.

So then, for a Christian what is happiness if it is not a life of pleasure and ease? A former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, John Garner probably defined it best when he wrote:

 

”Despite almost universal belief to the contrary, gratification, ease, comfort, diversion and a state of having achieved all one’s goals do not constitute happiness for Man. We are coming to a conception of happiness that differs fundamentally from the storybook version. The storybook conception tells of desires fulfilled; the truer version involves striving towards meaningful goals...goals that relate the individual to a larger context of purposes. Storybook happiness involves a bland idleness; the truer conception involves seeking and purposeful effort. Storybook happiness involves every form of pleasant thumb-twiddling; true happiness involves the full use of one’s powers and talents. Both conceptions of happiness involve love, but the storybook version puts great emphasis on being loved, the truer version more emphasis on the capacity to give love.”

 

            What Schopenhauer failed to realize is that fulfillment of our desires were not meant to satisfy us. As Garner wrote, “a state of having achieved all one’s goals do not constitute happiness for Man.” Instead, it is becoming more apparent that God uses goals as inducements to enter growth processes.” Let me repeat that. “Goals are inducements to enter growth processes.” In other words, they draw us out of the circular mode of existence into the linear mode of development and in doing so they actualize potentials that we may not realize that we have. In doing so, they set us on the path to the “fullness of life.”

            Once again we can see the wisdom in the Principle of Subsidiarity. Some well-meaning parents who have struggled to attain the goals in their lives vow that they will never allow their children to go through the same struggles without ever realizing that it was these struggles that made them what they are. Therefore, instead of allowing the child to handle his or her own struggles, like the Controllers in Brave New World they say “nothing has been spared in order to make your life easy.” Thus whatever the child declares is necessary to make him or her happy, they sacrifice to get it only to discover that the list is endless and that the heart’s-desire of yesterday is the discarded toy of today.

Wiser parents who understand the nature of desires and the rules of growth use these goals as inducements to enter growth processes. Instead of just providing the things the child wants, they teach it that some necessary qualities for adulthood are “delayed gratification” and the ability to work toward goals. To acquire something, one must work to earn the money; to earn the money one must acquire saleable skills; to acquire saleable skills one must be trained or educated; to be trained or educated one must learn to get up in the morning and to prioritize one’s time. Then one must learn to prioritize one’s goals so that lesser goals must be delayed or forgotten in favor of greater goals. And, finally, when the child attains the prized possession only to discover that it wasn’t the ultimate fulfillment that he imagined it to be, he must come to understand that “goals are merely inducements to enter growth processes” because even though they promised what they couldn’t deliver, the qualities that he  acquired on the way to the goals have become a permanent part of who he is. Then, as he matures, he may finally discover what St. Augustine learned that “Our heart were made for Thee, O God, and will not rest until they rest in Thee.” There is, as one sage put it a God-shaped hole in the human heart that only He can fill.  Thus, the only goal in life that could fulfill what it promises is “union with God.” And even here there is a “catch”. Because if the finite, which is us, is pursuing the Infinite, which is God, when will it reach it? The answer is never and then we finally discover the ultimate truth that true happiness is in the pursuit and not in the attainment.

There is a prayer known as the Confederate Soldier’s Prayer that addresses the difference between God’s view and man’s view of what we need. It states:

       “I asked God for strength that I might achieve;

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things;

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for,

But everything that I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all men richly blessed.

 

I don’t know who the author is of this prayer but it certainly suggests that God’s agenda and ours are on different paths. Yet, as I review my own life, I see that the greatest periods of personal growth occurred during the greatest time of personal struggle. It shouldn’t surprise us that “struggle” is an important word in God’s vocabulary since not only is the natural world based on overcoming and struggle but so is the gospel message. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthian 9:24-27:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air,. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

 

Thus, the gospel is one of struggle and discipline. Unlike the Hindu/Eastern Circular View, which is Yin in nature, the Judeo/Christian Linear Utopian View of History, is Yang. In other words, it is pro-active, pro-change, and pro-progress and it calls on all of us to say like St. Paul, “Why do I believe in Christ Jesus? So that my hidden self may be revealed.” We, like the universe, are a potential that is being actualized through the stress and storm of struggle. Those who promise us ease and comfort are, like Peter, looking at things from man’s hedonistic nature’s point of view rather than from God’s. 

And that is why in my next program,  I will explore why the New World Order conceived by the Secular Humanist is one of the greatest threat to God’s plan for each of us.

Well, I see that my time is up. Here’s Dom!