Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Our Faith, Our Hope, and Our Future

Over at First Things, R.R. Reno uses his review of a new book to explain why he remains optimistic about America in spite of our recent, and looming, travails. The book is about, of all things, the political culture of the Dakota Territories in the late-19th century and why, despite the rapid social change it experienced during that period, it didn't descend into the caricature that is the old, lawless, Wild West. Rather, the basic civility of the region held firm, and the author and Reno agree that one of the chief reasons for this was the vast reserves social capital available because of the population's Christian faith.

A vital Christianity is so important for our society, it's almost impossible to overstate. I'll leave aside its larger, grander, and frankly incomparable implications, and focus only on the immediate, secular, and social implications. I've said this so many times you'll have to forgive me if I'm repeating myself here, but in a society like ours in which we are more or less free to do anything we want, it is absolutely crucial that something instruct and inspire us not to do just anything we want.

Significantly, that something cannot be the government itself, despite what those who either represent or champion it maintain. (This is basically the position of contemporary liberalism.) That puts far too much power in the hands of the state and places our liberty in jeopardy as a result. Almost unique to Christianity is the idea of the separation of church and state. ("Render unto Caesar...") Because the church's authority resides outside the state, it can play the prophetic, i.e. critiquing role that is invaluable in keeping the state within its properly limited place and, as result, our liberty secure. But, at the same time, it can also encourage us to step up to, embrace even, the social obligations that make us, well, a society.

I, like Reno, remain optimistic about our country. As shallow as our confused, smorgasbord Christianity might be, so long as its heart is beating, I'm confident it will accomplish its proper ends. (See Romans 1:16) Make no mistake, contemplating the immediate consequences of The Great Reckoning, as I call what is transpiring, can be frightening. But, because I am a Christian, I am fortified with a faith and hope that allows me to see through and beyond it. (Faith and hope are such invaluable gifts, i.e., graces. Praise be to God!)

Fear not!

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