Yesterday, I saw this challenge on Facebook. My snarky response was “Government of the offended, by the offended, and for the offended. Unfortunately, I’m afraid it will never perish from the Earth.” I could probably make an entire post about that desideratum inspired by Lincoln’s peroration at Gettysburg. But for now, my mind is actually on some of the other responses I read. Here’s a sampling:
- Greed: Many, including two of my high-school friends, made this response. But do we really want to do away with greed? I wouldn’t go so far as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, who gave us the mantra “Greed is good.” However, I would argue that greed can be a strong motivator. Sadly, we live in an age when competition is a dirty word and high achievement is a social problem. But I am enough of a Puritan and a capitalist that the Orwellian result of too much equality (or “equity,” its troubling woke cousin) strikes me with terror. The lowest common denominator would be an apt description—if denominator was even in the Newspeak dictionary.
- Disease: The elimination of disease sounds like a great idea. But we should take heed of the lessons of the Struldbruggs, the immortal denizens of Jonathan Swift’s Luggnagg (lesser-known destination of Gulliver on his eponymous travels). Would living—and aging—forever really be a better alternative to disease and death? On the other hand, if overpopulation is a problem now, just imagine the situation if no one died.
- Hunger: See “greed” and “disease” above. As my parents, both children of the Great Depression., learned, hunger can be a great motivator. Their two daughters always had enough—perhaps too much—of all the necessities of life. On a darker note, hunger also helps to balance the ecosystem.
- Hate: I would suggest that the person who wrote “I have a list of particular people” might reconsider his thinking in light of this most frequent response the the question posed above. However, I’m not certain we would ever recognize love if we didn’t occasionally experience its opposite. Furthermore, this is one of those words whose lexical meaning has been usurped by those who attribute it to all those with whom they disagree. It is easy to justify all sorts of behaviors if believing they are deviant or wrong constitutes hatred.
- Racism: Here again, it all depends on the dictionary. Mine (American Heritage, 5th and regrettably last edition) says, “The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.” Deletion of the second half, at least, would merit consideration. However, take a gander at this new definition, second in the current Merriam-Webster Online: “The systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another; specifically, WHITE SUPREMACY.” Sadly, this is the definition on which many current educational and political policy-makers base their decisions (most egregiously, those who support Critical Race Theory).
- Sin: I found one suggestion to delete sin, imbedded in this season-specific peroration: “You know, as I read through most of these they are all good and I get it. But most of them are symptoms. No one as I read them simply said ‘sin!’ If sin were not in the world none of these problems would exist. That’s why Christ came. That’s what makes today Good Friday such a glorious day. Sin will always be with us this side of eternity but it has been paid for in full by His bloody sacrifice.” Again, I turn to literature—specifically Paradise Lost, where John Milton makes the compelling argument that it was the introduction of sin into Eden that truly began man’s rich history, based on the terrifying responsibility of free will.
Hmmm. Maybe we need to stop thinking that getting rid of something is the answer to all our ills. The moment after he uttered his first “fiat” (the verb, that is), God pronounced his creation good. There are things wrong in this broken world, to be sure. One of our great challenges is to recognize them and do what we can to fix them. But we must not simply wish them gone without counting the costs. Instead, on this holiest of Saturdays, let us remember that this imperfect place where we find ourselves is God’s Kingdom here on Earth. And let us prepare for the annual celebration of our risen Lord, who can indeed make all things new and right.