I imagine the first question on the mind of the person sailing the boat in the photo accompanying this blog was, “How did this happen?” Even if fully conscious, I am confident they were astonished at the results. The second question surely was, “How do I get it out?”
Harold Watson “Trey” Gowdy III recently asked this question about the current level of political strife and conflict in the United States, “How did we get to where we are?” As a former prosecutor in South Carolina and former member of the US House of Representatives, Mr. Gowdy is known for asking precise questions. The answer to his question is long and debatable.
A simple, but not simplified, explanation of how we arrived at this point is that we have sought answers to our questions in the wrong places. The details are many, but the principle is true.
Our first failure is the human penchant for worshipping personality. We want some ONE to solve our problems. Our hope is placed in an individual to fix our brokenness. Surely, we can find one LEADER who will carry us to our desired prosperity. Don Henley and Stan Lynch wrote a song released by The Eagles in 1994, “Learn to Be Still.” The lyrics apply deeply to today:
“We are like sheep without a shepherd
We don’t know how to be alone
So we wander ‘round this desert
And wind up following the wrong gods home
But the flock cries out for another
And they keep answering that bell
And one more starry-eyed messiah
Meets a violent farewell…”
The problem with the cult of personality is this, cherished dreams always go up in flames. We ultimately learn the individual in whom we have believed is every bit as flawed as are we. This universal truth applies to individuals that people believe were born to political or spiritual greatness. David Greenberg, professor of history and journalism at Rutgers, wrote in the June 4, 2019 issue of Politico, “What do you do when a great hero is alleged to have done something awful? Sexual harassment revelations have felled a forest of cultural, political and business bigshots. Tasteless jokes, dubious comments or ill-advised tweets have led to scores of people being fired from prominent positions.”
If we are searching for the next great politician to heal our government or insightful theologian to heal our soul, we are on a fools’ errand. We must find it within ourselves to abandon the cult of personality! People are flawed human beings, no matter their gift of charisma.
Our second failure is our affinity for the philosophy of humanism. Oxford Languages defined humanism as, “an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters…and seeks solely rational ways of solving human problems.” Humanism clings to the ideology that mankind is inherently good with limitless potential. Humans can achieve anything without the need of any god. Humanism looks at the history of failures of humanity (e.g. war, slavery, murder, theft, violence, anger, treachery, jealousy, betrayal, et al) and declares we can fix ourselves with greater education, increased governmental legislation, a diminished importance upon religion, or a different political system.
Some have gone so far as “baptizing” humanism, rebranding it as Christian humanism. However, the result is the same. It diminishes the nature of God and man’s need for salvation, while clinging to redefined theological terms. The result is the same emptiness, because humanism refuses to see the truth about man. The heart (center of thought and desire) of man is deceitful, and we are unable to extricate ourselves from the nature of sin that plagues us.
Ok, now we know we are here because human beings have gotten things wrong, and human beings are incapable of perfection. So, “How do we get out of here? How do we correct this mess?”
We must stop focusing on how WE fix things and begin focusing upon the God who created us instead. It is God who understands the heart of mankind. God understands why humans have employed evils like slavery, usury, murder, racism, bigotry, slander, lying, and more. God knows why man has allowed injustice toward other humans to continue, and his passion is to change mankind.
Rather than continually attempting to tweak the behavior of man through humanism, we need to recreate the center of man’s reasoning and desire through the power of the One who created all things. God must become the center rather than mankind. We need to reject humanism’s call that our focus should be the differences that exist between us (race, gender, identity)! Instead, we should follow God’s teaching that draws us to the one commonality that is the root of all destruction, “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)
Neither Humanism, nor any of its corrupt theories, will achieve the goal of a just society. However, if we follow these words, we will surely reach our dream. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
We can get out of this mess if our focus becomes God’s truth rather than man’s greatness.