Tag Archives: Rieff

God is not Serendipitous

I have re-discovered yet another glaringly-obvious truism: There is no serendipity with God. If you do not seek him, you will not find him.

Serendipity is defined as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”.

And it seems to me that we cannot find God, nor even seek him, without a sense of sin. (More specifically, a sense of our own sinfulness. Everyone believes in the sinfulness of others, or at least certain others.)

If we cannot or choose not to see ourselves as sinners, then we will not find God because we will not see any reason to look for him.

This truth, I believe, is the real reason for the collapse of Christianity in the modern western world. Our sense of sinfulness has been washed away by our sense of victimhood and our belief in therapy as a substitute for morality.*

The victimhood cult became a thing when we re-codified the concept of justice. The Greek philosophical and Judeo-Christian sense of justice was doing justly to others.

The modern cults of identity politics and self esteem have redefined justice (actually reoriented it 180 degrees) from “treating others fairly” into “treating me fairly: ensuring that I and my group get what we deserve.” This melds the comfortable enjoyment of moral indignation and freedom from personal responsibility for, well, anything. Continue reading

Three Small Thoughts With No Connection

What’s New?

What did Moses and Jesus bring into the world that was new?

Before the Bible, and especially before Jesus, what religion ever valued…

–the poor over the rich?

–the weak over the strong?

–the childish over the wise?

–the humble over the proud?

–mercy over strict justice?

This is most clear in the paganism of the ancient world. The values of mercy and humility are conspicuously absent in the writings of Greece and Rome. Their heroes and moral exemplars are all proud, rich, strong, and wise.  They NEVER said “Love your enemies”.

Tentative conclusion: Nietzsche was right to hate Jesus and the Jews, for they gave the world everything that he despised.

 

The Need to Know Sin

Why has the modern world lost God? Because we have decided that we are not sinners, and so we do not need Him.

We do not sin so we do not need forgiveness.  We are basically good people, so we do not need help to become better. We are innocent, so we do not fear judgement.

The “triumph of the therapeutic” outlook (see P. Rieff) has convinced us that we do not sin, but only make mistakes. We embrace the view that all we enjoy and everything we like to do must be good. We can proudly boast “I have no regrets!” without blushing or laughing at ourselves.

We do not search for God (or even understand why others would do so) for two reasons. Some do not feel the need for divine help. Others feel the need, but are unwilling to accept any help that includes a list of “Thou shalt not’s”.

Without a sense of sin and our own sinfulness, how can we ever find God? Or even begin the search?

 

The Wisdom of Sancho Panza

It is hard to admit that I had to grow old before I could begin to grow up. But it is true. I had been so full of myself that I had no room for God or even for other people who loved me. I had to learn to empty myself first. That has meant learning humility, above all. It has been a hard lesson for me, after a lifetime in which soaring self-esteem seemed to be my natural state.

Finally, I begin to see my own smallness in the world, paired somehow with the greatness I share with each of us as creatures made in the image of God.

In Don Quixote, Cervantes has his picaresque character Sancho Panza observe that “everyone is as God has made him, and oftentimes a great deal worse”.  In my case, he is right.