Most days, I try to make my monotonous, hour-long commute into downtown Los Angeles profitable via talks, lectures, or sermons by great leaders, thinkers, and preachers. Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi has become one of my favorites. If you’ve never been exposed to his work, let me highly recommend Must the Sun Set on the West? No matter your religious or political persuasion, I guarantee you’ll find yourself challenged as India’s foremost Christian intellectual unpacks Western culture and details its heritage.
This week, I found Mangalwadi’s “From Monasteries to the Twin Towers: The Crumbling Spirituality of Capitalism” to be particularly timely. Let me apologize in advance for the length of my explanation.
There have been many times in recent months where I have found myself asking “What the Hell is going on!?!” I turn on the news to see Muslim suicide bombers blowing themselves up to kill innocent people, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike, all over the world. Closer to home, I see an inept Federal government populated by corrupt, self-serving politicians, beholden to special interests, passing bills they haven’t read, and making policies that punish ‘good’ behavior to reward the ‘bad.’ I see unscrupulous and greedy bankers and businesspeople who have driven the global economy into the ground while executives continue to pocket tens of millions of dollars for themselves. I see flagrantly immoral ‘entertainment’ in every medium, glorifying illicit behavior and irresponsibility. And, I see men gorging themselves on porn as they float the ever-quickening current toward the increasingly well-documented waterfall of impotence that awaits them.
Did I mention that the Gulf of Mexico is filling up with oil?
Our society is in social and economic tatters, and if there’s any light at the far end of the tunnel, it’s a train.
So, just what the Hell is going on?
We’ve become the master of our own destiny, that’s what. Wasn’t there some kind of aphorism about sowing and reaping? As Dr. Mangalwadi discusses in the talk referenced above, we have chosen to divorce ourselves from the foundations of Western culture and are thus facing the consequences. Hell is going on.
You see, after the Reformation, European monks picked up on the notion of ‘calling’ evident throughout the New Testament, and most particularly in the writings of the Apostle Paul. Given to lives of service to God and committed to work, these monks inadvertently laid the foundations of Western capitalism. As they specialized in the production of different products (e.g., wine for the church) and their operations grew, they developed the early management and accounting principles that gave rise to those we apply today. These men saw purpose in life via the ‘calling’ to work in all things for the glory of the Christian God. Interestingly, these monks also took vows of poverty that established the humility necessary to manage the people and money their operations accrued.
However, modern society has divorced itself from these shackles of Judeo-Christian thought and assumed carte blanche. Thanks to the influence of four modern men, we no longer need worry about humility or honoring any god but ourselves.
The men we have to thank for the modern state of affairs are Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Charles Darwin. As Dr. Mangalwadi so eloquently expounds, these individuals had other ideas about the centralities of life. Marx said money; Nietzsche said power; Freud said sex. Society gradually bought in; and, planted in the fertile soil of the tenets inherent in Darwinian macro-biological evolution, these philosophies took root and blossomed into the catastrophe we see around us today. Our society’s divorce from its Judeo-Christian foundations has led to a loss of humility before God, and therein self-restraint. Instead, we’re faced with the precipitant arrogance and depravity that has manifested itself in the corruption and immorality we see in politics, business, and entertainment, as noted. This will not change until we change.
But how, given the tumult?
Some hope in serendipity, but we need to hope in Providence.
My wife and I went to see Toy Story 3 last night. Before the show, one of the previews was a spot from The Foundation for a Better Life. (You can see it here.) I thoroughly enjoyed the commercial, and appreciated its message; however, I was also bothered by it. Why? Because humanistic notions of morality are innately amorphous and ephemeral, and thus not robust enough to mitigate humanity’s natural depravity. Yes, they are ‘good,’ but they are also helplessly adrift like a sailboat that’s lost its mooring. This is because they don’t actually have a mooring – they aren’t tied to anything. Thus, as with a boat drifting loose on the water, people see and take notice. They find humanistic morality appealing and relevant, but ultimately inadequate.
The potency required for changing our world will only be found in morality moored to an absolute – anchored to something that won’t allow for drifting. Gentlemen the mooring I am referring to is your Christian faith, and it’s the only thing that can shore up our world.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Men, society needs us to eNgage! Look around you as Jesus’ words once again ring true: The rain is coming down. The streams are rising. The winds are blowing and beating. What do you see happening?
There is a solution, and it starts with our engagement. This nation does not have to fall “with a great crash” on our watch, and neither does the rest of the world. But averting the disaster will require long-term change, and it will be difficult.
As men, we need to pick up on the notion of ‘calling’ and then dedicate ourselves to working in all things for the glory of God. This means we need to dedicate ourselves to excellence in the arenas to which He has called us. This means we need to be willing to shrug off complacency and comfort in favor of taking steps of faith toward our dreams. Are you called to law, business, public policy, formal ministry, music, or athletics? What have you done about it lately? Don’t be caught with your pants around your ankles or your Xbox controller in hand when society is crashing down around you.
As men, we also need to cultivate the humility necessary to respect God, love each other, restrain ourselves, and manage that which He gives us appropriately. This means we need to be asking God for wisdom. This means we need to be making the daily decision to be the men we know God has created us to be, moment by moment, hour by hour. How’s your walk with God? Are you seeking him for wisdom and guidance? Don’t assume you can skate through society’s depravity unscathed.
As men, we also need to be purposeful in developing transparent, armor-bearing relationships with one another. As you probably already know, that’s what eNgage is all about: Purposeful relationships. Young men helping each other live God-honoring lives, pursue excellence, and be the men God has called us to be in our marriages and families as husbands and fathers, our companies as employers and employees, and our governments as lawmakers.
If we can do these things, I think we have a shot. Our influence can establish justice and morality in our institutions, and Godliness in our society. If we can’t…
I think our alternatives are well-established.
“The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”