A Rising Tide
The culture wars continue indeed. On the one hand we have those who follow or acknowledge a human tradition one hundred thousand years in the making. A spiritualism and awareness of something larger, an acceptance that, perhaps, there are questions beyond us. On the other hand, we have those who would ignore that history to proceed into a future without a view of the past and into a world anchored outside the comfort of much shared human experience.
While walking at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza in 2001, I was struck by two thoughts along those lines. The first thought, of course, was an amazement at the immense scale of the Pyramids.
How could ancient people have accomplished this feat? The second was whether the Pyramids were a last offering to the Gods, to man himself or to man-as-God, which was the definition of a Pharaoh. The last of the ancient wonders of the world remains silent as to the ultimate answer but the works that the ancient Egyptians accomplished 4500 years ago still stand as testament to the power of human will and the ongoing need to fill an inner void fashioned by creation itself.
Viewed in this light, it is easy to see how questions about the founding fathers’ religion become merely academic as there is no doubt that the ages have left us clear sign posts over the millenia as to our own basic human nature. The words they chose, like “... endowed by our creator ...” do not ring hollow even in these times which find many advocating for a sterile secularism. To ignore these testaments in granite and alabaster, in ink and vellum all hewn together with the blood, sweat and tears of countless generations, is to deny a shared record. For every book or movement which proposes to re-establish our central motivation, our essence and our instinctual selves there is a Parthenon or a Hagia Sophia, a Chichen Itza or a Wailing Wall. For every philosophy of nihilism there is a Cathedral of Notre Dame or a Sagrada Familia. Some of these sites are still unfinished works in progress, others are fragments of once larger structures which continue to hold sway on the foundations of human spirituality despite ceasing to be functional architecture long ago. As the grief stricken Emperor who built the Taj Mahal to honor his deceased wife wrote: “... In this world this edifice has been made, to display thereby, the Creator’s glory.”
What exactly are we speaking of then, when we talk of separating our public society from our private spirituality? We understand that the founding fathers obviously had concerns about society’s relationship to its religious values. Would we thus interpret their, at times conflicted, thoughts to say there is no room for a “creator” or “God” in the public sphere when the very foundation documents of our republic contain these words? It goes without saying that this would be no more likely to assume than to say they wrote a Constitution which ignores the need for personal expression. Surprisingly though, this is just what the self-professed liberals and progressives often seek in modern day society. A denial or outright rejection of that which is a basic foundation to much of world society and, at least in the United States, the basic traditional beliefs of a clear majority. A majority whose beliefs will presumably be replaced by the Left’s own hubris.
The most basic flaw of the modern day liberal is the misinterpretation of human nature itself. Despite countless examples of man’s inherent will to define himself in terms of a creator, we have entire nations and civilizations which have tried and failed to succeed in attempts to fashion themselves outside of this nature whole cloth. A nature which maintains proof of its existence around the world in the form of monuments and temples filled with the living and breathing embodiment of faith. That basic Liberal flaw seeks to ordain answers where none can be found by even our best science and mathematics. While the same spiral exists in the curvature of our DNA as in the graceful form of an entire galaxy, they persist in asking why there is even a need for further explanation beyond ourselves. Even as we have yet to formulate a social scheme, outside of a higher spiritual order, which gives a satisfactory seating to our innate human longing. What’s more, large scale attempts to do so have ended in the bloodiest episodes in human history: 30 million “eliminated” in Maoist China and another 25 million “re-educated” into the graves of the old Soviet Union where religion was famously referred to as the “opiate of the masses.”
Progressives and Liberals are just as aware of this built-in affinity to religion as those on the Right and yet it seems to be a constant source of anxiety and distress to many of them. An anxiety which causes them to redouble their efforts to quickly dispatch faith in favor of attempting to proclaim again, by sheer will, that man shall hereby no longer have a need for worship. At least, not a creator since political cults of personality are all too common these days (sarcasm alert). Perhaps it is man’s inherent flaw or our sentence, as some believe, to be continuously at odds with our own selves and our fellow human beings. Some of us, however, act like the Dodo which had no knowledge of how to respond to a changing environment instinctually and as a consequence became extinct within just a few years of coming into contact with outside humans.
Somewhere along its million year history, the Dodo forgot that it was a bird after all, endowed by its creator with unique gifts and capable of soaring flight, enough to reach the heavens themselves. It soon met its end, though, as a matter of course, easily becoming prey to a combination of overreaching human nature and the Dodo’s own unfortunate lack of spirit.