Friday, October 21, 2005

The secular death-wish

From abortion to infanticide to euthanasia, the creed of liberalism is death. That’s the common thread, the common denominator.

Even sex, which is supposed to be about new life, becomes a recipe for death under the secular scalpel.

Concomitant with the liberal death-wish is the denial of death. As Jan Bremmer has noted, “It is one of the characteristics of modern life that the dead no longer are significant in our lives: typically, in Holland graves can be cleared away after only ten years,” The Rise & Fall of the Afterlife, 86.

One obvious reason for paving over graveyards is that unbelievers don’t like to be reminded of their own mortality.

We can also see this in the increasing recourse to plastic surgery to recreate the illusion of youth.

Cher is a good example. The Sixties counterculture was a youth culture. Cher is a child of the youth culture.

There’s only one problem with a youth culture: there’s no future in being young. Youth is a very perishable commodity.

And yet, through the marvels of plastic surgery, Cher at 60 can look like Cher at 30.

Yet it must be odd to look like 30 on the outside, but feel like 60 on the inside.

Yet another reason for paving over the cemeteries is that the average unbeliever has no sense of continuity with the dead. “First you die, then you rot,” so the saying goes.

If there is no afterlife, then death severs, once and for all, the bond between generations.

By contrast, Jews and Christians traditionally had family crypts. This was owing to their firm faith in the resurrection of the just.

For a Christian, a cemetery is an emblem and portent of the communion of the saints—of the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before and await our arrival (Heb 11-12).

After I take my mother to her hair appointment, I drive to a cemetery a few miles away. It’s a nice play to pray.

It’s interesting to spend an hour in a cemetery—to see a trickle of people come and go, to bring fresh flowers, say a prayer, and leave.

Time without space would induce a sense of extreme fragmentation in our lives, for time is fleeting.

Space introduces a sense of stability and continuity. You can never revisit the same time, but you can revisit the same space. Space erects damns and levees within the fluidity of time.

A tombstone is a symbol of union, disunion, and reunion. For those who live and die in Christ, it is a promise, etched in stone, that they are waiting for us and we are going to them.

In Catholicism you have prayers for the dead. This is decadent, but is also, like most heresies, a half-truth.

The dead can do nothing for the living, and the living can do nothing for the dead.

We don’t always know if a loved one died in Christ. But we can pray to God that our loved one died in Christ. We can continue to pray that prayer even after their gone, for even though death has sealed their fate, God is not bound by our ignorance. Even after they’re dead, we can pray that God brought them to faith before they died.

The effect of prayer is not necessarily bound by the timing of prayer. The fact that I pray for an outcome which is now a thing of the past does not infringe on divine omniscience of God, for God doesn’t have to wait until I pray to act on what I pray. God is not bound by time in that sense. So even though prayer cannot affect what was, prayer can affect what was to be—even after the past is past—from our finite point of view.

After all, the unknown is the arena of prayer, whether the imponderables of the future or the past. We don’t pray for the known, but the unknown.

By the same token, Pentecostals are half-right. They’re wrong to suppose that God must do whatever they pray for. Indeed, the best way of finding out that God doesn’t have to do whatever you pray for is to pray for is to name it and claim it and watch all your insolent, unanswered prayers slap you in the face like a sandstorm.

But while presumption in prayer is sin and folly, a certain boldness is a good thing--for what do we have to lose? We may not always get what we ask for, but we rarely get what we never ask for.


What's happening in Russia, on the other hand, should cause tears. Mark Steyn has written a short survey of the state of affairs in Russia that breaks the heart and troubles the soul:

Russia is literally dying. From a population peak in 1992 of 148 million, it will be down to below 130 million by 2015 and thereafter dropping to perhaps 50 or 60 million by the end of the century, a third of what it was at the fall of the Soviet Union. It needn't decline at a consistent rate, of course. But I'd say it's more likely to be even lower than 50 million than it is to be over 100 million. The longer Russia goes without arresting the death spiral, the harder it is to pull out of it, and when it comes to the future most Russian women are voting with their fetus: 70 percent of pregnancies are aborted.

Read that last sentence again. But it's not just demographics--it's demographics and frightening externalities:

[Russia] has the fastest-growing rate of HIV infection in the world. . . . The virus is said to have infected at least 1 per cent of the population, the figure the World Health Organization considers the tipping point for a sub-Saharan-sized epidemic. So at a time when Russian men already have a life expectancy in the mid-50s--lower than in Bangladesh--they're about to see Aids cut them down from the other end, killing young men and women of childbearing age, and with them any hope of societal regeneration. By 2010, Aids will be killing between a quarter and three-quarters of a million Russians every year. It will become a nation of babushkas, unable to muster enough young soldiers to secure its borders, enough young businessmen to secure its economy or enough young families to secure its future. True, there are regions that are exceptions to these malign trends, parts of Russia that have healthy fertility rates and low HIV infection. Can you guess which regions they are? They start with a ' Mu-' and end with a '-slim'.

What Steyn is getting at is that as it dies, Russia "could bequeath the world several new Muslim nations, a nuclear Middle East and a stronger China." Calamity heaped on top of tragedy.


1 comment:

  1. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote about the liberal death wish some years ago --'s%20Scourging%20of%20Liberalism%20-%209-21-1989.htm