Paul instructed Timothy:
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For,
There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity – the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.
The book of Genesis describes how God created order from chaos, which is exactly what godly people do so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives, marked by godliness and dignity. Others, though, are never satisfied with existing order. They want change. And their goal is simply change for the sake of change, sometimes at any cost. I, too, believe that we should embrace change, but only as a means to create something better. Positive change produces greater peace and order and requires thoughtful people to shape it.
Sometimes human dissatisfaction grows out of injustice, bigotry, lack of opportunity, or repression. In these cases, challenging existing norms is justified, even necessary. Other times dissatisfaction is rooted within ourselves and, because we tend to blame others for our dissatisfaction, we challenge others or the existing norms in a way that creates chaos that actually makes our lives worse.
To illustrate, the American Revolution was rooted in change and led to our constitutional republic which allows for a continual, orderly evolution of government for the good of all. As a result, we’ve experienced over 200 years of orderly transitions of power that have adjusted to changing social norms. The lives of American citizens have steadily improved, and we are better off now than ever before. These changes have provided greater opportunities for improvement for all of us.
The opposite takes place when extremists’ revolutions lead to mass genocide, extreme poverty, starvation, abuse, the denial of civil liberties, and the establishment of dictatorships under the guise of promoting the common good. These types of revolutions use the language of empowering powerless people, but instead create chaos that allows the deceptive and power hungry to gain dictatorial power.
Since change is inevitable, we are all better off if necessary changes are directed by thoughtful people.
Gayle and I have recently watched the first two seasons of the Amazon Prime TV series The Man in the High Tower. So far, it has depicted the situation that might have developed if America hadn’t used the bomb to end World War II, thus allowing Germany time to develop the bomb, destroy Washington, and win the war. In the series, Nazi Germany and Japan divide the United States with the east ruled by a Nazi dictator and the west ruled by a Japanese Emperor.
While watching this series, we read the acclaimed Robert K. Massie biography of Nicholas and Alexandra, the history of the last Czar of Russia and his family who were ultimately assassinated. At that time, many Russians were promoting the idea of changing the government to a republic, while others were demanding more extreme changes. The chaos that ensued during these shifting times created an opportunity for Lenin to form a communist dictatorship that led to more poverty, genocide, and abuse than any single governmental system in the history of the world.
We engaged in reading this historical biography and watching the TV series while we also were experiencing the 2018 mid-term election season. Because of what we were watching and reading, I was keenly aware of how quickly nations can come and go. So I became somewhat concerned for the state of our nation as violent discord and an unusual lack of civility gripped our public discourse.
I asked some of my friends where they thought the chaos was coming from. Most simply blamed one or the other of the political parties. But several of them pointed me to Saul Alinsky’s book, Rules for Radicals,which I have now read.
Alinsky argues that people must take risks to force change, assuming that change will produce improvement the majority of the time. He claims that he is not a promoter of any particular ideology, but that he wants to encourage radicals to force change for the sake of change. He also encourages radical intervention for any powerless group that wants to take power. But since he wrote his book in 1971, he did not have the benefit of the lessons we’ve learned during the last fifty years from disastrous revolutionary movements that took place in the last century—the failure of Stalinist ideals, the mass genocides, poverty, and abuses that have been attributed to totalitarian regimes. Yet strikingly, even though his book lacks the wisdom we’ve gained in recent history, the ideas it promotes are being embraced by some in our current political discourse and they are negatively impacting the civility we have earned and enjoyed. As I read it, I was starkly reminded that change happens, but when those who lack wisdom and thoughtfulness direct it, the outcome is disasterous.
In contrast, we can benefit from the wisdom we’ve gained over time. For example, we’re all aging, but we’ve learned we will enjoy higher quality aging if we eat good food, exercise, learn, and engage in social interactions. Children will become adults, but we’ve learned their odds of becoming healthy adults is increased if their parents stay married, they enjoy learning, they are socially involved, and they regularly attend a good life-giving church.
Change is inevitable, so we all must wisely direct change to improve our families, our communities, our workplaces, and our churches. And THIS is exactly why the Bible is so important.
No other book in the history of the world has led to so much opportunity, prosperity, freedom, mutual respect, wholesome family life, and healthy community as the Bible. The Book That Made Your World, How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, by Vishal Mangalwadi, and the book How Christianity Changed the World,by Alvin J. Schmidt are excellent reads that explain why Western Civilization, built on Judeo-Christian principles looks so different than other civilizations.
The opening Scripture in this blog exhorts us to pray for those in authority. When we pray, read our Bibles, and fellowship with other believers, we have to contemplate time-proven ideas. The purpose of reading books, thinking about trends in history that help or hurt, or discussing ideas in a way that helps everyone gain understanding, is so that we can all improve. Sometimes that might lead to a revolution. Other times it simply inspires us to live wisely.
Many “progressive” ideas do not create progress at all. They are instead a return to failed 20th century theories that proved to be counterproductive. So, since change is inevitable, let’s thoughtfully direct it based on the wisdom we’ve gained, rather than repeat the failed leftist ideas of the past. Instead, let’s learn from the past and thoughtfully direct change so that it will create opportunities for improvement for everyone.