Civilization Not Utopia

 

Building Civilization

As men who have been converted away from the various empty philosophies of this modern age into the Church and Christendom, even as they appear to be crumbling before astonished eyes, the question must be asked. What does a man actually do with his faith? We are encouraged by the apostle Paul to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Paul understood that there was work to be done.

The preacher and pulpit model of evangelical Christianity prioritizes the saving of lost souls at the expense of all other pursuits. Given that Jesus Himself stated His mission was to save that which was lost, this is not without merit. But what of the other activities that men take up in their daily life? What of the daily work, marriage and family, and all that goes long with those? If a man is not careful, he might get the impression that living any life other than that of wandering evangelist is downright evil.

There exist an underlying dichotomy that pits the work of man against his Creator, calling all human works evil and only God’s work as good. Given how many trials and temptations a man faces in life, telling men their work is meaningless is not motivational. Aggravating this fatalism are the other extremes of judgment-free wealth and utopian social engineering. One disparages the work of human hands and the other exalts it.

Men are at their best when they are building and even better when doing so in pursuit of God’s goodness. Building a family is good, building a civilized Catholic family is even better. Building stable finances is good, building finances capable of enduring hardship, donating to charity, and leaving behind an inheritance is even better. So with salvation, sharing the faith is good. Sharing the faith and building good works is even better. When one looks at the history of the Catholic Church, the list of good works include charity to the poor, preservation of language and education in the face of violent upheaval, and numerous innovations in society that provided so much good to people living in Western Civilization and worldwide. Much of the enrichment, justice, and abundance enjoyed by the West came from men who understood that saving souls was not the limit of God’s good work on earth.

Civilization is equated in the thought of popular Christianity with the building of the Tower of Babel, the historical attempt of rebellious men to construct a world without God. Because of this any and all attempts to build any sort of civilization is viewed as acts of evil and the sole act of good left is a kind of withdrawal and indifference to the affairs of Church and State. Building a good society, a civilization, is equated with attempting to build “heaven on earth.” This is wrong.

There is a difference between men attempting to build a civilization and attempting to build a utopian society.

Good men, especially those whose thoughts are governed by the goodness of Christianity, understand that man is a fallen creature, capable of corruption and evil. They know that no man is perfect and therefore his work will always be imperfect. Civilization is the refusal to succumb to the corrupting forces that constantly pull men toward decadence, destruction, and bloodshed while understanding that the refusal and resistance can never be complete. Jesus declared that man will always have the poor. So it is that good men attempt to alleviate poverty, knowing that it cannot be completely eliminated. They attempt to alleviate murder, knowing that there will always be murderers. Injustice is righted as much as possible while recognizing that there will always be injustice. In this, good men build religious, education, and government centers to solidify that resistance against evil for the sake of those who seek to live righteously, even if imperfectly. For the civilized man he builds knowing that perfection will only come when his perfect Creator comes to end all human suffering.

Evil men deny that man is fallen and instead believe that man is fundamentally good. Building on this, they seek to build utopia, a civilization that does not simply mitigate poverty, but seeks to eliminate it completely. The goal, the dream, is a civilization of perfection, where destruction and bloodshed are purged and human suffering is utterly removed. For the utopian man, he is his own creator and his own savior and human suffering will only be eliminated by his own evolutionary climb toward perfection. The evil of the pursuit is that lust allows any ends to justify the means. Injustice is allowed if it will achieve justice.

To deny man’s ability and call to build a Christian civilization is to stifle the potential that Christ gave man when He ascended into Heaven and left man His commands and Spirit. Catholic men are the salt of the earth and they should strive to build a city on a hill. If they do not then they leave their neighbor to die at the hands of evil or die themselves. Or they leave their fellow man to sell their souls in pursuit of other gods who will promise them peace on earth through utopian visions.

Men should strive to build civilizations. It is an act of good in a world of evil, an obligation even, and without civilization, there is only a descent into barbarism.

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