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The sad heartbreak of the nation that imagines its government to be God
Naive Americans imagine that our public institutions can cure all ills and prevent all evil, if only we will support them enough. Wise Americans know there is only one kind of power capable of that.
You want to know the most ironic thing about people who insist they don't believe in a higher power? A lot of them sure seem to want one.
Think back to when you were a kid. Maybe in school you were asked what you thought the president should do, or what the government should do. You were a kid. So there's a pretty good chance you said the president or the government should do things like:
- Make sure everyone has enough to eat.
- Stop people from committing crimes.
- Give everyone a soft pillow.
- Let everyone have candy bars for free.
Wheeeee! Why not? You're a kid and it's all about your imagination. You don't know anything about the limits on government's power, nor do you much care. The people in charge should make everything good for everyone. Yeah. That sounds good.
When you become an adult, you learn things. You learn that stuff costs money. You learn that you can't live people's lives for them. You learn that it's better if people earn the money to pay for their own candy bars and soft pillows. And you also learn that that it's almost impossible to have a government powerful enough to stop everyone who might want to do a bad thing . . . and that if you could create a government that powerful, you wouldn't want to live under it.
So we outgrow our childish, naive notions about the all-powerful, benevolent government we can and should expect to solve everything, provide everything and get everyone in line.
Or at least some of us do. When we find ourselves grappling with the reality of the Las Vegas massacre - when we're heartbroken, frustrated, desperate and grasping for answers - it seems an awful lot of us revert back to that childish naivete, the one that wants to believe the worst things in the world could somehow be put down if only government would decide enough is enough.
That's the rallying cry, not only of the political left, but of a lot of nonpolitical people in the aftermath of an event like this. "Enough is enough. It's time to put a stop to this."
It's impossible to disagree with the sentiment. But if you stop to think what the statement actually means, it's equally impossible to endorse it. Because it doesn't make any sense. "Enough is enough" implies that there's an acceptable level of mass murder that falls short of "enough". That's insane. The only acceptable level of mass murder is none. "It's time to put a stop to this" implies that there was a time when putting a stop to it would have been premature.
No one has ever believed that.
Of course we would like to stop mass murder. We'd like to stop all violence. We'd like to stop all evil. We'd like to prevent anyone who would contemplate doing any sort of harm to another person from following through and doing so. There doesn't seem to be much these days on which we can find consensus, but we can find consensus on that. Easily.
The problem is that no one knows a way to do it, or is even sure if there is a way to do it. We make efforts all the time to prevent people from doing bad things. Schools have assemblies and preach against bullying. Bullies are not deterred. We air public service announcements that express the horrors of drunk driving. Drunks still get behind the wheel. It's not that we shouldn't try, and it's not that no one is deterred. Some may be. But the moral drivers behind abject evil, or simple irresponsibility, usually don't respond that well to earnest, helpful reminders to do the right thing. The fact that we all have to live with people who would do such things in our midst is a regrettable fact of life, but it has been this way since the dawn of time.
It's understandable, when the evil manifests as horrifyingly as it did in Las Vegas, that we would feel like, damn it, we should do something. The emotion tells you to look at the guns, look at mental health services . . . look at something. Anything. Don't rest until we've ensured that this will never happen again. People make vows like that at times like this.
But just because you'd like something done doesn't mean there's something to do, and more to the point, it doesn't necessarily mean there's something for you to do. Even if you're the government, which the child in us wants to believe can make bad things go away if it only has enough political will, or enough money.
A popular left-wing activity over the course of the past year or so has been to rip people who offer "thoughts and prayers" during times of trouble. The idea is that if you really cared, you would do something, and that thoughts and prayers are little more than meaningless sentiments.
I value prayers a lot more highly than I value thoughts, but those who assail the notion consider them both equally worthless - an expression that makes you sound like you care even as your inaction proves otherwise. And they especially excoriate political office holders who offer "thoughts and prayers," because to this crowd, no one who holds office should be asking God to solve the problem. They should be solving it.
Remember this front page from the New York Daily News?
Following the San Bernardino shootings last year, the NYDN ripped the Republicans whose tweets you see listed. According to them, these four men could "end the gun scourge". God can't fix it but these guys can. How? By passing gun control. Got that? Pass a law against guns and there will be no more guns. Easy peasy. Such is the power of the almighty government, at least in the imaginations of people who desperately want it to be so.
But it's not so. People of wisdom know this. Government can set parameters of behavior and offer some modicum of protection against harm, but it can't end evil because it can't change what's in people's hearts.
This is what's really ironic about the people who reject the sovereignty of the actual living God. He can solve all this. He can change people's hearts if they will only turn to Him. He can redeem us. He can restore and purify us. Yet the wordly and learned scoff at this notion, insisting there is no God because science has all the answers and the existence of God can't be proven through science. Thus, you're a fool to believe in God.
Yet these same people believe government has the ability to "end the gun scourge" and do all kinds of other things, and all that's required is for those who run this blowtorch of power is to want to do so. Pass a law. Spend some money. Everything you want to be will be.
And it's not just guns. A lunatic like Stephen Paddock murders 58 people, and you start to hear complaints about "our mental health system," as if passage of the right laws and enough funding for mental hospitals will mean no more psychos will commit mass murder. Everything wrong that ever happens would not happen if only the government would take some action that's apparently easy as pie to take.
That's the real tragedy here. A nation that's rejected the true God puts its faith in a government of men to do the things that only God can do, and then can't believe it isn't happening. We probably just need to collect more taxes and spend some more money. I'm sure that's the problem.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!