by Dr. Benjamin Wiker
Bluntly put, we're in a big mess, so big and so intricately woven around the globe that we're convinced that the only solution is just as big—or perhaps should be even bigger—than the problems.
In one sense that is true. The bigger the mess, the bigger the solution has to be—and that wisdom drives us to understand that the only thing that could really clean it all up would have to be some kind of all powerful, all wise, all good, just but merciful being, a.k.a., God.
But in another sense, it is false, as even God makes clear. God seems to have this strange predilection for very particular solutions. The world has been in a mess for quite some time. If you want to gain some perspective on our own situation, do some reading about the real spiritual, moral, social, political, and economic rottenness of ancient Imperial Rome. Into that very general and cosmopolitan mess, God should have shown up in a blaze of glory larger than both the ambitions and the decadence of the Empire, but instead he arrived in an animal's feeding trough in a cave in a little town on the fringes of Rome's map.
That wasn't the first time God chose the particular and local against the grand and imperial. He first revealed himself, not even to a nation, but a single man, a no-name Semitic, a shepherd, to whom he made the exceedingly unlikely promise that he would make from him a great nation, one that would provide the blessing by which all nations would be blessed.
And then instead of fixing servitude in general, striking out against the world-wide trafficking of slaves, God chose instead to begin the whole process of destroying slavery by picking one particularly unpromising band of enslaved malcontents out from under the divine-imperial nose of Pharaoh.
So God's message for fixing the general mess seems to be, "Let's begin with you."
Rather than ride in with some grand program that fixes everything from the top-down, he likes to start from the very bottom, on the most local of levels using actual people rather than grand government or imperial programs. He would rather that individuals take particular vows, than that whole nations undertake massive ambitions.
And that brings us to the subject of particular vows, our particular New Year's Resolutions. There is no doubt, looking at the morning, noon, and evening news that the world is in a disastrously deep and wide mess—politically, economically, morally, and spiritually. Let us follow God's lead and put the burden of getting out of this monstrous mess on ourselves. Let us each make a vow to do what we can to clean up our own little part of the world.
Marriage is a mess. If the divorce rate has gone down, it is because so many now choose not to bother with marriage to begin with. Let us each take a vow, "I will strive, with my whole heart, mind, and soul, in every particular moment, to make my marriage better, to sacrifice myself for my wife, to cherish and nurturemy wife as if she were a queen, to honor and love myhusband as if he were a king, to do everything within my reach to be a blessing to my spouse, so much so, that he or she will thank God for me in amazement and gratitude rather than pleading with God to help deal with me as a curse."
Families are a mess. Even if, through some miracle, families remain intact, the members rarely speak to each other, but remain, for most of the day, plugged into their own little cyber worlds. Let us, fathers and mothers, each take their respective vows, "I will embrace fatherhood as a holy vocation, knowing that by what I do or fail to do, I create my children's first world, the little world they are born into, the family in its home. I can make a heaven or a hell, make myself an image of the Father in heaven or the Father of lies, depending upon whether I sacrifice myself for my family as Christ did, or I sacrifice my family for myself." "I will embrace motherhood as a holy vocation, not an interruption of my plans, knowing that motherhood is the bosom of all reform, and that God incarnate did not come as a mighty king but as a helpless child entirely dependent upon his mother, a God who believed that the home was so important that he spent years there, hidden away with his mother until he burst forth."
The economy is a mess. We are entangled in a hopeless morass of stupidity, short-sightedness, epic greed, and even grander imprudence. Let us each take a vow, "I will say to myself every day, 'Economy begins in the home.' If I am not frugal, spending money thoughtfully, if I do not save money, putting it away for the future, if I do not live simply rather than extravagantly, living within my means rather than hopelessly beyond them, then I cannot curse Congress and the President, the banks, the European Union, the welfare state, and Wall Street for spending extravagantly, throwing around money as if there's no tomorrow, living beyond our national means down to the third and fourth generation. This year, instead of crying out about the national debt and the fools on the Hill, I will attack my own personal debt as theeconomic problem. Whatever disaster may await us economically on the national and international scene, I will make my family far, far less vulnerable if I own my own house, have zero debt, money in the bank, and a well-stocked pantry."
Politics—a real mess. How about this very conservative vow? "I will vote out scoundrels and career politicians from the national scene, but I will focus on local and state politics, on making my own city, my own county, my own state a better, healthier, more economically strong place for my family. I will focus on problems my community is having, and instead of complaining loudly I will roll up my sleeves and do something about it. I will invest my time and my money in building up, first of all, everything that I can see if I climb up on a good size hill, then in every direction that I could walk in a day, and finally, in what I could drive to between breakfast and lunch. I will love the earth by loving my little part of it, I will become a patriot by my stalwart defense and flourishing of the land I actually love."
Must we mention the sickening state of moral decay? Yes, but don't look to the government for the remedy. Let's each take a vow, "I will remember that the moral state of society is merely a reflection of the moral state of the souls of its citizens. Souls go bad, one by one, by each of the things that every day, nearly every minute, we think, we do, or we fail to do. Moral reform begins with me. If I do not control my anger then society will be governed by the poison of wrath. If I do not embrace true humility, then society will be brutalized by the greatest of sins, pride. If I am not satisfied with what I have, then society will be riven with envy. If I cannot control my own heart and eyes, then society will be boiled in lust. If I cannot control my desire to eat, then society will collapse under the weight of its own gluttony. If I am a coward who cleaves to convenience and comfort, then society will be defined by sloth. I will undertake a holy crusade, first of all, against my own sins."
And finally, how about a spiritual vow—not to re-Christianize the government, but to evangelize ourselves? "I will study and pray and act, hoping to become the kind of Christian whose life, demeanor, humble fulfillment of vocation, words, and actions are themselves the greatest argument for the truth of the Gospel. I will remember the most awful and inspiring of truths, that the message and the messenger cannot be separated, and that how I speak and act as a Christian will determine what people really hear and see about Christ."