Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pessimism, Paranoia and Other Blessings

Continuing with my recent theme of what it means to be conservative, I want to speak about the tragic nature of life from a conservative perspective.

It is dangerous to think of life as a comedy because it leads to all sorts of Utopian schemes that typically result in bloodshed and destruction. So the "happy pagans," who glibly brush aside the Pauline/Augustinian teaching on original sin, and the wild-eyed fanatics, who are determined to "build the kingdom" here and now, are extremely dangerous. Those modern believers in technology and education and in the power of the State to solve all problem and meet all human needs, who go under the label of "Progressives," are also the unwitting architects of death and destruction. Life is not a comedy; it is a tragedy.

Oddly enough, however, those who appreciate and accept the tragic character of life are less dangerous than the believers in human potential, science and progress. Those who know that life is tragic are less likely to be swayed by Utopian schemes and grand plans to reform everything at one blow. Expecting less, they accomplish more. The conservative, who thinks from within a tragic perspective, expects things to get worse and change occurs because the pull of original sin is always downward. This gives the conservative a greater appreciation for tradition, common-sense and the opinions of ordinary people from shrewd peasants to hard-working member of the middle class.

A Christian conservative, however, knows that life is a tragedy wrapped up in a comedy. Life in this world is tragic. There will be no big breakthrough - no change in fallen human nature. But when the life to come is taken into account and one allows for God, the immortal soul and the day of judgment, then life in that grand perspective is ultimately a comedy in which God has the last laugh and all the redeemed laugh with Him.

Christianity sees life in the world as a "long defeat" (Tolkien) because this is the world dominated by death. Death comes to all because all sin and death makes a mockery of all our schemes, plans and projects. Even if we could make everything perfect - if we had health, family, security, wealth, and all good things - we would still not find real happiness because we would enjoy all our blessings knowing that they cannot last forever. Augustine concludes from this fact that true happiness can only be found outside this world and that, therefore, we must live by faith.

Although not all conservatives are Christians, it is nevertheless the case that Christians make the best conservatives because without the Christian Hope only exceptionally strong individuals can face the tragic nature of life without giving into the temptation to despair. But the Christian knows that this world is not our final home and that, although things are bound to get worse in this world, this world does not get the final word.

Pessimism is warranted by the reality of sin and paranoia is not without foundation for the Evil Powers (Sin, Death, Hell, the Devil) really are out to get us. But we can face reality without flinching as long as we remember that Jesus has risen from the dead and promised us eternal life with Him. So the pessimism and paranoia that arise from a conservative worldview are actually blessings that prevent us from accepting this world as either a malleable mass to which we can give the form of perfection or as the final defeat for those who seek goodness, truth and beauty. Pessimism and paranoia reflect a tragic view of this world that drive us to seek a "better country" in the land where Jesus is Lord. For this reason, even pessimism and paranoia become blessings.

1 comment:

Revelation-Truth said...

I love reading your blog. I got hooked last year. Thanks.