An Essay: We are called to serve God and one another
I would first like to get this out on the table. No one should believe that life is fair or human nature without God is good. We often seem surprised by horrible events and ask, “How could this happen?”, but we should really be asking, “Why doesn’t this happen more often?” Many have said this before. In the 1600s, Thomas Hobbes described the “state of nature” or the human condition without social order as a life that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” John Locke also wrote that laws in the state of nature, including international affairs between modern countries, are deficient in three major ways. The laws are not always clear, there are no impartial judges, and the weak cannot execute a just sentence. Even our Founding Fathers knew human nature was a potential pitfall for our country. James Madison eloquently expressed this when writing about the need for checks and balances in our government,
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
These experiences of the past speak to the need for organized law, justice and order, not just domestically but internationally. As a global concern, the question becomes, “How do we tame this savage human nature throughout the world?” The answer is simple; we follow the teachings of Jesus, or for those who prefer more secular wording, we work to spread peace and justice in the world. The United States needs to stand up for what is right and be an example of peace and justice in the world; as individuals, we also need to do our part to support peace and justice.
From time to time, civilizations get stuck in the mind set that the march of progress and scientific development will continue indefinitely and liberty will forever unfold across the entire world. This belief, although comforting, has proven not to be the case throughout history and can lull civilizations into a false sense of security and complacency. I find an early Catholic philosopher’s metaphor of the world useful considering this reality. After the fall of the Roman Empire, St. Augustine wrote the City of God. He contrasts two ways of life, the earthly life (City of Man), where love of self and power dominates and the heavenly life (City of God), where love of God is the foundation of order. Essentially there is a city of greed and self gratification and a city of love for one another. The more a country gravitates to greed and self interests, either though malevolence or complacency, the less peace and justice prevail. St. Augustine stated, “Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?” However, the path to the City of God, with peace and justice for all, is not automatic. It takes effort, dedication and self sacrifice, and this pursuit of peace and justice must expand beyond our country’s borders. If the U.S. doesn’t stand up and do the right thing across the world, the result will be less peace, justice and security here at home.
The world is facing many challenges from climate change, food shortages, social unrest, immigration, terrorism and more, and the U.S., at times acting unilaterally and with a disregard for foreign perspectives, has exacerbated enmity toward the western world. In consideration of this and all the challenges, the U.S. needs to rise to the occasion with more than military solutions. The U.S. must promote and be an example of peace and justice in the world. This is God’s calling to us. It is also consistent with the ideas of John Locke and our Founding Fathers that shaped this country. Essentially, we all surrender some of our freedom and enter into a social contract with one another to have peace and justice. The U.S. must engage in multilateral international policy with internationally recognized rules to establish some justice beyond the powerful lording over the weak.
Along the same lines, we are all called to actively support peace and justice, either at home or abroad. Pope Benedict XVI reiterated this call at the 2008 World Youth Day in Australia,
“…the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of His love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity… May the fire of God’s Love descend to fill your hearts, unite you ever more fully to the Lord and His Church, and send you forth, a new generation of apostles, to bring the world to Christ.”
Each of us must follow our calling from God to buildup the City of God.
This is not a desperate time, but we cannot afford to blindly adhere to society, the City of Man. We cannot be couch potatoes or kid ourselves into thinking we can hideaway somewhere and be safe from terrorism or injustice. Now is the time to stand up for what is right and be an example of and actively support peace and justice in the world. We need to be pioneers of a new age, as Pope Benedict described,
“A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deadens our souls and poisons our relationships…The world needs this renewal. In so many societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair…in a desperate search for meaning – the ultimate meaning that only love can give.”
The U.S. is uniquely suited to promote this peace and justice, and this is a mission we must embrace, working with our allies and all countries, as our peace at home is inextricably tied to peace in the world. To ensure a future for ourselves and our children, effort, dedication and self sacrifice will be required from us all, each of us contributing in a capacity best suited to our skills. The American people are incredibly vibrant, resourceful, and unshakable when dedicated to an effort. This is our strength that has served us well, and we can rely on it in tackling the challenges that lay ahead. I am confident, if we all pursue this course, we will move the world closer to being the City of God.
May God bless you and may the Holy Spirit guide you through your life.