A Break and a Prayer

I decided to take a break this week from The Naked Public Square and to reflect upon the Covid 19 outbreak and what it reveals about the need for Christians in public life and a Christian response to public life. In addition, though I think that this series of posts will last a long, long time, and involve a look at many approaches, I did not begin this without some idea of where it might end.

I begin with an observation that I have explored in Path of Life: The Way of Wisdom for Christ-Followers and in Crisis of Discipleship: The Way of Light and Love for 21st Century Disciple-Makers. [1] The Modern World is dying and something new is emerging. It is my view that what we call “Post-Modernism” is only the beginning of the change and might better be called “Hyper-modernism” or “End-stage Modernism.” The decent of modern thought into “hermeneutics of suspicion” and “deconstruction” is fundamentally critical reason taken to its absurd end. (This does not mean their insights are not valuable.)

Under the influence of a mechanical vision of the universe, modern thinkers were predisposed to see the world as composed of small units of matter held together or acted upon by forces. In politics that resulted in an extreme individualism and a materialism that saw the fundamental forces of government as power subject only to natural and economic forces, all of which explainable by scientific analysis. Thus, the 20th Centuries most powerful political/economic theories, Capitalism and Marxism.

By the middle of the 20th Century, wise scientists knew that this vision of the universe was false. At a macro-level (the level of Newtonian mechanics) chaos theory and relativity theory reveal a world that is deeply relational. At its most fundamental level (the level of quantum theory), today most scientists believe that the world is composed of disturbances in a universal wave field, with the result that every aspect of reality is deeply connected with every other aspect of reality. [2] Some scientists even believe that the world is fundamentally composed of information. Whichever view turns out to be correct, the fact is that matter and forces are not fundamental. In the area of theology, a powerful analysis has emerged that the world is deeply interconnected, and relationship is more fundamental than matter or energy. [3]

The inevitable result of all this is that reason, relationships, spiritual values, moral imperatives, and the like will reemerge as important factors in a wise polity. The vision of the purely secular, materially driven and scientifically managed state will wither away until it finds its proper place in a more comprehensive and human polity. We are only at the beginning of a vast and important change in the way ordinary people and governments view reality and the presuppositions of everyday life.

Just as the world is made up of an intricately intertwined web of reality, governments will recognize that human politics must begin with smaller units, like the family and move organically in more comprehensive organizational units with important but limited powers. The vision of the all-powerful nation state that controls a territory through legal, administrative and bureaucratic power will be proved inadequate. A more relational view of government will supplant the modern view with which we have all grown up.

Whether this happens as a result of a great crisis and collapse of the current nation-state, world-state visions or organically through the decisions of wise leaders, depends on the decisions we all make. One thing for sure: a wise and truly post-modern political order will value reason, dialogue and compromise as much as debate and decision.

So, how does all this relate to our current crisis? Nothing more clearly demonstrates the relationality of the world’s political economy than the pandemic we are experiencing . It is interesting that, while national and international agencies have performed an important role, at the level or ordinary folks like you and me, it has involved shopping for groceries, helping neighbors, cancelling activities with large numbers of persons, personal hygiene and a host of other small actions. Churches, neighborhood organizations, volunteers groups, non-profit agencies and the like have all responded to the crisis, and mostly in a positive way.

The virus has exposed the fragility of the supply chain and the necessity of governments retaining certain manufacturing facilities related to medicine at the local level so as to eliminate a supply chain vulnerability. Interestingly, the virus emerged from a large socialist economy the political leadership of which was slow to react to the crisis and vastly underestimated risk. Free societies and those with more robust local and regional leadership, public and private, have done better than centralized states. This should give Americans hope for the future.

Both political liberals and conservatives agree that there are fundamental problems in our society. It may be a shared fundamental world view that is at the root of the decay of our public institutions. If the world is fundamentally rational and relational than all solutions that flow from a purely materialistic view of society, a view shared by extreme capitalist and socialistic theories of government, lie at the root of the problems we face. What is needed is a new, more relational and rational ontology of government (theory of the fundamental “being” of government).  I apologize to my readers for using the word “ontology,”, but there is no other word I can use that expresses my meaning more clearly.

Today, I am going to close with a prayer I posted yesterday on Facebook, a prayer for the Covid 19 Crisis and all those who are impacted by it, which means all of us.

Almighty God of Healing and Grace: 

On this National Day of Prayer, I lift up our nation and especially those with the Covid 19 virus and those seeking a vaccine and to contain the spread of the virus. Have mercy upon them and us God of Mercy so that this virus can be contained. 

Please be with the President, Vice President, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Head of the Center of Disease Control, the Congress and all national, state, and local officials who have responsibilities with respect to this epidemic. Give them wisdom, energy and love. 

Please be with all doctors, nurses, and other health workers who are ministering your healing grace to those with this disease. Be with our soon to be strained hospitals and clinics and all those who minister healing in these places of healing. 

Have mercy, O God, upon all the businesses and workers impacted by Covid 19, and especially upon the poorest and most vulnerable among us. Protect and restore our economy and the economies of the world impacted by this disease. 

We in America have been far less impacted than many nations, and, therefore, we pray for China, Iran, Italy, the Philippines, and other seriously impacted nations. 

Hear our prayers, O Lord. Hear our prayers, O Lord. Incline Your Ear to Us, and Grant us Your Shalom. 

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen.

 

God bless you all.

Chris

[1] Crisis of Discipleship is the last of the series of posts found on this blog site. Path of Life was published by Wipf & Stock in 2014, Path of Life: The Way of Wisdom for Christ-Followers (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014).

[2] See, David Bohm, Wholeness and Implicate Order (London, ENG: Routledge, 1995), 19: “What is implied by this proposal is that what we call empty space contains and immense background of energy, and that matter as we know it is a small, “quantized” wavelike excitation on top of the background, rather like a ripple on a vast sea.” See Also, Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York Free Press, 1953), 129-137, where he refers to the fundamental reality as “vibratory” in nature. Id at 133-4

[3] See for example, John Zizioulas, Being as Communion (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s University Press, 1985) and John Polkinghorne, ed, The Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2010).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *