Which Presidential Candidate Will Restore Peace and Order?

Sep 4, 2020 by David Fowler

Which Presidential Candidate Will Restore Peace and Order?
I find interesting the political rhetoric coming from the presidential campaigns surrounding the “civil unrest” that is burning down some of our nation’s larger cities and destroying the properties and livelihoods of innocent persons. On the one hand, we are told that if we don’t vote for Joe Biden, the destruction will continue and worsen because it is fueled in various ways by President Trump. On the other hand, we are told that if we don’t vote for Donald Trump, the destruction will continue and worsen because Joe Biden has no courage to stand up to lawlessness. What should we make of this Hobson’s choice?
The answer is that those are both false choices, because the root problem isn’t Trump and electing Joe Biden isn’t the answer.  
I think the thoughtful Russian dissent Alexander Solzhenitsyn summed up our current situation well in his commencement address at Harvard University in 1978:
No weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower. In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side. To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time and betrayal. 
If Solzhenitsyn’s assessment is correct, that “weapons,” Trump’s solution, are not powerful enough in a climate of “psychological weakness” and, in that climate, weapons are a burden, Biden’s problem, then what is the solution?
To find the solution, we need to ask ourselves the question Solzhenitsyn asked the students at Harvard: “How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development?”

We Achieved What We Set Out to Do, So Why the Mess?

From one perspective, Solzhenitsyn said, the answer to his question was no. “The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress.” Yet, he said, “all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.”
The key to understanding what Solzhenitsyn was trying to tell us is to look at our “proclaimed intentions.” If we are doing what we said we wanted to do and we find ourselves in a mess, then maybe we got our intentions wrong. Not a hard point to grasp.

What Did We Set Out to Do Over the Last 100 Years or So?

This is how he summarized our proclaimed intention as the Age of Enlightenment came to settle over the West: “[A] new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth.”
In other words, ideas have consequences, and the ideas of the Enlightenment started the “trend to worship man and his material needs.” In sum: 
Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense.
Those who are raging against whatever they think they are raging against can, in the words of Ecclesiastes, see only “life under the sun.” And it does seem unjust and unfair. If we are all supposed to be equal and united in our shared humanity, why, then, aren’t “things” more equal?
I get the angst of those who are destroying things for this reason. It is the same angst that fueled the French Revolution. The poison of “No God, No Master” and its corresponding promise of liberty, equality, and brotherhood, entered the body politic of the world in France, and, like any poison, it was bound to spread if it was not addressed. It wasn’t, and it has now finally reached our part of that body.
If we feed people a lie about the way to happiness and it fails to produce happiness, then we will see what we are now seeing.

What, Then, Is the Solution?

The problem, as I see it, is that the one answer that can lead to a society that is predominately at peace and one in which contentment is more widespread is the one we are actually and by nature most hostile to: Knowing God.
Before you say, “Here we go again, trying to slip God into the situation. Give it a rest,” let me suggest the following words from a Puritan prayer that have helped me immensely when things in my own life aren’t going in the way I think seems fair, right, or just. 
The prayer begins with the person comparing his situation and condition to God’s: “Oh God most high, most glorious, the thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but thou are forever at perfect peace.”[i]
Then, he reminds himself of why the real God, not the one we make up to mirror the conceptions we have of ourselves, is, and must be, in perfect peace: “Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfillment, they stand fast as the eternal hills. Thy power knows no bond, thy goodness no stint.” After all, “Is anything too difficult for” God?” (Exodus 18:14, Jeremiah 32:27)
Thus, he concludes that God is able to “bring order out of confusion,” and being at “peace with God through [the] Lord Jesus Christ, he sees even that his apparent “defeats” are God’s “victories.”

The Paradox of Victories in Defeat

This must sound strange to the ears of those whose eyes cannot see life, in the words of Ecclesiastes “under Heaven” instead of just “under the sun.” But here is why apparent defeats in this life are victories for the person who knows the God revealed in the Bible: The goal of this life is not to be found here, in the stuff that the world says will bring contentment.
This doesn’t mean life here is unimportant. It is extremely important. This life and the things the Christian does here provide the “testing ground” you might say, through which the Christian’s heart, mind, and will is fitted and made ready to live forever in that “light” that God “commanded’, as at the very beginning “to shine out of darkness,” a light that “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, emphasis added).
The heart and mind of those who know God and steadfastly make Him the lens through which they see life under the sun can be in “perfect peace . . . because he [or she] trusts in” Him. (Isaiah 26:3). And God can be trusted, whatever our apparent lot in life (Philippians 4:11), because that person is finally at peace with Him (Romans 5:1). The “peace of God,” described in the prayer above, is the peace that the Apostle Paul says God gives to those who know Him as He really is, and, indeed, that peace “surpasses all [human] understanding" (Philippians 4:7).
So, as you decide between Trump and Biden, don’t expect either to be messaging this as the solution to the situation we are in. The message we really need will not be coming from them.
[i]The Valley of Vision, “Resting on God.”

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 


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