There is a reason why liberal government is so intent on “alleviating” any and all suffering from this world, why they are intent on creating a “paradise” on earth, by (1) eliminating any and all pollution and sources of pollution, (2) making sure that all sources of “unhappiness” are eliminated, such as hunger and unemployment, and (3) making everyone financially equal. It is because they have no other-worldly reason for living. There is no meaning to their life beyond this life, no point to life except to survive and so they wish to create on earth what is only possible in heaven. This point was driven home to me when I read the following from Peter Kreeft’s book Back to Virtue:
There is another distinctively modern form of envy, which is collective rather than individual. It is our secular society’s unconscious envy of Eden, or Paradise, of divine perfection. It is our attempt to sneak under the seraphim’s flaming sword back into Eden by making a Heaven on earth, by rebuilding the Tower of Babel, by finding salvation and happiness in the City of the World rather than in the City of God.
Nietzsche revealed the psychological origin of this demand when he wrote, “A man can endure almost any how if only he has a why.” He meant that we can endure very imperfect circumstances, even great suffering, if only we have a meaning, a purpose for it all. The corollary of this truth is that if we do not have a why, a deeply felt and lived purpose–that is, if we are typically modern–then we will not endure any how, any world that is even mildly upsetting. We will demand a degree of comfort, security, and control undreamed of by any other society. And we will find the technological and politcal means to create it even if it kills us. And it will.
This quote, in my estimation, aptly sums up the drive towards a “Utopian” society that is the dream of liberals like Obama and Marx. On the contrary, it also explains why the Christian martyrs were so willing to suffer the most dire of circumstances and the most ignoble of deaths, knowing all the while that there was laid up for them “a crown of righteousness.” Christ’s resurrection gives meaning to all of our lives, to all of our suffering, to all that we say and do, especially as Ministers. This is why I love Easter every year. It is a huge breath of fresh air (not that Easter is the only time I preach the resurrection of Christ, mind you). It validates everything that I do, say, and suffer as a pastor (and as a Christian). If Christ is raised, if Christ lives then His Supper, His Baptism, His Absolution is real. It truly is Him who speaks in the Church. St. Paul said basically the same thing when he said: “If Christ is not raised, then your faith is in vain.”
Everything hinges on that fact. That historical fact. That fact that was attested to by hundreds of eyewitnesses for forty days before His ascension. Jesus lives (For those of you enjoying your Lenten discipline, I apologize if this is a little bit too much “Easter” for Lent :)). And therefore, I will live too. And since I will live, and will not die eternally, since this world and everything in it will pass away, then I can endure anything, even the greatest suffering, as Kreeft says, since my life has a deeper purpose than merely surviving this life.
I think this also applies to how we raise and deal with children. The trend is to do everything possible to alleviate a child’s suffering (I’m speaking primarily of social suffering here, not physical). Thus, parents must be “pleasing” to their children…or else. We label, medicate, and shelter our children so much that when they finally have to face the fact that life isn’t fair and they will have to suffer something, they can’t handle it. We haven’t taught them that there is a deeper purpose to life than just getting through this life. Not all suffering is bad. Not all pain is bad. If we desensitize ourselves and our children too much, it will only result in a deficiency of mental and spiritual “toughness.”
This book by Kreeft has its weak points, to be sure. But overall I am impressed by his grasp of vice and virtue, and most of all, how he interprets the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount as a whole christologically, that is, as ultimately a description of Christ, and those who are in Christ.