When G.K Chesterton was asked by The Times to write an essay on the theme “What’s Wrong with the World?” he responded with a letter stating, “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G. K. Chesterton.” Chesterton rightfully noted that human nature, including his own, is fallen. Ask an individual at the Tax Cut Rally or any of the Tea Party protests what’s wrong with America, the response would be very different. They would say that the problems we face are a result of the tax code, President Obama, illegal immigrants, bailouts, or the health care legislation, etc, right? The problem is definitely not found in any of the protesters. Now this would probably be the same for any such rally of any partisan stripe. But, it really strikes me that tea partiers got it all figured out.
This populist mentality has grand allusions of limitless individual potential. Glenn Beck stated at his “Restore Honor” thing that the American experiment is that “man can rule himself.” My understanding is that the American form of democracy was created because of the simple fact that man CANNOT rule himself. Hence, the seperation of powers. That is another issue though. The message of those like Mr. Beck is that the individual can accomplish anything if he was just left the hell alone. This is individualism that places, maybe, an unprecedented amount of faith in the self.
Chesterton’s response to The Times is the antithesis of this new message. A conservative, in my opinion, recognizes that the individual is inherently flawed and incapable of reaching his potential alone as an individual. It is this recognition that requires one to search outside of oneself for the answers to life’s problems. The individual flourishes best if he is not ruled by himself alone but if he is supported by institutions, such as the family, the church, civic associations, or even bowling leagues, that provide community, meaning, and guidance. We are losing these institutions and the individual is becoming more and more isolated, seeking guidance from popular demagogues, like Mr. Beck, transmitting their water downed and incendiary message hundreds of miles away through the airwaves and into our homes.
Christians should first turn off the tv and focus on cultivating the local life. How is your neighbor doing anyway?