restricted access Building Up the Christian World
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464 ] Building Up the Christian World The Listener, 7 (6 Apr 1932) 501-21 [It may well have seemed to you, that in what I have been saying hitherto, I have done no more than comment on a few of the obvious troubles of our time. Or it may have seemed in spite of any protestations, that I have nothing to propose except a “return” to Christianity; and that those who neither believe nor want to believe had best turn elsewhere. So I have this afternoon the most difficult part of my task: to try to pull the various threads together, and to make impossible, if I can, any misunderstanding of my meaning. I believe that there is a “modern dilemma” only in the sense that it is particularly modern to be conscious of a dilemma. There is no one tangible cause of our present situation; and there is no one point in the present situation upon which you can put your finger and say: “this is the one thing wrong and this is the way to put everything right.” For people differ very much in their opinion as to what is wrong, and therefore it is not surprising that they should differ in their theory of the cause and in their prescriptions of what to do to put things right. It is not even as if we could point, in any department of life, to a steady and unmitigated deterioration. On the contrary, human history shows us such a confused and confusing mixture of good and evil that, as I have said, in every change there are elements of good and evil; every change has two aspects; and people do not even come to universal agreement as to what is good and what is bad; or for the sake of what good it is worth while putting up with that evil. Nevertheless I think we can say that the present situation is the result of diverse and uncoordinated and uncontrolled developments, most of which perhaps are fundamentally good so far as they go, or were the only way of improving matters in their time. The result of concurrent movements has been the movement away from Christianity, which is for me the fundamental evil. I do not deny that in the process we have gained many goods which, human nature being so limited as it is, might never have been won in a Christian society. All the same, we have got to a disorderly condition in which life seems to have lost all meaning and value. It is the despair of this condition which Communism sets out to cure. It seems to me that the cure is worse [ 465 Building Up the Christian World than the disease; indeed, I take it as a symptom of the disease itself; or if you like, as a temporary stimulant which will turn out in the end to be a narcotic. Communism is the opium of the people.]2 I have already made it quite clear that I do not propose to cure the world merely by individual conversions. In a plague epidemic, it is good that doctors should save every individual life that they can, but the epidemic is not going to be stopped in that way. In the end it is the individual soul that is theunitofvalue–andinthat,Ithink,wedifferradicallyfromCommunism and any other religion of Humanity. Those, by the way, who hold the religion of Communism might do well to study the attempt of a brilliant French freethinker of the nineteenth century, Auguste Comte, to establish a religion of Humanity, and take warning from his ingenious follies.3 It is the mass of individuals with which we are concerned: not the “mass of humanity,” or “the masses,” but the mass of individuals, each with his own precious differentiations, his eccentricities and hobbies, his own peculiar way of making the best of life; innumerable individuals, for no two of whom life has quite the same meaning; and no two or more of whom can be really united except in the love of God.4 The Christian view of society is, if you like, a paradox, for it is an organism in which each part has an equal value to the whole; but out of this paradox you can escape only into anarchism on the one hand, or the opposite heresy, communism, on the other. And that gives you a further paradox; for anarchism and communism respectively, in suppressing half of the value of...


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