Monday, March 06, 2006

Personal Peace & Affluence - Part Two

In the last post, I outlined the problems with an unrestrained/unprincipled pursuit of personal peace and affluence. This is absolutely not a simplistic critique of wealth. In fact, in many cases, the middle class of our Western society has proportionally been more surrendered to the vice of excessive reliance on personal peace and affluence than the upper strata of society. For most of the middle class, there is the ability to pursue the "good life" of personal peace and affluence to an extent that can match that of the wealthy in the basics, if not in all the extravagent details.

The answer does not lie in forsaking wealth or private possesions, although some may find that this as the only way they can sever its grasp on them. It is primarily a heart issue, and lies in the depths of our behavior and attitudes. A patch-work solution will not work.

Let's look at a real life example. As the 1960's approached, there was a great deal of excitement. After surviving economic depression and two world wars, North America was ready to bounce back. Great hope was placed in the educational and commercial institutions of the world.

However, the youth of the time began to see a great stench in society and they reacted to it, to the chagrin of their "old fashioned" parents. It was not crime, or drugs, or war (the things usually seen as detrimental to society). It was a different sort of "menace", one which was wrapped in the optimism of the day. It was preceisely that part of the older generation had made "personal peace and prosperity" their idol. In a sense it seemed like it could be justified. Society came out of a difficult period of wars and hardships. It was time to start living the "good life". However, this came at an expense. The people that idolized the "good life" soon fell into a few different pitfalls 1) The society/culture became very plastic/artificial with little compassion. 2) The inordinate desire for a personal peace and affluence often either made Truth a second-rate side-show or completely annihilated it. 3) The supposed Christian and "conservative" values were often just a remnant of the past and a vain empty shell that had no deep grounding in a true Christan worldview. While there was some pretense of a conviction that transcended personal peace in affluence, in many cases that conviction was all but dead.

The generation which brought about the 60's counterculture often detected the hypocracy, inconsistencies, and double standards in their parent's generation. They saw a lot of materialism. Often their parents and teachers gave them this answer to the meaning of life: "Study hard. Work hard. Suceed". The kids rightly contested that there must be something more to life. They saw thats ome of their parents religious and societal standards, while strict, were often a "pie in the sky" sort of thing without a real grounding, mere empty shells that IN PRACTICE were only as good as long as they didn't interfere with the push towards personal peace and prosperity. They wanted something better, but unfortunately they themselves didn't have a sufficient worldview grounding for that either. The flower children of the 60s did construct a culture which did have a few positive aspects which were less materialistic and more thoughtful. However, because of a lack of grounding or durable standard by which to correct the previous generations issues, the 60s movement, in general, merely took the same wrong attitudes that many of their parents had and imported them into a new cultural context and a new insufficient worldview. This was a recipe for disaster and made their "solution" less than a real solution.

What is the solution, then? How do we embrace the rightful desire to pursue personal peace and prosperity, while at the same time maintaining a balance which keeps the greater values intact and restraints this pursuit so it does not turn into idolatry? What principles do the Bible give which gives us critical instruction as to how this balance works? That will be the topic of the next and final part.

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