Religion As A Social Organ
|When I say that religion is an
invisible social organism, I mean while the need for religion is invisible, the recurrence of it as a need for peoples as well as
individuals throughout history shows it to as basic to our welfare as if it were an organ. We might say religion
is a non-quantifiable need that shows quantifiable results in morality, happiness and feelings of
well-being. That means it is a need very much like a liver, a heart, or a brain.
Other invisible non-quantifiable social and personal needs are need of order, need of conscience, need of children, need of honor, and need of a feeling of security. You may see these needs around you. Whatever professional jargon these needs may be translated into by sociology and anthropology, the truth is they are needs with results. (I intensely dislike turning these needs into sociological and anthropological pseudo-professional jargon. Such terms mean the situational need is hidden by professional terms to be used only in professional circles usually by the overeducated. That is the same type of thinking that caused the Bible to be kept from the public for a thousand years. I look upon most of the professional jargon terminology the pseudo-intellectuals use as attempts to turn common knowledge into a gnosticism, using secret and mostly unknown terms to keep ideas and truths away from the thinking of the people. We might say away from the democratic base.)
Many of our contemporary liberals are waging war against religion and the idea of God. To the extent they are successful a religious moral and idealist vacuum is created. This is sort of a widespread religious meltdown causing widespread immorality, amorality, anxiety, dishonesty, insecurity, greed, social hostility, and a steady degeneration of the better values. The odd and abnormal folk causing these good value social meltdowns seem to forget completely that government, community, cooperation and even business, as well as nearly everything else, largely depends on faith and trust. When religion, one of the springs of faith and trust, weakens or collapses, the level of trust and faith in the community goes down. This leads to a thinner quality of life for everyone for as faith collapses, dishonesty and selfishness increase, and for some the emotional enjoyment of life found in faith terminates.
We can see this happening in China today. Marxism tried to put itself forward as a religion. That was not too bright since it denied an invisible Spirit to be God. That meant religion was tied to quantifiable acts of materialism that could be measured and seen. If communism were a religion then as it failed to measure up or deliver, the religion of Communism, for Communism was a religion, went down with it. This has happened in China. The results are a social, idealistic and moral vacuum after being disillusioned with Communism. We can see clearly the social vacuum today in China that is left by the degeneration of communism as a religion. There is in Chinese society today a lack of trust in each other or anything, a lack of faith, a lack of conscience, a lack of morality that badly affects business, a lack of sincere cooperative effort in the community and a widespread social cynicism.
We can see this same type of moral vacuum being created in America and Western civilization today. Secular Materialism is wide spread and cancerous. The results are appalling. Morality is failing. Amorality is becoming more widespread. Selfishness and money madness are increasing. There is an awful cynicism marking increasing lack of trust, the impossibility of lack of sincere efforts in cooperation. With religion there is always something of a tidal backwash from original sin, but without religion there are tidal waves of amorality.
We are in American today often seeing the tidal waves of amorality as the religious foundation plates of earth are undermined, shift, and the tidal waves of immorality, selfishness, increasingly bad values, lack of trust and the absence of moral effort build up high waves swinging in to drown decency and good. This has happened in China. It is increasingly happening in America today. Observe around you. The media itself is not only reporting bad values, but themselves are makers of bad values that are bringing in tidal waves of bad values, shallow thinking and false priorities.
An ironic thing is that the tidal waves of China began from the obvious failure of a materialistic religion. So religion fails in China from not having a spiritual and mysterious God. Whereas on the other side in America, religion is being criticized by liberals because God is spiritual and mysterious. Once more materialism undermines the foundations.
Both the Chinese moral vacuum now established, and an American moral vacuum already underway but not as advanced as China, are joined together and united by one common factor: the acceptance of one dimensional materialism, and the insistence there is no God. Chinese society is failing and wretched because of materialism. But the people are becoming revolted by it and turning to religious faith.
Yet American faith is failing if not yet completely failed because of rampant materialism. American religion is largely failing because of an emphasis, largely by liberal and pseudo-politically-correct young Americans of the communist mind set that is a result of bad propaganda like expensive American universities. The American crucifixion of good values is influenced by the acceptance of secular materialism under way throughout America. The increasing success of secular materialism in America is bringing much of the present moral vacuum and spiritual confusion to America. It also brings crime, anxiety and insecurity. This is one reason the quality of American life is thinning.
As a religion fades out, the tidal waves of lack of trust, faith and immorality sweep through. Both China and America are undergoing these in the present times. But if a religion dies, another religion will fill up the place of the expired religion and eventually religion of some sort will be established. This is unless the faith under pressure rediscovers itself and continues. It is to be hoped that this will be the case in America.
But communism as a religion in China cannot rediscover itself as a religion because it never recognized any spiritual dimensions to begin with. This was the great mistake of Karl Marx. He should have redefined God, not abolished Him. But Marx effectively exiled and immunized communism from awareness of the spiritual dimensions. Therefore China needs another religion. China is a proud and fine country. May God’s grace ever rain upon China!
We in America are also beginning to realize that while China suffers in a pit of raw and unrefined materialism, in America we are going down into a pit of raw materialism. Now we are having to maintain ourselves through increasing and enlarging moral vacuum tantrums in society, a lack of faith, a rise in social hostility, a lack of community cooperation, cynicism and money madness. It is obvious to all that American religion needs rediscovery and awakening to the treasures of Christianity that are buried in the American heritage.
But America has a burning heritage of religion that will have to be extinguished before one dimensional materialism is to be declared the victor. I do not believe Christ will be so easily put out. Nor will He be stamped out, legislated out or be schooled out to give secular humanism the victory it wants. Yes, we are in a culture war. It is between those who see the universe as a spiritual multi-dimensional palace of infinite variety and between those who see the world as a one dimensional materialistic hovel. There is no choice in where the Christian must ultimately stand if pushed to the wall. Let us pray we shall not be pushed to the wall.
Right now America is like a prodigal son gone to hog it in the sty of materialism. Time may teach sense to the prodigal. He may return to his moral values, grow up and re-awaken to his spiritual senses. Who knows but God.? I suspect much that is painful and difficult lies before us while the worst is yet to be endured.
But knowing and having confidence that the religion we see around us being displaced today will be purified by suffering, replaced for a better tomorrow, let us not hesitate in preaching Christ. Today may not be the best season for Christianity. It seems a most confused, too liberal and trendy season of moral ambivalence and spiritual confusion. But is there a better time to affirm Christ than when the need for Him is so obvious in our country and in the world? This is not a time to put off Christ. This is a time to find Christ. If you know Christ, then this is a good time to get to know Him better through working together.
Society can be compared as Paul did the church, to a whole body consisting of dependent and interdependent parts. Religion then is a necessary organ of a living society as well as a living human being!. Was it not the Apostle who first likened the body of Christ to organs of the body, writing in Ephesians 4:16, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Yet there is one other factor that should be considered. The choice of the religion of the masses in the U.S.A. has a great deal to do with national emigration policy. The religion of the people allowed in the country is affected by who and how many are allowed in the country. Today the largest group arriving in the country are Latin-American. While I have no objection to the Latin-American arrival, but welcome them, the truth remains the good end does not justify the moral means. They have come because the national government has proved itself dysfunctional and too weak to enforce its own laws.
Whether the influx of the Latin-Americans was a good thing or a bad thing is not the point. I believe their entrance a good thing. But the point is the national government and therefore America was too weak to be able to enforce their own entry rules.
A real inconsistency and hypocrisy exists in a national government sending armies to many different places to enforce other laws when the government is too weak to enforce the emigration laws at home. If the laws were not right, they needed changing, but the government was as dysfunctional as a sick parent. It was too weak to enforce discipline and too supine and effete to change the rules. The situation has been continuing for nearly forty years. Nor is there but one example of this type of national governmental dysfunction that demonstrates an almost Byzantine decadence and weakness of will.
My point is that it is not only the religious situation that is degenerating in America. When one organ is affected, another organ is infected, and the health of the entire body is affected. The government as a organ is also standing in the need of prayer. It needs reorganization, revitalization, revival and inner rediscovery as much as American religion does.
Religion in the U.S.A. is certainly not steering the national boat. But it is on a national ship that seems to be under the control of strong pressure groups that do whatever they wish regardless of the national laws or the national will. The Latin-Americans came because they wanted to come and had the will to come to America while the government was too weak to question them. They realized the weakness and exploited it just as a child does with indecisive parents. The rules were as nothing. This generalization applies to many other issues other than emigration. The governments have been and are too weak to do anything about very major issues and too supine to change the laws as well as too weak to enforce them.
I suggest the government’s inability to enforce the laws may come from being defective as a national organ of government, a needed organ of order in society that seems to be undergoing serious dysfunctional pains in all organs as well as religion. The government has had in our time too many falls from competence in governing. There is a vacuum in government as well as a vacuum in religious faith.
Should the two be correlated? The value vacuum caused by fading weakness in spiritual things, and the vacuum in governing and applying laws. It seems odd that as religion fails and a value vacuum swells, the national government falls into almost Byzantine paralysis in government and can’t do so simple a thing as law enforcement. The two vacuums might be correlated, but I do not make such a correlation. Nor do I know if such a correlation could be made or what might be proved by it. But I suggest the possibility.
The situation in government seems to be as weak as that value dilution happening in religious faith. And I would suggest that any physician might tell you that what is going on in one physical organ of the body affects the other organs and health of the entire social body. The many organs have to work together to have a healthy physical body or a healthy social body. But I would be remiss and unfair to religion and government if I did not bring up that other necessary organs are not working either,
I could bring up the other social organs of our failing country that drain its life and effectiveness. Other dysfunctional social organs exist besides mere government and religion. But I have not sufficient time to take up all of the many national failures but it seems to me evident that our educational system is depraved and disgraceful as a whole even if it does well in a few moneyed sections. I suggest that each of you consider what is going on in socially invisible organs of American society that affect the health of the entire body. A definite malady is spreading from organ to organ and then deep into the social body.
Benjamin Franklin remarked in the founding of America that if the people in the American patriotic effort did not learn to work together, they were all going to hang separately. I suggest the same today about the visible institutions and invisible social organs of the country. Religion is weakened and so creating tidal waves from the undermining of God, values and spiritual awareness. The government is failing to the point it doesn’t or what is even worse, perhaps can’t, enforce important laws. Neither does it have the energy or will to change them. The schools are declining in the education of children. The schools are undermining the hope many Americans have for their children. Other organs of society are also failing and weakening to the detriment of the health of the social body in America.
As you observe for yourself this obviously declining and decadent situation in America, I suggest to you an obvious truth. More needs to be reformed than religion. Much must be rebuilt. Because of this, I would recall to you Psalm 127:1, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it:” I believe God willed the existence of early America. He sent a Chosen people with a unique spiritual vision to start it and to found it. The spiritual vision was not for one denomination or faith but for everyone of every faith who saw the national vision. America has been a unique vision, even if it is now not too much of a vision. Today it is rather more of a nightmare.
But the history of the American nation is not over because America is having a bad day in history. I refuse to believe America will accept the present depletion of itself and do nothing. Americans are made of sterner stuff and have been victorious in tougher times. I believe having put their hand to the plow, they will plow to the end of the furrow as Jesus said in Luke 9:26. The day of America is by no means done or over. But the fact is America must be re-found, re-oriented and re-built. A new spiritual foundation must be laid. I tell you most honestly that I have no doubt we have actually been called to do this.
We shall take hold of our destiny again. We are living in a crucial hour and our duty is to return to America her spiritual heritage, the vision of her spiritual greatness that has been lost and laid by. That means we must all work as one but retain our diversity unashamed. In this we are telling a spiritual parable to the world. Working not as one faith only, but those called to the vision of a restored and greater country. The task is before us. It is not going to be an easy task but can we consider doing other? We cannot use disbelief or whining. If you do not plan to aid us, then stand aside and let us do what we as Americans feel we must do. To many of you what we do may be nothing to you, but it is everything to those like us who cherish and honour America and the traditional vision of it.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.