“To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die: there is little such readiness in a society raised on well-being.”
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The land is covered with the white stones of the fallen. Men and women who bravely died for an idea of freedom and America, an idea that is changing and of which they would be unfamiliar with in America today.
Many of you may have sat through a commencement speech this week. Of the thousands of lines graduates and their families were forced to endure many were laced with something our fallen soldiers would not understand, positive nihilism and materialism. It would be a great study to compare the themes of commencement speeches over the centuries.
On June 28, 1978 a Russian writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn addressed Harvard University. His words word poignant three years post-Vietnam War and prophetic for the crisis of our country today. Yes, we are in a crisis. We celebrate the mutilation of our genitals for freedom of expression and murder the unborn. No one died in World War II for the world to turn St. Patrick’s Day into green debauchery.
Solzhenitsyn saw the effects of Communism and Socialism. It brought death to millions, hunger to tens of millions more, and an oppression not understood in the West. Yet, here he was in America where people were pushing the country toward the very thing he left for its destructive power to mankind. Solzhenitsyn said we in the West suffer, “an incomprehension of the essence of other worlds.”
As he stood before the Class of 1978, Solzhenitsyn laid out his concerns for the country of his exile, America, and what must change in order to recover our goodness and greatness.
His first observation was a decline in courage. A willingness to die for good ideas. “A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today…a decline in courage particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites. A decline in courage at times attaining what could be termed a lack of manhood,” said Solzhenitsyn.
Prophetic to our day when more men stay home to take care of children, wear feminine clothes, don’t fish or hunt, and are stuck in the endless adolescence of the party life. No one died in Korea for men to act like boys and live at home in their thirties.
Our courage, according to Solzhenitsyn is being lost to our well-being. So boys without a cause, a release, or a good example of manhood, go shoot up a school. “People have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not dream about. Even biology tells us that a high degree of habitual well-being is not advantageous to a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to take off its pernicious mask,” stats Solzhenitsyn.
“When a government earnestly undertakes to root out terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorist civil rights,” said Solzhenitsyn. How much we have seen the country’s lack of courage when It comes to the last two decades.
In our well-being, we manipulate the letter of the law to attempt to control all aspects of life. This week with the implementation of GDPR generated immeasurable work because people are somehow unable to think for themselves when using a product.
Legalism, often used improperly against a Christian worldview as unacceptable, is now the only frame used in the western world. It is almost impossible to push back against a legal decision even if it produces nothing good or useful. Solzhenitsyn said growing up in Communism without any objective scale is horrible, “Bit a society with no other scale but the legal one is also less worthy of man.”
Our emotion driven society where the individual defines reality whether real or not, drops us into a suicidal form of freedom. Solzhenitsyn said, “The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time for the West to defend not so much human rights as human obligation.”
Consider his prophetic voice in this next quote, “Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society has turned out to have scarce defense against the abyss of human decadence, for example against the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.” Why would you permit anyone in Hollywood to direct any path of your life?
Worse than Hollywood is the unleashing of the press. Says Solzhenitsyn, “The press too, of course, enjoys the wildest freedom. There is no true moral responsibility for distortion or disproportion. Because instant and credible information is required, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill in the voids and none of them will ever be refuted. The press can act the role of public opinion or miseducate it. Thus, we may see terrorist heroized and the nation’s defense publicly revealed. Hastiness and superficiality – these are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century.” The prophecy here is unsettling. As much as you are tired of hearing it, our news is fake, in that it is bent. If you so much as insinuate a news story is bent, half-true or completely false, you have somehow become the villain. “Unrestrained freedom exists for the press but not the readership.”
These errors drive us ever closer to what our beloved men and women in history did not die for, Socialism. Democracy, rightly guided, improved the West and made life extremely better. Our democracy, birthed liberty, but liberty guided by God, and not just any god.
We removed moral authority as a guide for Democracy. “Thus we mix good and evil, right and wrong and make space for the absolute triumph of evil in the world. Only moral criteria can help the West,” states Solzhenitsyn. “The humanistic way of thinking, which had proclaimed itself our guide, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man, nor did it seek the task of anything higher than happiness of earth.”
Ireland yesterday dove further into the abyss that America dug with the killing of the innocent. Ireland, as America had a “Supreme Complete Entity” from which to measure and they chose to be deaf to his clear voice.
Our life must be an experience of moral growth. “Ever increasing in the fruits of the Spirit” we are told. Peter, the father of the church tells us, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
Men and women died so we may live in peace to pursue moral growth. Moral growth involves all aspect of life from family, friends, labor, service, faith and play.
To finish with Solzhenitsyn, “No one on earth has any other way left but – upward.”