It’s easy to understand there is a problem when your car is out of alignment. It’s not going to fall apart right away, but over the course of time things will wear out sooner than they should, and eventually things will get beyond repair. This is as true of societies as it is for cars.
The elements out of alignment in our society are: religion, government, and business. Each of them is in the process of acting outside its essential character and filling the function of one of the others. Here’s where each is going wrong (in my humble opinion):
Religion – more and more churches are embracing business models, focusing on marketing, and trying to please its customers. If you are growing, your successful; if you are not, something is wrong with you and you must not be really preaching the Gospel (The Early Church in the book of Acts is used as evidence of this). In short, the role of religion isn’t just to make us happy, make us more successful people, or build a perfect society, and the measure of success isn’t increasing numbers. Religion is about honoring the sanctity of all Life and keeping us connected on the deepest level with God and each other. Religion as business is superficial and does not bring about deep transformation of anything, becoming the “opiate of the people.”
Government – more and more government is asserting the role of imposing values on others rather than serving the public good. It comes from both directions: either we are called to revere the letter of the law and national identity, or we are called to revere an impossible standard of compassion without any grounding. Both sides condemn the other for faulty dogma, and would be happy to excommunicate the other side from the nation. At times, it seems the settlement of 1865 will be undone. Government is about a social contract of different people agreeing how they are to live with each other fairly. Government as religion is a kind of fascism, whether it be liberal or conservative.
Business – more and more business is asserting the role of government, particularly as it seeks to control society through the markets. True competition is beneficial to all; a buyer’s market is a great world for most people to live in. A seller’s market, which is where we are now in many ways, seeks to dictate which choices can be made and through the illusion of choice manipulate the direction of people’s lives. Competition in a seller’s market usually is reduced and contained in a cartel, which manages all aspects of that category of business. The goal is accumulation of money for the benefit of a few. Business as government is a kind of tyranny, similar to the feudalism of the Middle Ages, where the work of the many serves the personal interests of the few.
For example, the role of basic education belongs properly to the realm of government, which can guarantee its independence to seek knowledge without limitations. Religion and Business have their own kinds of education in their specialized fields of knowledge, but going directly to specialization without a good basic foundation is like building houses on sand. Specialists train people to carry on their specialty, paying little attention to anything outside their field, and without regard to larger consequences in society. The history of for-profit education will probably mirror the history of religion-based education in the fullness of time: students will be trained in propaganda rather than knowledge and be ill-equipped to seek wisdom. I’m not against specialized training or knowledge, only when that specialty is the only thing learned.
Fixing the ills of our society seems simple, doesn’t it? We only have to get people to work together, do what they’re supposed to do, and not try to do other people’s jobs. Like any championship team in any sport. Easy, right? If course, working on this is better than the alternative, I guess.