In his blog entitled, “The Upheaval,” N.S. Lyons makes the case in his essay Introducing the Revolutions Upending Our World that we are living in era of human history that has never before experienced so much change, so rapidly. “We are experiencing a tectonic upheaval, a rending, uprooting . . . from one era of history to another.” Lyons goes on to describe the nature of this change, for it is NOT similar to previous changes. The Roman Empire brought about political changes surrounding the Mediterranean, the printing press brought a new technology that forever altered communication, and the age of discovery expanded people’s understanding of our earth. We are currently experiencing something similar to all three of those moments combined together at once. The thrust of his essay is not to provide a handbook on how to handle such changes, but rather to describe, intelligently, these changes. He rightly warns that we can not ignore them.
Three revolutions are concurrently happening: geopolitically, with the rise of China; ideologically, with America at its epicenter; and technologically, everywhere. His insights are accurate and helpful to better understand the broad changes sweeping the global landscape. What exactly they mean moving forward is another story. Lyons describes the “woke” culture, but that is merely the birth pangs of greater things to follow. He ends his essay by stating, “It would be wise for us all to think carefully about the global chaos that is only beginning to consume us all. What is happening?” At least he is asking the right questions.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn also asked the right questions, as he recognized the world was undergoing a dramatic shift. In his 1983 address for winning the Templeton Prize, Solzhenitsyn gave a succinct yet powerful polemic on how godlessness in a society inevitably leads to tyranny and oppression. He witnessed it firsthand in his homeland of Russia and then after having his citizenship revoked and moving to United States, he perceived the seeds of godlessness in his adopted country of America. He argues that destruction and death are the certain outcomes of tossing God aside in any society: He warns, “Men have forgotten God; that is why all this has happened.”
Although Solzhenitsyn and Lyons have a lot of pessimistic observations about the state of human civilization, they are not without hope. Solzhenitsyn states, “No matter how formidable Communism bristles with tanks and rockets . . . it is doomed never to vanquish Christianity.” He goes further in providing an answer for the changes that are overcoming the world than does Lyons. Whereas Lyons’ essay is an introduction to better understand the seismic shifts happening in the world, Solzhenitsyn understands these shifts and offers up the Christian faith as the solution.
But Solzhenitsyn is no simpleton. Given the occasion that Solzhenitsyn gave this address, it is appropriate that he would speak at length about the need for faith. He goes on to say, “Today, [the west] is experiencing a drying up of religious consciousness.” The vacuum that is created when faith is pushed aside leaves an opening for godless revolutions to spring up. He is prescient in his speech when he says, “Atheist teachers in the West are bringing up a younger generation in a spirit of hatred of their own society.” Sounds a lot like the woke culture that is happening across America—and he said this forty years ago. As a young man, he discarded his Orthodox Christianity and took up Atheism wholeheartedly, only to return to the faith later in life. His faith guided his thinking on both the broad strokes of politics and economics, and on the individual psyche. Like all good Russian novelist, he was very quotable: “The line dividing good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart.”
If inevitable and dramatic change is the theme of the first two readings, one can readily see this theme everywhere in today’s news reports. Foreign Affairs is a bi-monthly publication by the Council on Foreign Affairs. It enjoys a wide readership among academics and professionals. The most recent issue (Sept/Oct) has a front cover that reads, “The Age of Uncertainty,” a fitting compliment to the essays by Solzhenitsyn and Lyons. Ancillary to their publication, they email a weekly analysis of world events entitled Foreign Affairs This Week. This week the featured article focused on the war in Ukraine. The article is entitled, “Russian President Vladimir Putin must contend with the serious prospect of losing it.” The article goes on to describe the uncertainty of the outcome of the war and indeed, the uncertainty of Putin’s next move. Words and phrases such as “Uncertainty,” “unclear,” “not yet resolved” punctuate the article. The article ends with the admission, “What is known for sure right now is that the future surrounding this war in entirely unknown.” Lyons and Solzhenitsyn would agree.
The Economist, in addition to their weekly magazine, emails newsletters to subscribers that offer insightful analysis on events from a global perspective. The World in Brief is the name of this newsletter and it catches the reader up on global stories that matter on a daily basis. In the business section of this week’s newsletters, the main article covered the United States Federal Reserve raising its benchmark interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point, to 3.25%. It reports, “Jerome Powell, the central bank’s chairman said, ‘We have to get inflation behind us, and there is no painless way to do so.’” The article goes on to describe similar actions taken by England, Switzerland and Sweden’s national banks. Trying to manage an unknown financial future is the implicit strategy. Carefully crafting policy to affect future economic performance helps ameliorate fears for businesses and for the public at large. An unknown future, and a changing future, is the goal to understand and therefore be prepared for. This theme permeates nearly every article in this newsletter.
Change it would seem, is the one constant and while one should do all they can to prepare for it, faith in a rational and loving God is not an irrational response to employ out of fear. Faith becomes the beam of light that pierces the fog and enables us to navigate it.
4 responses to “Constant Change”
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Troy, great summaries of the reading this week. At the end of your post, you talk about the constancy of change and the rationality of faith – are there aspects of faith that do change with the times, not the content, but the expression of faith as it seeks to engage a changing culture?
Troy: What a great summary and analysis of the readings this week coupled with the resources you identify. Similarly to Roy’s question above, I’m wondering how you filter any news or current international scenarios through not just a historical but also a theological lens.
Troy, I agree with Kayli. This was an excellent summary of the reading. Well done!
The content in these articles can be overwhelming. In light of the changes we are witnessing unfold before us, how do you maintain balance and hope and not give in to despair?
Troy, a great overview of the reading.
I am interested in hearing more about how you use the information you glean from the Economist?