Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, To the oppressing city! 2She has not obeyed His voice, She has not received correction; She has not trusted in the Lord, She has not drawn near to her God.
3Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; Her judges are evening wolves That leave not a bone till morning. 4Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people; Her priests have polluted the sanctuary, They have done violence to the law. 5The Lord is righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, But the unjust knows no shame.
6“I have cut off nations, Their fortresses are devastated; I have made their streets desolate, With none passing by. Their cities are destroyed; There is no one, no inhabitant. 7I said, ‘Surely you will fear Me, You will receive instruction’— So that her dwelling would not be cut off, Despite everything for which I punished her. But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds.
A Faithful Remnant
8“Therefore wait for Me,” says the Lord, “Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination is to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy.
9“For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him with one accord. 10From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, The daughter of My dispersed ones, Shall bring My offering. 11In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds In which you transgress against Me; For then I will take away from your midst Those who rejoice in your pride, And you shall no longer be haughty In My holy mountain. 12I will leave in your midst A meek and humble people, And they shall trust in the name of the Lord. 13The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness And speak no lies, Nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; For they shall feed their flocks and lie down, And no one shall make them afraid.”
Joy in God’s Faithfulness
14Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15The Lord has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You shall see disaster no more.
16In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. 17The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
18“I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly, Who are among you, To whom its reproach is a burden. 19Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, And gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame In every land where they were put to shame. 20At that time I will bring you back, Even at the time I gather you; For I will give you fame and praise Among all the peoples of the earth, When I return your captives before your eyes,” Says the Lord.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25)
If i had a hammer
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?―Jeremiah 2:13; 23:29
So here we are, on this day in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 2020. I am re-posting these words in the light of circuitous debates about so-called ‘white saviourism’, which had been the subject of intense public debate during the KONY 2012 controversy. And yet, with the same degree of impotent outrage, we hang our harps upon the willows and with strange songs of captivity, circle the mountain again.
My words preface an address by Ivan Illich to the Conference on InterAmerican Student Projects (CIASPJ) in Cuernevaca,Mexico, on April 20, 1968. Illich, critically challenges the dangers of paternalism inherent to the development aid sector and missionary engagements in ‘developing’ countries, focussing on a student volunteer programme in Mexico. The speech should be viewed in the historical context of 1968, when it was delivered.
The celebrity savior industrial complex is not about justice. It is about bolstering the egos of celebrities, often used as vessels for the Industrial white Aid Complex, engaged in elite capture of African self-determination. Central to this process of elite capture is the infantilisation of African’s on all levels: its government, its leaders (absolutely corrupt and beyond redemption); its children (orphans, bereft of the capacity to be cared for in their own cultural cotext); its women (unfit to mother the children, they so wantonly bring into this living hell); its youth (a lost generation, devoid of vision and bedeviled by the post-traumatic disorder―so prevalent in ‘conflict fragile zones’).
This is the movie set the celebrity savior descends upon to re-enact their small acts of compassion. The white celebrity, embraces their mission on the continent with such self-righteous philanthropic zeal – rather like an obscurantist religious sect known as the bleeding Pharisees. In this guise, celebrity piety covers its eyes in the presence of African success stories, so as not to even look at those who succeed against all odds (much less acknowledge their existence), and ends up banging into walls. Their resulting blood and bruises become red badges of courage, which they proudly display as proof of their piety.
—- To Hell with Good Intentions
A speech by Ivan Illich from 1968
IN THE CONVERSATIONS WHICH I HAVE HAD TODAY, I was impressed by two things, and I want to state them before I launch into my prepared talk.
I was impressed by your insight that the motivation of U.S. volunteers overseas springs mostly from very alienated feelings and concepts. I was equally impressed by what I interpret as a step forward among would-be volunteers like you: openness to the idea that the only thing you can legitimately volunteer for in Latin America might be voluntary powerlessness, voluntary presence as receivers, as such, as hopefully beloved or adopted ones without any way of returning the gift.
I was equally impressed by the hypocrisy of most of you: by the hypocrisy of the atmosphere prevailing here. I say this as a brother speaking to brothers and sisters. I say it against many resistances within me; but it must be said. Your very insight, your very openness to evaluations of past programs make you hypocrites because you – or at least most of you – have decided to spend this next summer in Mexico, and therefore, you are unwilling to go far enough in your reappraisal of your program. You close your eyes because you want to go ahead and could not do so if you looked at some facts.
It is quite possible that this hypocrisy is unconscious in most of you. Intellectually, you are ready to see that the motivations which could legitimate volunteer action overseas in 1963 cannot be invoked for the same action in 1968. “Mission-vacations” among poor Mexicans were “the thing” to do for well-off U.S. students earlier in this decade: sentimental concern for newly-discovered poverty south of the border combined with total blindness to much worse poverty at home justified such benevolent excursions. Intellectual insight into the difficulties of fruitful volunteer action had not sobered the spirit of Peace Corps Papal-and-Self-Styled Volunteers.
Today, the existence of organizations like yours is offensive to Mexico. I wanted to make this statement in order to explain why I feel sick about it all and in order to make you aware that good intentions have not much to do with what we are discussing here. To hell with good intentions. This is a theological statement. You will not help anybody by your good intentions. There is an Irish saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; this sums up the same theological insight.
The very frustration which participation in CIASP programs might mean for you, could lead you to new awareness: the awareness that even North Americans can receive the gift of hospitality without the slightest ability to pay for it; the awareness that for some gifts one cannot even say “thank you.”
Now to my prepared statement. Ladies and Gentlemen:
For the past six years I have become known for my increasing opposition to the presence of any and all North American “do-gooders” in Latin America. I am sure you know of my present efforts to obtain the voluntary withdrawal of all North American volunteer armies from Latin America – missionaries, Peace Corps members and groups like yours, a “division” organized for the benevolent invasion of Mexico. You were aware of these things when you invited me – of all people – to be the main speaker at your annual convention. This is amazing! I can only conclude that your invitation means one of at least three things:
Some among you might have reached the conclusion that CIASP should either dissolve altogether, or take the promotion of voluntary aid to the Mexican poor out of its institutional purpose. Therefore you might have invited me here to help others reach this same decision.
You might also have invited me because you want to learn how to deal with people who think the way I do – how to dispute them successfully. It has now become quite common to invite Black Power spokesmen to address Lions Clubs. A “dove” must always be included in a public dispute organized to increase U.S. belligerence.
And finally, you might have invited me here hoping that you would be able to agree with most of what I say, and then go ahead in good faith and work this summer in Mexican villages. This last possibility is only open to those who do not listen, or who cannot understand me.
I did not come here to argue. I am here to tell you, if possible to convince you, and hopefully, to stop you, from pretentiously imposing yourselves on Mexicans.
I do have deep faith in the enormous good will of the U.S. volunteer. However, his good faith can usually be explained only by an abysmal lack of intuitive delicacy. By definition, you cannot help being ultimately vacationing salesmen for the middle-class “American Way of Life,” since that is really the only life you know. A group like this could not have developed unless a mood in the United States had supported it – the belief that any true American must share God’s blessings with his poorer fellow men. The idea that every American has something to give, and at all times may, can and should give it, explains why it occurred to students that they could help Mexican peasants “develop” by spending a few months in their villages.
Of course, this surprising conviction was supported by members of a missionary order, who would have no reason to exist unless they had the same conviction – except a much stronger one. It is now high time to cure yourselves of this. You, like the values you carry, are the products of an American society of achievers and consumers, with its two-party system, its universal schooling, and its family-car affluence. You are ultimately consciously or unconsciously – “salesmen” for a delusive ballet in the ideas of democracy, equal opportunity and free enterprise among people who haven’t the possibility of profiting from these.
Next to money and guns, the third largest North American export is the U.S. idealist, who turns up in every theater of the world: the teacher, the volunteer, the missionary, the community organizer, the economic developer, and the vacationing do-gooders. Ideally, these people define their role as service. Actually, they frequently wind up alleviating the damage done by money and weapons, or “seducing” the “underdeveloped” to the benefits of the world of affluence and achievement. Perhaps this is the moment to instead bring home to the people of the U.S. the knowledge that the way of life they have chosen simply is not alive enough to be shared.
By now it should be evident to all America that the U.S. is engaged in a tremendous struggle to survive. The U.S. cannot survive if the rest of the world is not convinced that here we have Heaven-on-Earth. The survival of the U.S. depends on the acceptance by all so-called “free” men that the U.S. middle class has “made it.” The U.S. way of life has become a religion which must be accepted by all those who do not want to die by the sword – or napalm. All over the globe the U.S. is fighting to protect and develop at least a -minority who consume what the U.S. majority can afford. Such is the purpose of the Alliance for Progress of the middle-classes which the U.S. signed with Latin America some years ago. But increasingly this commercial alliance must be protected by weapons which allow the minority who can “make it” to protect their acquisitions and achievements.
But weapons are not enough to permit minority rule. The marginal masses become rambunctious unless they are given a “Creed,” or belief which explains the status quo. This task is given to the U.S. volunteer – whether he be a member of CLASP or a worker in the so-called “Pacification Programs” in Vietnam.
The United States is currently engaged in a three-front struggle to affirm its ideals of acquisitive and achievement-oriented “Democracy.” I say “three” fronts, because three great areas of the world are challenging the validity of a political and social system which makes the rich ever richer, and the poor increasingly marginal to that system.
In Asia, the U.S. is threatened by an established power – China. The U.S. opposes China with three weapons: the tiny Asian elites who could not have it any better than in an alliance with the United States; a huge war machine to stop the Chinese from “taking over” as it is usually put in this country, and; forcible re-education of the so-called “Pacified” peoples. All three of these efforts seem to be failing.
In Chicago, poverty funds the police force and preachers seem to be no more successful in their efforts to check the unwillingness of the black community to wait for graceful integration into the system.
And finally, in Latin America the Alliance for Progress has been quite successful in increasing the number of people who could not be better off – meaning the tiny, middle-class elites – and has created ideal conditions for military dictatorships. The dictators were formerly at the service of the plantation owners, but now they protect the new industrial complexes. And finally, you come to help the underdog accept his destiny within this process!
All you will do in a Mexican village is create disorder. At best, you can try to convince Mexican girls that they should marry a young man who is self-made, rich, a consumer, and as disrespectful of tradition as one of you. At worst, in your “community development” spirit you might create just enough problems to get someone shot after your vacation ends and you rush back to your middle class neighborhoods where your friends make jokes.
You start on your task without any training. Even the Peace Corps spends around $10,000 on each corps member to help him adapt to his new environment and to guard him against culture shock. How odd that nobody ever thought about spending money to educate poor Mexicans in order to prevent them from the culture shock of meeting you?
In fact, you cannot even meet the majority which you pretend to serve in Latin America – even if you could speak their language, which most of you cannot. You can only dialogue with those like you – Latin American imitations of the North American middle class. There is no way for you to really meet with the underprivileged, since there is no common ground whatsoever for you to meet on.
Let me explain this statement, and also let me explain why most Latin Americans with whom you might be able to communicate would disagree with me.
Suppose you went to a U.S. ghetto this summer and tried to help the poor there “help themselves.” Very soon you would be either spit upon or laughed at. People offended by your pretentiousness would hit or spit. People who understand that your own bad consciences push you to this gesture would laugh condescendingly. Soon you would be made aware of your irrelevance among the poor, of your status as middle-class college students on a summer assignment. You would be roundly rejected, no matter if your skin is white-as most of your faces here are-or brown or black, as a few exceptions who got in here somehow.
Your reports about your work in Mexico, which you so kindly sent me, exude self-complacency. Your reports on past summers prove that you are not even capable of understanding that your do-gooding in a Mexican village is even less relevant than it would be in a U.S. ghetto. Not only is there a gulf between what you have and what others have which is much greater than the one existing ·between you and the poor in your own country, but there is also a gulf between what you feel and what the Mexican people feel that is incomparably greater. This gulf is so great that in a Mexican village you, as White Americans (or cultural white Americans) can imagine yourselves exactly the way a white preacher saw himself when he offered his life preaching to the black slaves on a plantation in Alabama. The fact that you live in huts and eat tortillas for a few weeks renders your well-intentioned group only a bit more picturesque.
The only people with whom you can hope to communicate with are some members of the middle class. And here please remember that I said “some” – by which I mean a tiny elite in Latin America.
You come from a country which industrialized early and which succeeded in incorporating the great majority of its citizens into the middle classes. It is no social distinction in the U.S. to have graduated from the second year of college. Indeed, most Americans now do. Anybody in this country who did not finish high school is considered underprivileged.
In Latin America the situation is quite different: 75% of all people drop out of school before they reach the sixth grade. Thus, people who have finished high school are members of a tiny minority. Then, a minority of that minority goes on for university training. It is only among these people that you will find your educational equals.
At the same time, a middle class in the United States is the majority. In Mexico, it is a tiny elite. Seven years ago your country began and financed a so-called “Alliance for Progress.” This was an “Alliance” for the “Progress” of the middle class elites. Now it is among the members of this middle class that you will find a few people who are willing to send their time with you. And they are overwhelmingly those “nice kids” who would also like to soothe their troubled consciences by “doing something nice for the promotion of the poor Indians.” Of course, when you and your middle class Mexican counterparts meet, you will be told that you are doing something valuable, that you are “sacrificing” to help others.
And it will be the foreign priest who will especially confirm your self-image for you. After all, his livelihood and sense of purpose depends on his firm belief in a year-round mission which is of the same type as your summer vacation-mission.
There exists the argument that some returned volunteers have gained insight into the damage they have done to others – and thus become more mature people. Yet it is less frequently stated that most of them are ridiculously proud of their “summer sacrifices.” Perhaps there is also something to the argument that young men should be promiscuous for a while in order to find out that sexual love is most beautiful in a monogamous relationship. Or that the best way to leave LSD alone is to try it for awhile -or even that the best way of understanding that your help in the ghetto is neither needed nor wanted is to try, and fail. I do not agree with this argument. The damage which volunteers do willy-nilly is too high a price for the belated insight that they shouldn’t have been volunteers in the first place.
If you have any sense of responsibility at all, stay with your riots here at home. Work for the coming elections: You will know what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how to communicate with those to whom you speak. And you will know when you fail. If you insist on working with the poor, if this is your vocation, then at least work among the poor who can tell you to go to hell. It is incredibly unfair for you to impose yourselves on a village where you are so linguistically deaf and dumb that you don’t even understand what you are doing, or what people think of you. And it is profoundly damaging to yourselves when you define something that you want to do as “good,” a “sacrifice” and “help.”
I am here to suggest that you voluntarily renounce exercising the power which being an American gives you. I am here to entreat you to freely, consciously and humbly give up the legal right you have to impose your benevolence on Mexico. I am here to challenge you to recognize your inability, your powerlessness and your incapacity to do the “good” which you intended to do.
I am here to entreat you to use your money, your status and your education to travel in Latin America. Come to look, come to climb our mountains, to enjoy our flowers. Come to study. But do not come to help.
Blessed like a tree planted by the rivers of water
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.
“As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, So is he who gets riches, but not by right; It will leave him in the midst of his days, And at his end he will be a fool.”
A glorious high throne from the beginning Is the place of our sanctuary.
O Lord, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You shall be ashamed. “Those who depart from Me Shall be written in the earth, Because they have forsaken the Lord, The fountain of living waters.”―Jeremiah 17:5-13
Photo credits: Sebastiao Salgado
Trees of righteousness
“Listen to me, you men of Shechem, That God may listen to you!
8“The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them. And they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Should I cease giving my oil, With which they honor God and men, And go to sway over trees?’
10 “Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us!’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit, And go to sway over trees?’
12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us!’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Should I cease my new wine, Which cheers both God and men, And go to sway over trees?’
14“Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us!’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you anoint me as king over you, Then come and take shelter in my shade; But if not, let fire come out of the bramble And devour the cedars of Lebanon!’
There are two hundred references to trees in the Bible. The biblical narrative unfolds with the pathos of the tree of life in the midst of the garden of Eden, along with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. After the fall (of Adam and Eve), “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”, Cherubim are placed at the east end of the Garden to guard the way to the tree of life. Declaring the end from the beginning― of what is still to come, the tree of life reappears in the midst of the street of the new Jerusalem in (Revelation 22:2): “which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” And we also read earlier in (Revelation 2:7), the Spirit’s prophetic message to the seven churches, of admonishments and consolations to God’s people in every age:
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Throughout scripture, a reoccurring motif is that of blessed and cursed trees. Jesus cursing the fig tree comes to mind, which from a distance appeared to be fruitful, but on closer inspection, it became clear there was no fruit on it at all. In contrast to this cursed fig tree (representing the demise of the nation of Israel), we have the parable of the mustard seed representing the small beginnings of the gospel, and its exponential growth among the nations at the latter end:
The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof (Matthew 13:31-32).
But perhaps equally striking, are the ‘Isaiah trees’, we read about in Isaiah 61:3: “that they [the redeemed] might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” We also read about the contrast between these blessed and cursed trees in (Psalm 1) and (Jeremiah 17:5-8):
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
In (Matthew 7:18-20) Jesus uses another parable of a good and a bad tree as a similitude for false prophets:
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them.
My favourite Isaiah trees are those that break out into rapturous applause for the redeemed:
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12)
At different junctures in the biblical narrative we encounter Elijah, who in fear for his life, escaped from Jezebel, finding refuge under a Juniper tree (1 Kings 19:5); Absalom, who led an insurrection against his father, the anointed king David, while riding his mule under the thick branches of a large oak, caught his hair in the tree, we are told: “He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going” (2 Samuel 18:9); then we have the initial incredulity of Nathaniel, sat under a fig tree, who said of Jesus, “can anything good come out of Nazareth” (John 1:47-51); then there is, Judas, who committed suicide by hanging himself on a redbud tree (Matthew 27:1-5); the prophetess Deborah, who judged Israel as God’s mouth, we learn, ” dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:5). Our opening text―the parable of the trees, also in the book of (Judges 9), Abimelech, son of Gideon [Jerubbaal], commits fratricide against the household of his brethren in order to elevate himself king over the people of Shechem, only his brother Jotham escapes, exhorting from mount Gerizim, the apologue of the wise trees, Prophesying Abimelech’s demise. In Jotham’s narrative, we have prescient echoes of the overarching story of the Bible in (Isaiah 14:7-8), culminating in the casting out of that “abominable branch”– Lucifer, the usurper, at which,
The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.
Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.”
And finally, before being nailed to a tree, Jesus tells a company of women following him on the road to Calvary:
Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:28-31).
Therefore, let all those who call upon the name of the Lord, become like ‘Isaiah trees’: trees of righteousness, for the planting of the Lord, bringing glory to the Lord. Let us display His righteousness, allowing it to spring forth from our lives daily: “His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:6). Indeed, “In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious,” (Isaiah 4:2).
For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.
For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.
And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them” (Isaiah 1:29-31).
But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be laid waste: as a terebinth tree, and as an oak, whose stump remains, when they are cut down: so the holy seed shall be its stump” (Isaiah 6:13).
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease” (Job 14:7).
Photo Credits: Sebastião Salgado, Children in a school that is entirely supported by the Christian Children’s Fund, USA. [children in a tree], Thailand, 1987
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
4And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
5And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
7For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
8For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.
10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
In fulfilment Of Isaiah’s prophecy, at the beginning of his ministry outlined in Luke 4: 16-23 with reference to Isaiah 61:1-11, Jesus proclaims liberty to captives, binds up wounds of the broken hearted and gives recovery of sight to the blind, through the preaching of the good news of the gospel to the poor. He is the Word that was sent to heal us―the Great Physician. The Way of Jesus is the embodiment of the manifest beauty of the kingdom of God, in contrast to the ashes of our fallen and broken world. Jesus, is the balm in Gilead for our mourning, and he gives us a garment of praise in exchange for a spirit of heaviness. His kingdom is in our midst, and in between this pause of the already and the yet to come, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. In this favourable time, he is cultivating trees of righteousness: “And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.” They shall be called kingdom priests, and the people will know them as ministers of God.
The gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.
— A.W. Tozer
—— WHO GIVES THIS WORD? It is a word to mourners in Zion, meant for their consolation. But who gives it? The answer is not far to seek. It comes from him who said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” “he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted.” Now, in a very inferior and subordinate sense, Christian ministers have the Spirit of God resting upon them, and they are sent to bind up the broken-hearted; but they can only do so in the name of Jesus, and in strength given from him. This word is not spoken by them, nor by prophets or apostles either, but by the great Lord and Master of apostles and prophets, and ministers, even by Jesus Christ himself. If he declares that he will comfort us, then we may rest assured we shall be comforted! The stars in his right hand may fail to penetrate the darkness, but the rising of the Sun of Righteousness effectually scatters the gloom. If the consolation of Israel himself comes forth for the uplifting of his downcast people, then their doubts and fears may well fly apace, since his presence is light and peace.
But, who is this anointed one who comes to comfort mourners? He is described in the preface to the text as a preacher. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath appointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek.” Remember what kind of preacher Jesus was. “Never man spake like this man.” He was a son of consolation indeed. It was said of him, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.” He was gentleness itself: his speech did not fall like a hail shower, it dropped like the rain, and distilled as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb. He came down like the soft vernal shower upon the new-mown grass, scattering refreshment and revival wherever his words were heard. The widow at the gates of Nain dried her eyes when he spake, and Jairus no longer mourned for his child. Magdalene gave over weeping, and Thomas ceased from doubting, when Jesus showed himself. Heavy hearts leaped for joy, and dim eyes sparkled with delight at his bidding. Now, if such be the person who declares he will comfort the broken-hearted, if he be such a preacher, we may rest assured he will accomplish his work.
In addition to his being a preacher, he is described as a physician. “He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted.” Some hearts want more than words. The choicest consolations that can be conveyed in human speech will not reach their case; the wounds of their hearts are deep, they are not flesh cuts, but horrible gashes which lay bare the bone, and threaten ere long to kill unless they be skilfully closed. It is, therefore, a great joy to know that the generous friend who, in the text, promises to deal with the sorrowing, is fully competent to meet the most frightful cases. Jehovah Rophi is the name of Jesus of Nazareth; he is in his own person the Lord that healeth us. He is the beloved physician of men’s souls. “By his stripes we are healed.” Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses, and he is able now with a word to heal all our diseases, whatever they may be. Joy to you, ye sons of mourning; congratulation to you, ye daughters of despondency: he who comes to comfort you can not only preach with his tongue, but he can bind up with his hand. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”
As if this were not enough, our gracious helper is next described as a liberator. “He hath sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” There were many downcast persons in Israel in the olden times—persons who had become bankrupt, and, therefore, had lost their estates, and had even sunk yet further into debt, till they were obliged to sell their children into slavery, and to become themselves bondsmen. Their yoke was very heavy, and their trouble was very sore. But the fiftieth year came round, and never was there heard music so sweet in all Judea’s land, as when the silver trumpet was taken down on the jubilee morn, and a loud shrill blast was blown in every city, and hamlet, and village, in all Israel, from Dan even to Beer-sheba. What meant that clarion sound? It meant this: “Israelite, thou art free. If thou hast sold thyself, go forth without money for the year of jubilee has come.” Go back, go back, ye who have lost your lands; seek out the old homestead, and the acres from whence ye have been driven: they are yours again. Go back, and plough, and sow, and reap once more, and sit each man under his vine and his fig-tree, for all your heritages are restored. This made great joy among all the tribes, but Jesus has come with a similar message. He, too, publishes a jubilee for bankrupt and enslaved sinners. He breaks the fetters of sin, and gives believers the freedom of the truth. None can hold in captivity the souls whom Jesus declares to be the Lord’s free men.
Surely, if the Savior has power, as the text declares, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and if he can break open prison doors, and set free those convicted and condemned, he is just the one who can comfort your soul and mine, though we be mourning in Zion. Let us rejoice at his coming, and cry Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Happy are we that we live in an age when Jesus breaks the gates of brass and cuts the bars of iron in sunder.
As if this were not all and not enough, one other matter is mentioned concerning our Lord, and he is pictured as being sent as the herald of good tidings of all sorts to us the sons of men. Read the second verse: “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” God has taken upon himself human flesh. The infinite Jehovah came down from heaven and became an infant, lived among us, and then died for us. Behold in the person of the incarnate God the sure pledge of divine benevolence. “He that spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Beloved, the very fact that a Savior came to the world should be a source of hope to us, and when we think what a Savior he was, how he suffered, how he finished the work that was given him to do, and what a salvation it is which he has wrought out for us, we may well feel that the comfort of mourners is work for which he is well suited, and which he can execute most effectually. How beautiful upon Olivet and Calvary are the feet of him that bringeth, in his person and his world “good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation.” But I must not linger. I have spoken of you enough to lead your thoughts to the blessed person who here declares that he will comfort the mourner. May the Holy Ghost reveal him unto you in all the power of his arm, the love of his heart, the virtue of his blood, the prevalence of his plea, the majesty of his exaltation, and the glory of his character.
III. What is that, then, in the third place, WHICH IS SPOKEN in the text to those that mourn? I would draw particular attention to the words here, “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes.” Come, mourning souls, who mourn in the way described, come ye gladly hither: there is comfort appointed for you, and there is also comfort given to you. It is the prerogative of King Jesus both to appoint and to give. How cheering is the thought that as our griefs are appointed, so also are our consolations. God has allotted a portion to every one of his mourners, even as Joseph allotted a mess to each of his brethren at the feast. You shall have your due share at the table of grace, and if you are a little one, and have double sorrows, you shall have a double portion of comfort. “To appoint unto them.” This is a word full of strong consolation; for if God appoints me a portion, who can deprive me of it? If he appoints my comfort, who dare stand in the way? If he appoints it, it is mine by right. But then, to make the appointment secure, he adds the word “To give.” The Holy One of Israel in the midst of Zion gives as well as appoints. The rich comforts of the gospel are conferred by the Holy Spirit, at the command of Jesus Christ, upon every true mourner in the time when he needs them; they are given to each spiritual mourner in the time when he would faint for lack of them. He can effectually give the comfort appointed for each particular case. All I can do is to speak of the comfort for God’s mourners. I can neither allot it, nor yet distribute it; but our Lord can do both. My prayer is that he may do so at this moment; that every holy mourner may have a time of sweet rejoicing while siting at the Master’s feet in a waiting posture. Did you never feel, while cast down, on a sudden lifted up, when some precious promise has come home to your soul? This is the happy experience of all the saints.
“Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings:
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in his wings.
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again,
A season of clear shining
To cheer it, after rain.”
Our ever gracious and almighty Lord knows how to comfort his children, and be assured he will not leave them comfortless. He who bids his ministers again and again attend to this duty, and says, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” will not himself neglect to give them consolation. If you are very heavy, there is the more room for the display of his grace in you, by making you very joyful in his ways. Do not despair; do not say, “I have fallen too low, my harp has been so long upon the willows that it has forgotten Zion’s joyful tunes.” Oh, no, you shall lay your fingers amongst the old accustomed strings, and the art of making melody shall come back to you, and your heart shall once more be glad. He appoints and he gives—the two words put together afford double hope to us—he appoints and he gives comfort to his mourners.
Observe, in the text, the change Christ promises to work for his mourners. First, here is beauty given for ashes. In the Hebrew there is a ring in the words which cannot be conveyed in the English. The ashes that men put upon their head in the East in the time of sorrow made a grim tiara for the brow of the mourner; the Lord promises to put all these ashes away, and to substitute for them a glorious head dress—a diadem of beauty. Or, if we run away from the word, and take the inner sense, we may look at it thus:—mourning makes the face wan and emaciated, and so takes away the beauty; but Jesus promises that he will so come and reveal joy to the sorrowing soul, that the face shall fill up again: the eyes that were dull and cloudy shall sparkle again, and the countenance, yea, and the whole person shall be once more radiant with the beauty which sorrow had so grievously marred. I thank God I have sometimes seen this change take place in precious saints who have been cast down in soul. There has even seemed to be a visible beauty put upon them when they have found peace in Jesus Christ, and this beauty is far more lovely and striking, because it is evidently a beauty of the mind, a spiritual lustre, far superior to the surface comeliness of the flesh. When the Lord shines full upon his servants’ faces, he makes them fair as the moon, when at her full she reflects the light of the sun. A gracious and unchanging God sheds on his people a gracious and unfading loveliness. O mourning soul, thou hast made thine eyes red with weeping, and thy cheeks are marred with furrows, down which the scalding tears have burned their way; but the Lord that healeth thee, the Lord Almighty who wipeth all tears from human eyes, shall visit thee yet; and, if thou now believes “in Jesus, he shall visit thee now, and chase these cloudy griefs away, and thy face shall be bright and clear again, fair as the morning, and sparkling as the dew. Thou shalt rejoice in the God of thy salvation, even in God, thy exceeding joy. Is not this a dainty promise for mourning souls?
Then, it is added, “He will give the oil of joy for mourning.” Here we have first beauty, and then unction. The Orientals used rich perfumed oils on their persons—used them largely and lavishly in times of great joy. Now, the Holy Spirit comes upon those who believe in Jesus, and gives them an anointing of perfume, most precious, more sweet and costly than the herd of Araby. An unction, such as royalty has never received, sheds its costly moisture over all the redeemed when the Spirit of the Lord rests upon them. “We have an unction from the Holy One,” saith the apostle. “Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.” Oh, how favored are those who have the Spirit of God upon them! You remember that the oil which was poured on Aaron’s head went down to the skirts of his garment, so that the same oil was on his skirts that had been on his head. It is the same Spirit that rests on the believer as that which rests on Jesus Christ, and he that is joined unto Christ is one Spirit. What favor is here! Instead of mourning, the Christian shall receive the Holy Spirit, the Comforter who shall take of the things of Christ, and reveal them unto him, and make him not merely glad, but honored and esteemed.
Then, it is added, to give still greater fullness to the cheering promise, that the Lord will give “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” The man is first made beautiful, next he has the anointing, then afterwards he is arrayed in robes of splendor. What garments these are! Surely Solomon in all his glory wore not such right royal apparel. “The garment of praise.” what a dress is this! Speak of wrought gold, or fine linen, or needlework of divers colors, or taffeta, or damasks, or gorgeous silks most rich and rare which come from far off lands—where is anything compared with “the garment of praise?” When a man wraps himself about, as it were, with psalmody, and lives for ever a chorister, singing not with equal voice, but with the same earnest heart as they do who day and night keep up the never ending hymn before the throne of the infinite! As, what a life is his, what a man is he! O mourner, this is to be your portion; take it now; Jesus Christ will cover you, even at this hour, with the garment of praise; so grateful shall you be for sins forgiven, for infirmity overcome, for watchfulness bestowed, for the church revived, for sinners saved, that you shall undergo the greatest conceivable change, and the sordid garments of your woe shall be put aside for the brilliant array of delight. It shall not be the spirit of praise for the spirit of heaviness, though that were a fair exchange, but as your heaviness you tried to keep to yourself, so your praise you shall not keep to yourself, it shall be a garment to you, external and visible, as well as inward and profound. Wherever you are it shall be displayed to others, and they shall see and take knowledge of you that God has done great things for you whereof you are glad. I wish I had power to speak fitly on such a theme as this; but, surely, it needs him upon whom the Spirit rested without measure to proclaim this joyful promise to the mourners in Zion.
We must close, by noticing what will be the result of this appointment, and text concludes, by saying, “That they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” We learn, here, that those mourning souls who are cast down, and have put ashes on their heads, shall, when Jesus Christ in infinite mercy comes to them, be made like trees—like “oaks;” the original is, like “oaks of righteousness,” that is, they shall become strong, firmly rooted, covered with verdure; they shall be like a well-watered tree for pleasantness and delight. Thou sayest, “I am a dry tree, a sere branch, I am a cast off, fruitless bough; Oh that I were visited of God and saved! I mourn because I cannot be what I would.” Mourner, thou shalt be all thou wouldst be, and much more if Jesus visits thee. Breathe the prayer to him now; look to him, trust him. He can change thee from a withered tree that seems twice dead into a tree standing by the rivers of water, whose leaf is unwithering, and whose fruit ripens in its season. Only have confidence in an anointed Savior, rely upon him who came not here to destroy but to bless, and thou shalt yet through faith become a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
But, the very pith of the text lies in a little word to which you must look. “Ye shall be called trees of righteousness.” Now, there are many mourning saints who are trees of righteousness, but nobody calls them so, they are so desponding that they give a doubtful idea to others. Observers ask, “Is this a Christian?” And those who watch and observe them are not at all struck with their Christian character. Indeed, I may be speaking to some here who are true believers in Jesus, but they are all their lifetime subject to bondage; they hardly know themselves whether they are saved, and, therefore, they cannot expect that others should be very much impressed by their godly character and fruitful conversation. But, O mourners! if Jesus visits you, and gives you the oil of joy, men shall call you “trees of righteousness,” they shall see grace in you, they shall not be able to help owning it, it shall be so distinct in the happiness of your life, that they shall be compelled to see it. I know some Christian people who, wherever they go, are attractive advertisements of the gospel. Nobody could be with them for a half an hour without saying, “Whence do they gain this calm, this peace, this tranquility, this holy delight and joy?” Many have been attracted to the cross of Christ by the holy pleasantness and cheerful conversation of those whom Christ has visited with the abundance of his love. I wish we were all such. I would not discourage a mourner; no, but encourage him to seek after the garments of praise; nevertheless, I must say that it is a very wretched thing for so many professors to go about the world grumbling at what they have and at what they have not, murmuring at the dispensations of providence, and at the labors of their brethren. They are more like wild crab-trees than the Lords fruit-trees. Well may people say, “If these are Christians, God save us from such Christianity.” But, when a man is contented—more than that, when he is happy under all circumstances, when “his spirit doth rejoice in God his Savior” in deep distress, when he can sing in the fires of affliction, when he can rejoice on the bed of sickness, when his shout of triumph grows louder as his conflict waxes more and more severe, and when he can utter the sweetest song of victory in his departing moments, then all who see such people call them trees of righteousness, they confess that they are the people of God.
Note, still, the result of all this goes further, “They shall he called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord,” that is to say, where there is joy imparted, and unction given from the Holy Spirit, instead of despondency, men will say, “It is God’s work, it is a tree that God has planted, it could not grow like that if anybody else had planted it; this man is a man of God’s making, his joy is a joy of God’s giving.” I feel sure that in the case of some of us we were under such sadness of heart before conversion, through a sense of sin, that when we did find peace, everybody noticed the change there was in us, and they said one to another, “Who has made this man so happy, for he was just now most heady and depressed?” And, when we told them where we lost our burden, they said, “Ah, there is something, in religion after all.” “Then said they among the heathen the Lord hath done great things for them.” Remember poor Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress. Mark what heavy sighs he heaved, what tears fell from his eyes, what a wretched man he was when he wrung his hands, and said, “The city wherein I dwell is to be burned up with fire from heaven, and I shall be consumed in it, and, besides, I am myself undone by reason of a burden that lieth hard upon me. Oh that I could get rid of it!” Do you remember John Bunyan’s description of how he got rid of the burden? He stood at the foot of the cross, and there was a sepulcher hard by, and as he stood and looked, and saw one hanging on the tree, suddenly the bands that bound his burden cracked, and the load rolled right away into the sepulcher, and when he looked for it, it could not be found. And what did he do? Why, he gave three great leaps for joy, and sang,
“Bless’d cross! bless’d sepulcher! bless’d rather
be the man that there was put to shame for me.”
If those who knew the pilgrim in his wretchedness had met him on the other side of that never-to-be-forgotten sepulcher, they would have said, “Are you the same man?” If Christiana had met him that day, she would have said, “My husband, are you the same? What a change has come over you;” and, when she and the children marked the father’s cheerful conversation, they could have been compelled to say, “It is the Lord’s doing, and it is wondrous in our eyes.” Oh live such a happy life that you may compel the most wicked man to ask where you learned the art of living. Let the stream of your life be so clear, so limpid, so cool, so sparkling, so like the river of the water of life above, that men may say, “Whence came this crystal rivulet? We will trace it to its source,” and so may they be led to the foot of that dear cross where all your hopes began.
Another word remains, and when we have considered it, we will conclude. That other word is this, “The planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” That is the end of it all, that is the great result we drive at, and that is the object even of God himself, “that he might be glorified.” For when men see the cheerful Christian, and perceive that this is God’s work, then they own the power of God; not always, perhaps, with their hearts as they should, but still they are obliged to confess “this is the finger of God.” Meanwhile, the saints, comforted by your example, praise and bless God, and all the church lifts up a song to the Most High. Come, my brethren and sisters, are any of you down; are you almost beneath the enemy’s foot? Here is a word for you, “Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy, though I fall yet shall I rise again.” Are any of you in deep trouble—very deep trouble? Another word then for you; “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Are you pressed with labors and afflictions? “As thy days so shall thy strength be,” “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.” Are you persecuted? Here is a note of encouragement for you: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Whatever your circumstances are, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” Think what Jesus has given you, your sins are pardoned for his name sake, your heaven is made secure to you, and all that is wanted to bring you there; you have grace in your hearts, and glory awaits you; you have already grace within you, and greater grace shall be granted you; you are renewed by the Spirit of Christ in your inner man the good work is begun, and God will never leave it till he has finished it; your names are in his book, nay, graven on the palms of his hands; his love never changes, his power never diminishes, his grace never fails, his truth is firm as the hills, and his faithfulness is like the great mountains. Lean on the love of his heart, on the might of his arm, on the merit of his blood, on the power of his plea, and the indwelling of his Spirit. Take such promises as these for your consolation, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not.” “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, destroy them.” “I am God, I fail not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” One might continue for ever quoting these precious passages, but may the Lord apply one or other of them to every mourner’s soul; and, especially if there be a mourning sinner here, may he get a grip of that choice word, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out;” or, that other grand sentence, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men;” or, that other, “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin:” or, that equally encouraging word, “Come now, and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool, though they be red like crimson they shall be as snow.” The Lord bring us all into comfort and joy by the way of the cross.
Peradventure, I speak to some for whom the promises of God have no charm; let me, then, remind them that his threatenings are as sure as his promises. He can bless, but he can also curse. Be appoints mourning for those who laugh now with sinful merriment; he will give to his enemies vengeance for all their rebellions. He has himself said, “And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.” Beware, then, ye that forget God, lest he overthrow you in his hot displeasure. Seek ye the Savior now, lest the acceptable year of the Lord be closed with a long winter of utter despair.
“Ye who spurn his righteous sway,
Yet, oh yet, he spares your breath;
Yet his hand, averse to slay,
Balances the bolt of death.
Ere that dreadful bolt descends,
Haste before his feet to fall,
Kiss the scepter he extends,
And adore him, ‘Lord of all.'”
Source: Sermon: Beauty For Ashes by Charles Spurgeon
Photo Credits: Sebastião Salgado “Genesis”
“Men Have Forgotten God” – The Templeton Address by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the LORD.
In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.
O generation, see ye the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?
Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.
Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these.
Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned.―Jeremiah 2:29-35
More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.
Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.
What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.
The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century. The first of these was World War I, and much of our present predicament can be traced back to it. It was a war (the memory of which seems to be fading) when Europe, bursting with health and abundance, fell into a rage of self-mutilation which could not but sap its strength for a century or more, and perhaps forever. The only possible explanation for this war is a mental eclipse among the leaders of Europe due to their lost awareness of a Supreme Power above them. Only a godless embitterment could have moved ostensibly Christian states to employ poison gas, a weapon so obviously beyond the limits of humanity.
The same kind of defect, the flaw of a consciousness lacking all divine dimension, was manifested after World War II when the West yielded to the satanic temptation of the “nuclear umbrella.” It was equivalent to saying: Let’s cast off worries, let’s free the younger generation from their duties and obligations, let’s make no effort to defend ourselves, to say nothing of defending others-let’s stop our ears to the groans emanating from the East, and let us live instead in the pursuit of happiness. If danger should threaten us, we shall be protected by the nuclear bomb; if not, then let the world burn in Hell for all we care. The pitifully helpless state to which the contemporary West has sunk is in large measure due to this fatal error: the belief that the defense of peace depends not on stout hearts and steadfast men, but solely on the nuclear bomb…
Today’ s world has reached a stage which, if it had been described to preceding centuries, would have called forth the cry: “This is the Apocalypse!” Yet we have grown used to this kind of world; we even feel at home in it. Dostoevsky warned that “great events could come upon us and catch us intellectually unprepared.” This is precisely what has happened. And he predicted that “the world will be saved only after it has been possessed by the demon of evil.” Whether it really will be saved we shall have to wait and see: this will depend on our conscience, on our spiritual lucidity, on our individual and combined efforts in the face of catastrophic circumstances. But it has already come to pass that the demon of evil, like a whirlwind, triumphantly circles all five continents of the earth…
By the time of the Revolution, faith had virtually disappeared in Russian educated circles; and amongst the uneducated, its health was threatened. In its past, Russia did know a time when the social ideal was not fame, or riches, or material success, but a pious way of life. Russia was then steeped in an Orthodox Christianity which remained true to the Church of the first centuries. The Orthodoxy of that time knew how to safeguard its people under the yoke of a foreign occupation that lasted more than two centuries, while at the same time fending off iniquitous blows from the swords of Western crusaders. During those centuries the Orthodox faith in our country became part of the very pattern of thought and the personality of our people, the forms of daily life, the work calendar, the priorities in every undertaking, the organization of the week and of the year. Faith was the shaping and unifying force of the nation.
But in the 17th century Russian Orthodoxy was gravely weakened by an internal schism. In the 18th, the country was shaken by Peter’s forcibly imposed transformations, which favored the economy, the state, and the military at the expense of the religious spirit and national life. And along with this lopsided Petrine enlightenment, Russia felt the first whiff of secularism; its subtle poisons permeated the educated classes in the course of the 19th century and opened the path to Marxism. By the time of the Revolution, faith had virtually disappeared in Russian educated circles; and amongst the uneducated, its health was threatened. It was Dostoevsky, once again, who drew from the French Revolution and its seeming hatred of the Church the lesson that “revolution must necessarily begin with atheism.” That is absolutely true. But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot.
The 1920’s in the USSR witnessed an uninterrupted procession of victims and martyrs amongst the Orthodox clergy. Two metropolitans were shot, one of whom, Veniamin of Petrograd, had been elected by the popular vote of his diocese. Patriarch Tikhon himself passed through the hands of the Cheka-GPU and then died under suspicious circumstances. Scores of archbishops and bishops perished. Tens of thousands of priests, monks, and nuns, pressured by the Chekists to renounce the Word of God, were tortured, shot in cellars, sent to camps, exiled to the desolate tundra of the far North, or turned out into the streets in their old age without food or shelter. All these Christian martyrs went unswervingly to their deaths for the faith; instances of apostasy were few and far between. For tens of millions of laymen access to the Church was blocked, and they were forbidden to bring up their children in the Faith: religious parents were wrenched from their children and thrown into prison, while the children were turned from the faith by threats and lies…
For a short period of time, when he needed to gather strength for the struggle against Hitler, Stalin cynically adopted a friendly posture toward the Church. This deceptive game, continued in later years by Brezhnev with the help of showcase publications and other window dressing, has unfortunately tended to be taken at its face value in the West. Yet the tenacity with which hatred of religion is rooted in Communism may be judged by the example of their most liberal leader, Krushchev: for though he undertook a number of significant steps to extend freedom, Krushchev simultaneously rekindled the frenzied Leninist obsession with destroying religion.
But there is something they did not expect: that in a land where churches have been leveled, where a triumphant atheism has rampaged uncontrolled for two-thirds of a century, where the clergy is utterly humiliated and deprived of all independence, where what remains of the Church as an institution is tolerated only for the sake of propaganda directed at the West, where even today people are sent to the labor camps for their faith, and where, within the camps themselves, those who gather to pray at Easter are clapped in punishment cells–they could not suppose that beneath this Communist steamroller the Christian tradition would survive in Russia. It is true that millions of our countrymen have been corrupted and spiritually devastated by an officially imposed atheism, yet there remain many millions of believers: it is only external pressures that keep them from speaking out, but, as is always the case in times of persecution and suffering, the awareness of God in my country has attained great acuteness and profundity.
It is here that we see the dawn of hope: for no matter how formidably Communism bristles with tanks and rockets, no matter what successes it attains in seizing the planet, it is doomed never to vanquish Christianity.
The West has yet to experience a Communist invasion; religion here remains free. But the West’s own historical evolution has been such that today it too is experiencing a drying up of religious consciousness. It too has witnessed racking schisms, bloody religious wars, and rancor, to say nothing of the tide of secularism that, from the late Middle Ages onward, has progressively inundated the West. This gradual sapping of strength from within is a threat to faith that is perhaps even more dangerous than any attempt to assault religion violently from without.
Imperceptibly, through decades of gradual erosion, the meaning of life in the West has ceased to be seen as anything more lofty than the “pursuit of happiness, “a goal that has even been solemnly guaranteed by constitutions. The concepts of good and evil have been ridiculed for several centuries; banished from common use, they have been replaced by political or class considerations of short lived value. It has become embarrassing to state that evil makes its home in the individual human heart before it enters a political system. Yet it is not considered shameful to make dally concessions to an integral evil. Judging by the continuing landslide of concessions made before the eyes of our very own generation, the West is ineluctably slipping toward the abyss. Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism. If a blasphemous film about Jesus is shown throughout the United States, reputedly one of the most religious countries in the world, or a major newspaper publishes a shameless caricature of the Virgin Mary, what further evidence of godlessness does one need? When external rights are completely unrestricted, why should one make an inner effort to restrain oneself from ignoble acts?
Or why should one refrain from burning hatred, whatever its basis–race, class, or ideology? Such hatred is in fact corroding many hearts today. Atheist teachers in the West are bringing up a younger generation in a spirit of hatred of their own society. Amid all the vituperation we forget that the defects of capitalism represent the basic flaws of human nature, allowed unlimited freedom together with the various human rights; we forget that under Communism (and Communism is breathing down the neck of all moderate forms of socialism, which are unstable) the identical flaws run riot in any person with the least degree of authority; while everyone else under that system does indeed attain “equality”–the equality of destitute slaves. This eager fanning of the flames of hatred is becoming the mark of today’s free world. Indeed, the broader the personal freedoms are, the higher the level of prosperity or even of abundance–the more vehement, paradoxically, does this blind hatred become. The contemporary developed West thus demonstrates by its own example that human salvation can be found neither in the profusion of material goods nor in merely making money. This deliberately nurtured hatred then spreads to all that is alive, to life itself, to the world with its colors, sounds, and shapes, to the human body. The embittered art of the twentieth century is perishing as a result of this ugly hate, for art is fruitless without love. In the East art has collapsed because it has been knocked down and trampled upon, but in the West the fall has been voluntary, a decline into a contrived and pretentious quest where the artist, instead of attempting to reveal the divine plan, tries to put himself in the place of God.
Here again we witness the single outcome of a worldwide process, with East and West yielding the same results, and once again for the same reason: Men have forgotten God.
With such global events looming over us like mountains, nay, like entire mountain ranges, it may seem incongruous and inappropriate to recall that the primary key to our being or non-being resides in each individual human heart, in the heart’s preference for specific good or evil. Yet this remains true even today, and it is, in fact, the most reliable key we have. The social theories that promised so much have demonstrated their bankruptcy, leaving us at a dead end. The free people of the West could reasonably have been expected to realize that they are beset · by numerous freely nurtured falsehoods, and not to allow lies to be foisted upon them so easily. All attempts to find a way out of the plight of today’s world are fruitless unless we redirect our consciousness, in repentance, to the Creator of all: without this, no exit will be illumined, and we shall seek it in vain. The resources we have set aside for ourselves are too impoverished for the task. We must first recognize the horror perpetrated not by some outside force, not by class or national enemies, but within each of us individually, and within every society. This is especially true of a free and highly developed society, for here in particular we have surely brought everything upon ourselves, of our own free will. We ourselves, in our daily unthinking selfishness, are pulling tight that noose…
Our life consists not in the pursuit of material success but in the quest for worthy spiritual growth. Our entire earthly existence is but a transitional stage in the movement toward something higher, and we must not stumble and fall, nor must we linger fruitlessly on one rung of the ladder. Material laws alone do not explain our life or give it direction. The laws of physics and physiology will never reveal the indisputable manner in which the Creator constantly, day in and day out, participates in the life of each of us, unfailingly granting us the energy of existence; when this assistance leaves us, we die. And in the life of our entire planet, the Divine Spirit surely moves with no less force: this we must grasp in our dark and terrible hour.
To the ill-considered hopes of the last two centuries, which have reduced us to insignificance and brought us to the brink of nuclear and non-nuclear death, we can propose only a determined quest for the warm hand of God, which we have so rashly and self-confidently spurned. Only in this way can our eyes be opened to the errors of this unfortunate twentieth century and our bands be directed to setting them right. There is nothing else to cling to in the landslide: the combined vision of all the thinkers of the Enlightenment amounts to nothing.
Our five continents are caught in a whirlwind. But it is during trials such as these that the highest gifts of the human spirit are manifested. If we perish and lose this world, the fault will be ours alone.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Godlessness: the First Step to the Gulag”.
Source: Templeton Prize Lecture, 10 May 1983 (London).
The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment 1. By C. S. Lewis Fellow of Magdalene College (1954)
IN ENGLAND we have lately had a controversy about Capital Punishment. I do not know whether a murderer is more likely to repent and make a good end on the gallows a few weeks after his trial or in the prison infirmary thirty years later. I do not know whether the fear of death is an indispensable’ deterrent; I need not, for the purpose of this article, decide whether it is a morally permissible deterrent. Those are questions which I propose to leave untouched. My subject is not Capital Punishment in particular, but that theory of punishment in general which the controversy showed to be almost universal among my fellow-countrymen. It may be called th~ Humanitarian theory. Those who hold it think that it is mild and merciful. In this I believe that they are seriously mistaken. I believe that the “Humanity” which it claims is a dangerous illusion and disguises the possibility of cruelty and injustice without end. I urge a return to the traditional or Retributive theory not solely, not even primarily, in the interests of society, but in the interests of the rriminal. ‘ According to the Humanitarian theory, to punish a man because he deserves it, and as much as he deserves, is mere revenge, and, therefore, barbarous and immoral. It is maintained that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. When this theory is combined, as frequently happens, with the belief that all crime is more or less pathological, the idea of mending tails off into that of healing or curing and punishment becomes therapeutic. Thus it appears at first sight that we have passed from the harsh and self-righteous notion of giving the wicked their deserts to the charitable and enlightened one of tending the psychologically sick. What could be more amiable? One little point which is taken for granted in this theory needs, however, to be made explicit. The things done to the criminal, even if they are called cures, will be just as compulsory as they were in the old days when we called them punishments. If a tendency to steal, can be cured by psychotherapy, the thief will no doubt be forced to undergo the treatment. Otherwise, society cannot continue. My contention is that this doctrine, merciful though it appears, really means that each one of us, from the moment he breaks the law, is deprived of the rights of a human being.
The reason is this. The Humanitarian theory removes from Punishment the concept of Desert. But the concept of Desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a sentence can be just or unjust. I do not here contend that the question “Is it deserved?” is the only one we can reasonably ask about a punishment. We may very properly ask whether it is likely to deter others and to reform the criminal. But neither of these two last questions is a question about justice. There is no sense in talking about a “just deterrent” or a “just cure”. We demand of a deterrent not whether it is just but whether it will deter. We demand of a cure not whether it is just but whether it succeeds. Thus when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacidy removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a “case”.
The distinction will become clearer if we ask who will be qualified to determine sentences when sentences are no longer held to derive their propriety from the criminal’s deservings. On the old view the problem of fixing the right sentence was a moral problem. Accordingly, the judge who did it was a person trained in jurisprudence; trained, that is, in a science which deals with rights and duties, and which, in origin at least, was consciously accepting guidance from the Law of Nature, and from Scripture. We must admit that in the actual penal code of most countries at most times these high originals were so much modified by local custom, class interests, and utilitarian concessions, as to be very imperfectly recognizable. But the code was never in principle, and not always in fact, beyond the control of the conscience of the society. And when (say, in eighteenth-century England) actual punishments conflicted too violently with the moral sense of the community, juries refused to convict and reform was finally brought about. This was possible because, so long as we are thinking in .terms of Desert, the propriety of the penal code, being a moral question, is a question on which every man has the right to an opinion, not because he follows this or that profession, but because he is simply a man, a rational animal enjoying the Natural Light. But all this is changed when we drop the concept of Desert. The only two questions we may now ask about a punishment are whether it deters and whether it cures. But these are not questions on which anyone is entitled to have an opinion simply because he is a man.
He is not entitled to an opinion even if, in addition to being a man, he should happen also to be a: jurist, a Christian, and a moral theologian. For they are not questions about principle but about matter of fact; and for such cuiquam in sua arte credendum. Only the expert “penologist” (let barbarous things have barbarous names), in the light of previous experiment, can tell us what is likely to deter : only the psychotherapist can tell us what is likely to cure. It will be in vain for the rest of us, speaking simply as men, to say, “but this punishment is hideously unjust, hideously disproportionate to the criminal’s deserts”. The experts with perfect logic will reply, “but nobody was ~g about deserts. No one was talking about punishment in your archaic vindictive sense of the word. Here are the statistics proving that this treatment deters. Here are the statistics proving that this other treatment cures. What is your trouble?”
The Humanitarian theory, then, removes sentences from the hands of jurists whom the public conscience is entitled to criticize and places·them in the hands of technical experts whose special sciences do not even employ such categories as rights or. justice. It might be argued that since this transference results from an abandonment of the old idea of punishment, and, therefore, of all vindictive motives, it will be safe to leave our criminals in such hands. I will not pause to comment on the simple-minded view of fallen human nature which such a belief implies. Let us rather remember that the “cure” of criminals is to be compulsory; and let us then watch how the theory actually works in the mind of the Humanitarian. The immediate starting point of this article was a letter I read in one of our Leftist weeklies. The author was pleading that a certain sin, now treated by our laws as a crime, should henceforward ,be treated as a disease. And he complained that under the present system the offender, after a term in gaol, was simply let out to return to his original environment where he would probably relapse. What he complained of was not the shutting up but the letting out. C>n his remedial view of punishment the offender should, of course, be detained until he was cured. And of course the official straighteners are the only people who can say when that is. The first result Qf the Humanitarian theory is, therefore, to substitute for a definite ‘sentence (reflecting to some extent the community’s moral judgment on the degree of ill-desert involved) an indefinite sentence terminable only by the word of those experts-and they are not experts in moral theology nor even in the Law of Nature-who inflict it. Which of us, if he stood in the dock, would not prefer to be tried by the old system?
It may be said that by the continued, use of the word punishment: and· the use of the verb “inflict” I am misrepresenting Humanitarians. They are not punishing, not inflicting, only healing. But do not let us be deceived by a name. To be taken without consent from my home and friends; to lose my liberty; to undergo all those assaults on my personality which modern psychotherapy knows how to deliver; to be re-made after some pattern of “normality” hatched ina Viennese laboratory to which I never professed allegiance; to know that this process will never end until either my captors have succeeded or I grown wise enough to cheat them with apparent suc::cess-who cares whether this is called Punishment or not? That it includes most of the elements for which any punishment is feared -shame, exile, bondage, and years eaten by the locust-is obvious. Only enormous ill-desert could justify it; but ill-desert is the very conception which the Humanitarian theory has thrown overboard.
If we turn from the curative to the deterrent justification of punishment we shall find the new theory even more alarming. When you punish a man in terrorem, make of him an “example” to others, you are admittedly using him as a means to an end; someone else’s end. This, in itself, would be a very wicked thing to do. On the classical. theory of Punishment it was of course justified on the ground that the man deserved it. That was assumed to be established before any question of “making him an example” arose. You then; as the saying is, killed two birds with one stone; in the process of giving him what he deserved you set an example to others. But take away desert and the whole morality of the punishment disappears. Why, in Heaven’s name, am I to be sacrificed to the good of:society in this way?-unless, of course, I deserve it.
But that is not the worst. If the justification of exemplary punishment is not to be based on desert but solely on its efficacy as a deterrent, it is not absolutely necessary that the man we punish should even have committed the crime. The deterrent effect demands that the public should draw the moral, “If we do such an act we shall suffer like that man.” The punishment of a man actually guilty whom the public think innocent will not have the desired effect; the punishment of a man actually innocent will, provided the public think him guilty. But every modern State has powers which make it easy to:fake a trial. When a victim is urgently needed for exemplary purposes and a guilty victim cannot be found, all the purposes of deterrence will be equally served by the punishment (call it “cure” if :you prefer) of an innocent victim, provided that the public can be ~heated into thinking him guilty. It is no use to ask me why I assume that our rulers will be so wicked. The punishment of an innocent, that is, an undeserving, man is wicked only if we grant the traditional view that righteous punishment means deserved punishment. Once we have abandoned that criterion, all punishments have to be justified, if at all, on other grounds that have nothing to do with desert. Where the punishment of the innocent can be justified on those grounds (and it could in some cases be justified as a deterrent) it will be no less moral than any other punishment. Any distaste for it on the part of a Humanitarian will be merely a hang-over from the Retributive theory.
It is, indeed, important to notice that my argument so far supposes no evil intentions on the part of the Humanitarian and considers only what is involved in the logic of his position. My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistendy acting upon that position would act as cruelly and unjusdy as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be. punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we “ought to have known better”, is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.
In reality, however, we must face the possibility of bad rulers armed with a Humanitarian theory of punishment. A great many popular blue prints for a Christian society are merely what the Elizabethans called “eggs in moonshine” because they assume that the whole society is Christian or that the Christians are in control. This is not so in most contemporary States. Even if it were, our rulers would still be fallen men, and, therefore, neither very wise nor very good. As it is, they will usually be unbelievers. And since wisdom and virtue are not the only or the commonest qualifications for a place in .the government, they will not often be even the best unbelievers. The practical problem of Christian politics is not that of drawing up schemes for a Christian society, but that of living as innocently as we can with unbelieving fellow-subjects under unbelieving rulers who will never be perfectly wise and good and who will Sometimes be very wicked and very foolish. And when they are wicked· the Humanitarian theory of punishment will put in their hands a finer instrument of tyranny than wickedness ever had before. For if crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which our masters choose to call “disease” can be treated as crime; and compulsorily cured. It will be vain to plead that states of mind which displease government need not always involve moral turpitude and do not therefore always deserve forfeiture of liberty. For our masters will not be using the concepts of Desert and Punishment but those of disease and cure. We know that one school of psychology already regards religion as a neurosis_ When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to government, what is to hinder government from proceeding to “cure” it? Such “cure” will, of course, be compulsory; but under the Humanitarian theory it will not be called by the shocking name of Persecution. No one will blame us for being Christian, no one will hate us, no one will revile us. The new Nero will approach us with the silky manners of a doctor, and though all will be in fact as compulsory as the tunica molesta or Smithfield or Tyburn, all will go on within the unemotional therapeutic sphere where words like “right” and “wrong” or “freedom” and “slavery” are never heard. And thus when the command is given, every prominent Christian in the land may vanish overnight into Institutions for the Treatment of the Ideologically Unsound, and it will rest with the expert gaolers to say when (if ever) they are to re-emerge. But it will not be persecution. Even if the treatment is painful, even if it is life-long, even if it is fatal, that will be only a regrettable accident; the intention was purely therapeutic. Even in ordinary medicine there were painful operations and fatal operations; so in this. But because they are “treatment”, not punishment, they can be criticized only by fellow experts and on technical grounds, never by men as men and on grounds of justice.
This is why I think it essential to oppose the Humanitarian theory of punishment, root and branch, wherever we encounter it. It carries. on its front a semblance of mercy which is wholly false. That is how it can deceive men of good will. The error began, perhaps, with Shelley’s statement that the distinction between mercy and justice was invented in the courts of tyrants. It sounds noble, and was indeed the error of a noble mind. But the distinction is essential. The older view was that mercy “tempered” justice, or (on the highest level of all) that mercy and justice had met and kissed. The essential act of mercy was to pardon; and pardon in its very essence involves the recognition of guilt and ill-desert in the recipient_
If crime is only a disease which needs cure, not sin which deserves punishment, it cannot be pardoned. How can you pardon a man for having a gumboil or a club foot? But the Humanitarian theory wants simply to abolish Justice and substitute Mercy for it. This means that you start being “kind” to people before you have eonsidered their rights, and then force upon them supposed kindIiesses which they in fact had a right to refuse, and finally kindnesses which no one but you will recognize as kindnesses and which the recipient will feel as abominable cruelties. You have overshot the mark. Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful. That is the important paradox. As there are plants which will flourish only in mountain soil, so it appears that Mercy will flower only when it grows in the crannies of the rock of Justice: transplanted to the marshlands of mere Humanitarianism. it becomes a man-eating weed, all the more dangerous because it is still called by the same name as the mountain variety. But we ought long ago to have learned our lesson. We should be too old now to be deceived by those humane pretensions which have served to usher in every cruelty of the revolutionary period in which we live. These are the “precious balms” which will “break our heads”.
There is a fine sentence in Bunyan: “It came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave.” There is a fine couplet, too, in John Ball:
Be ware ere ye be woe Know your friend from your foe.
One last word. You may ask why I send this to an Australian periodical. The reason is simple and perhaps worth recording: 1 can get no hearing for it in England.
— [I] This anicle first appeared in Twentieth Century and is now republished without alteration. It is printed again because it seems imponant that it should reach as wide a legal audience, as possible. The succeeding article appeared in the same magazine, as a reply to this. We express our gratitude to the editor of Twentieth Century for his ready help in making both these articles available.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word
And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke you, O Satan; even the LORD that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? (Zechariah 3:1-2)
The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out. (Leviticus 6:13)
For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12::29)
And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God. (Zechariah 13:9
Acts 7: Stephen’s testimony before the Sanhedrin
For the testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy…
Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. 5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. 7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.
8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.
9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, 10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. 13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, 16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem. 17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18 Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. 19 The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live. 20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months:
21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. 23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
26 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? 27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday? 29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,
32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold. 33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
34 I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.
36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
40 Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
47 But Solomon built him an house.
48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? 50 Hath not my hand made all these things?
51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. 54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Source: The Holy Bible KJV, Cambridge University Press & NKJV
Artwork: Makoto Fujimura – Water Flames
“The Crisis in Education” by Hannh Arendt (1954)
The general crisis that has overtaken the modern world everywhere and in almost every sphere of life manifests itself differently in each country, involving different areas and taking on different forms. In America, one of its most characteristic and suggestive aspects is the recurring crisis in education that, during the last decade at least, has become a political problem of the first magnitude, reported on almost daily in the newspapers. To be sure, no great imagination is required to detect the dangers of a constantly progressing decline of elementary standards throughout the entire school system, and the seriousness of the trouble has been properly underlined by the countless unavailing efforts of the educational authorities to stem the tide. Still, if one compares this crisis in education with the political experiences of other countries in the twentieth century, with the revolutionary turmoil after the First World War, with concentration and extermination camps, or even with the profound malaise which, appearances of prosperity to the contrary notwithstanding, has spread throughout Europe ever since the end of the Second World War, it is somewhat difficult to take a crisis in education as seriously as it deserves. It is tempting indeed to regard it as a local phenomenon, unconnected with the larger issues of the century, to be blamed on certain peculiarities of life in the United States which are not likely to find a counterpart in other parts of the world.
Yet, if this were true, the crisis in our school system would not have become a political issue and the educational authorities would not have been unable to deal with it in time. Certainly more is involved here than the puzzling question of why Johnny can’t read. Moreover, there is always a temptation to believe that we are dealing with specific problems confined within historical and national boundaries and of importance only to those immediately affected. It is precisely this belief that in our time has consistently proved false. One can take it as a general rule in this century that whatever is possible in one country may in the foreseeable future be equally possible in almost any other.
Aside Aside from these general reasons that would make it seem advisable for the layman to be concerned with trouble in fields about which, in the specialist’s sense, he may know nothing (and this, since I am not a professional educator, is of course my case when I deal with a crisis in education), there is another even more cogent reason for his concerning himself with a critical situation in which he is not immediately involved. And that is the opportunity, provided by the very fact of crisis–which tears away facades and obliterates prejudices–to explore and inquire into whatever has been laid bare of the essence of the matter, and the essence of education is natality, the fact that human beings are born into the world. The disappearance of prejudices simply means that we have lost the answers on which we ordinarily rely without even realizing they were originally answers to questions. A crisis forces us back to the questions themselves and requires from us either new or old answers, but in any case direct judgments. A crisis becomes a disaster only when we respond to it with preformed judgments, that is, with prejudices. Such an attitude not only sharpens the crisis but makes us forfeit the experience of reality and the opportunity for reflection it provides.
However clearly a general problem may present itself in a crisis, it is nevertheless impossible ever to isolate completely the universal element from the concrete and specific circumstances in which it makes its appearance. Though the crisis in education may affect the whole world, it is characteristic that we find its most extreme form in America, the reason being that perhaps only in America could a crisis in education actually become a factor in politics. In America, as a matter of fact, education plays a different and, politically, incomparably more important role than in other countries. Technically, of course, the explanation lies in the fact that America has always been a land of immigrants; it is obvious that the enormously difficult melting together of the most diverse ethnic groups–never fully successful but continuously succeeding beyond expectation–can only be accomplished through the schooling, education, and Americanization of the immigrants’ children. Since for most of these children English is not their mother tongue but has to be learned in school, schools must obviously assume functions which in a nation-state would be performed as a matter of course in the home.
More decisive, however, for our considerations is the role that continuous immigration plays in the country’s political consciousness and frame of mind. America is not simply a colonial country in need of immigrants to populate the land, though independent of them in its political structure. For America the determining factor has always been the motto printed on every dollar bill: Novus Ordo Seclorum, A New Order of the World. The immigrants, the newcomers, are a guarantee to the country that it represents the new order. The meaning of this new order, this founding of a new world against the old, was and is the doing away with poverty and oppression. But at the same time its magnificence consists in the fact that from the beginning this new order did not shut itself off from the outside world–as has elsewhere been the custom in the founding of utopias–in order to confront it with a perfect model, nor was its purpose to enforce imperial claims or to be preached as an evangel to others. Rather its relation to the outside world has been characterized from the start by the fact that this republic, which planned to abolish poverty and slavery, welcomed all the poor and enslaved of the earth. In the words spoken by John Adams in 1765–that is, before the Declaration of Independence–”I always consider the settlement of America as the opening of a grand scheme and design in Providence for the illumination and emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” This is the basic intent or the basic law in accordance with which America began her historical and political existence.
The extraordinary enthusiasm for what is new, which is shown in almost every aspect of American daily life, and the concomitant trust in an “indefinite perfectibility”–which Tocqueville noted as the credo of the common “uninstructed man” and which as such antedates by almost a hundred years the development in other countries of the West–would presumably have resulted in any case in greater attention paid and greater significance ascribed to the newcomers by birth, that is, the children, whom, when they had outgrown their childhood and were about to enter the community of adults as young people, the Greeks simply called οί νєοι, the new ones. There is the additional fact, however, a fact that has become decisive for the meaning of education, that this pathos of the new, though it is considerably older than the eighteenth century, only developed conceptually and politically in that century. From this source there was derived at the start an educational ideal, tinged with Rousseauism and in fact directly influenced by Rousseau, in which education became an instrument of politics, and political activity itself was conceived of as a form of education.
The role played by education in all political utopias from ancient times onward shows how natural it seems to start a new world with those who are by birth and nature new. So far as politics is concerned, this involves of course a serious misconception: instead of joining with one’s equals in assuming the effort of persuasion and running the risk of failure, there is dictatorial intervention, based upon the absolute superiority of the adult, and the attempt to produce the new as a fait accompli, that is, as though the new already existed. For this reason, in Europe, the belief that one must begin with the children if one wishes to produce new conditions has remained principally the monopoly of revolutionary movements of tyrannical cast which, when they came to power, took the children away from their parents and simply indoctrinated them. Education can play no part in politics, because in politics we always have to deal with those who are already educated. Whoever wants to educate adults really wants to act as their guardian and prevent them from political activity. Since one cannot educate adults, the word “education” has an evil sound in politics; there is a pretense of education, when the real purpose is coercion without the use of force. He who seriously wants to create a new political order through education, that is, neither through force and constraint nor through persuasion, must draw the dreadful Platonic conclusion: the banishment of all older people from the state that is to be founded. But even the children one wishes to educate to be citizens of a utopian morrow are actually denied their own future role in the body politic, for, from the standpoint of the new ones, whatever new the adult world may propose is necessarily older than they themselves. It is in the very nature of the human condition that each new generation grows into an old world, so that to prepare a new generation for a new world can only mean that one wishes to strike from the newcomers’ hands their own chance at the new.
All this is by no means the case in America, and it is exactly this fact that makes it so hard to judge these questions correctly here. The political role that education actually plays in a land of immigrants, the fact that the schools not only serve to Americanize the children but affect their parents as well, that here in fact one helps to shed an old world and to enter into a new one, encourages the illusion that a new world is being built through the education of the children. Of course the true situation is not this at all. The world into which children are introduced, even in America, is an old world, that is, a pre-existing world, constructed by the living and the dead, and it is new only for those who have newly entered it by immigration. But here illusion is stronger than reality because it springs directly from a basic American experience, the experience that a new order can be founded, and what is more, founded with full consciousness of a historical continuum, for the phrase “New World” gains its meaning from the Old World, which, however admirable on other scores, was rejected because it could find no solution for poverty and oppression.
Now in respect to education itself the illusion arising from the pathos of the new has produced its most serious consequences only in our own century. It has first of all made it possible for that complex of modern educational theories which originated in Middle Europe and consists of an astounding hodgepodge of sense and nonsense to accomplish, under the banner of progressive education, a most radical revolution in the whole system of education. What in Europe has remained an experiment, tested out here and there in single schools and isolated educational institutions and then gradually extending its influences in certain quarters, in America about twenty-five years ago completely overthrew, as though from one day to the next, all traditions and all the established methods of teaching and learning. I shall not go into details, and I leave out of account private schools and especially the Roman Catholic parochial school system. The significant fact is that for the sake of certain theories, good or bad, all the rules of sound human reason were thrust aside. Such a procedure is always of great and pernicious significance, especially in a country that relies so extensively on common sense in its political life. Whenever in political questions sound human reason fails or gives up the attempt to supply answers we are faced by a crisis; for this kind of reason is really that common sense by virtue of which we and our five individual senses are fitted into a single world common to us all and by the aid of which we move about in it.
The disappearance of ‘common sense in the present day is the surest sign of the present-day crisis. In every crisis a piece of the world, something common to us all, is destroyed. The failure of common sense, like a divining rod, points to the place where such a cave-in has occurred.
In any case the answer to the question of why Johnny can’t read or to the more general question of why the scholastic standards of the average American school lag so very far behind the average standards in actually all the countries of Europe is not, unfortunately, simply that this country is young and has not yet caught up with the standards of the Old World but, on the contrary, that this country in this particular field is the most “advanced” and most modern in the world. And this is true in a double sense: nowhere have the education problems of a mass society become so acute, and nowhere else have the most modern theories in the realm of pedagogy been so uncritically and slavishly accepted. Thus the crisis in American education, on the one hand, announces the bankruptcy of progressive education and, on the other, presents a problem of immense difficulty because it has arisen under the conditions and in response to the demands of a mass society.
In this connection we must bear in mind another more general factor which did not, to be sure, cause the crisis but which has aggravated it to a remarkable degree, and this is the unique role the concept of equality plays and always has played in American life. Much more is involved in this than equality before the law, more too than the leveling of class distinctions, more even than what is expressed in the phrase “equality of opportunity,” though that has a greater significance in this connection because in the American view a right to education is one of the inalienable civic rights. This last has been decisive for the structure of the public school system in that secondary schools in the European sense exist only as exceptions. Since compulsory school attendance extends to the age of sixteen, every child must enter high school, and the high school therefore is basically a kind of continuation of primary school. As a result of this lack of a secondary school the preparation for the college course has to be supplied by the colleges themselves, whose curricula therefore suffer from a chronic overload, which in turn affects the quality of the work done there.
At first glance one might perhaps think that this anomaly lies in the very nature of a mass society in which education is no longer a privilege of the wealthy classes. A glance at England, where, as everyone knows, secondary education has also been made available in recent years to all classes of the population, will show that this is not the case. For there at the end of primary school, with students at the age of eleven, has been instituted the dreaded examination that weeds out all but some ten per cent of the scholars suited for higher education. The rigor of this selection was not accepted even in England without protest; in America it would have been simply impossible. What is aimed at in England is “meritocracy,” which is clearly once more the establishment of an oligarchy, this time not of wealth or of birth but of talent. But this means, even though people in England may not be altogether clear about it, that the country even under a socialist government will continue to be governed as it has been from time out of mind, that is, neither as a monarchy nor as a democracy but as an oligarchy or aristocracy the latter in case one takes the view that the most gifted are also the best, which is by no means a certainty. In America such an almost physical division of the children into gifted and ungifted would be considered intolerable. Meritocracy contradicts the principle of equality, of an equalitarian democracy, no less than any other oligarchy.
Thus what makes the educational crisis in American so especially acute is the political temper of the country, which of itself struggles to equalize or to erase as far as possible the difference between young and old, between– the gifted and the ungifted, finally between children and adults, particularly between pupils and teachers. It is obvious that such an equalization can actually be accomplished only at the cost of the teacher’s authority and at the expense of the gifted among the students. However, it is equally obvious, at least to anyone who has ever come in contact with the American educational system, that this difficulty, rooted in the political attitude of the country, also has great advantages, not simply of a human kind but educationally speaking as well; in any case these general factors cannot explain the crisis in which we presently find ourselves nor justify the measures through which that crisis has been precipitated.
These ruinous measures can be schematically traced back to three basic assumptions, all of which are only too familiar. The first is that there exist a child’s world and a society formed among children that are autonomous and must insofar as possible be left to them to govern. Adults are only there to help with this government. The authority that tells the individual child what to do and what not to do rests with the child group itself–and this produces, among other consequences, a situation in which the adult stands helpless before the individual child and out of contact with him. He can only tell him to do what he likes and then prevent the worst from happening. The real and normal relations between children and adults, arising from the fact that people of all ages are always simultaneously together in the world, are thus broken off. And so it is of the essence of this first basic assumption that it takes into account only the group and not the individual child.
As for the child in the group, he is of course rather worse off than before. For the authority of a group, even a child group, is always considerably stronger and more tyrannical than the severest authority of an individual person can ever be. If one looks at it from the standpoint of the individual child, his chances to rebel or to do anything on his own hook are practically nil; he no longer finds himself in a very unequal contest with a person who has, to be sure, absolute superiority over him but in contest with whom he can nevertheless count on the solidarity of other children, that is, of his own kind; rather he is in the position, hopeless by definition, of a minority of one confronted by the absolute majority of all the others. There are very few grown people who can endure such a situation, even when it is not supported by external means of compulsion; children are simply and utterly incapable of it.
Therefore by being emancipated from the authority of adults the child has not been freed but has been subjected to a much more terrifying and truly tyrannical authority, the tyranny of the majority. In any case the result is that the children have been so to speak banished from the world of grown-ups. They are either thrown back upon themselves or handed over to the tyranny of their own group, against which, because of its numerical superiority, they cannot rebel, with which, because they are children, they cannot reason, and out of which they cannot flee to any other world because the world of adults is barred to them. The reaction of the children to this pressure tends to be either conformism or juvenile delinquency, and is frequently a mixture of both. The second basic assumption which has come into question in the present crisis has to do with teaching. Under the influence of modern psychology and the tenets of pragmatism, pedagogy has developed into a science of teaching in general in such a way as to be wholly emancipated from the actual material to be taught. A teacher, so it was thought, is a man who can simply teach anything; his training is in teaching, not in the mastery of any particular subject. This attitude, as we shall presently see, is naturally very closely connected with a basic assumption about learning. Moreover, it has resulted in recent decades in a most serious neglect of the training of teachers in their own subjects, especially in the public high schools. Since the teacher does not need to know his own subject, it not infrequently happens that he is just one hour ahead of his class in knowledge. This in turn means not only that the students are actually left to their own resources but that the most legitimate source of the teacher’s authority as the person who, turn it whatever way one will, still knows more and can do more than oneself is no longer effective. Thus the non-authoritarian teacher, who would like to abstain from all methods of compulsion because he is able to rely on his own authority, can no longer exist.
But this pernicious role that pedagogy and the teachers’ colleges are playing in the present crisis was only possible because of a modern theory about learning. This was, quite simply, the logical application of the third basic assumption in our context, an assumption which the modern world has held for centuries and which found its systematic conceptual expression in pragmatism. This basic assumption is that you can know and understand only what you have done yourself, and its application to education is as primitive as it is obvious: to substitute, insofar as possible, doing for learning. The reason that no importance was attached to the teacher’s mastering his own subject was the wish to compel him to the exercise of the continuous activity of learning so that he would not, as they said, pass on “dead knowledge” but, instead, would constantly demonstrate how it is produced. The conscious intention was not to teach knowledge but to inculcate a skill, and the result was a kind of transformation of institutes for learning into vocational institutions which have been as successful in teaching how to drive a car or how to use a typewriter or, even more important for the “art” of living, how to get along with other people and to be popular, as they have been unable to make the children acquire the normal prerequisites of a standard curriculum.
However, this description is at fault, not only because it obviously exaggerates in order to drive home a point, but because it fails to take into account how in this process special importance was attached to obliterating as far as possible the distinction between play and work–in favor of the former. Play was looked upon as the liveliest and most appropriate way for the child to behave in the world, as the only form of activity that evolves spontaneously from his existence as a child. Only what can be learned through play does justice to this liveliness. The child’s characteristic activity, so it was thought, lies in play; learning in the old sense, by forcing a child into an attitude of passivity, compelled him to give up his own playful initiative.
The close connection between these two things–the substitution of doing for learning and of playing for working–is directly illustrated by the teaching of languages: the child is to learn by speaking, that is by doing, not by studying grammar and syntax; in other words he is to learn a foreign language in the same way that as an infant he learned his own language: as though at play and in the uninterrupted continuity of simple existence. Quite apart from the question of whether this is possible or not–it is possible, to a limited degree, only when one can keep the child all day long in the foreign-speaking environment–it is perfectly clear that this procedure consciously attempts to keep the older child as far as possible at the infant level. The very thing that should prepare the child for the world of adults, the gradually acquired habit of work and of not-playing, is done away with in favor of the autonomy of the world of childhood.
Whatever may be the connection between doing and knowing, or whatever the validity of the pragmatic formula, its application to education, that is, to the way the child learns, tends to make absolute the world of childhood in just the same way that we noted in the case of the first basic assumption. Here, too, under the pretext of respecting the child’s independence, he is debarred from the world of grown-ups and artificially kept in his own; so far as that can be called a world. This holding back of the child is artificial because it breaks off the natural relationship between grown-ups and children, which consists among other things in teaching and learning, and because at the same time it belies the fact that the child is a developing human being, that childhood is a temporary stage, a preparation for adulthood.
The present crisis in America results from the recognition of the destructiveness of these basic assumptions and a desperate attempt to reform the entire educational system, that is, to transform it completely. In doing this what is actually being attempted–except for the plans for an immense increase in the facilities for training in the physical sciences and in technology–is nothing but restoration: teaching will once more be conducted with authority; play is to stop in school hours, and serious work is once more to be done; emphasis will shift from extracurricular skills to knowledge prescribed by the curriculum; finally there is even talk of transforming the present curricula for teachers so that the teachers themselves will have to learn something before being turned loose on the children.
These proposed reforms, which are still in the discussion stage and are of purely American interest, need not concern us here. Nor can I discuss the more technical, yet in the long run perhaps even more important question of how to reform the curricula of elementary and secondary schools in all countries so as to bring them up to the entirely new requirements of the present world. What is of importance to our argument is a twofold question. Which aspects of the modern world and its crisis have actually revealed themselves in the educational crisis, that is, what are the true reasons that for decades things could be said and done in such glaring contradiction to common sense? And, second, what can we learn from this crisis for the essence of education–not in the sense that one can always learn from mistakes what ought not to be done, but rather by reflecting on the role that education plays in every civilization, that is on the obligation that the existence of children entails for every human society. We shall begin with the second question.
A crisis in education would at any time give rise to serious concern even if it did not reflect, as in the present instance it does, a more general crisis and instability in modern society. For education belongs among the most elementary and necessary activities of human society, which never remains as it is but continuously renews itself through birth, through the arrival of new human beings. These newcomers, moreover, are not finished but in a state of becoming. Thus the child, the subject of education, has for the educator a double aspect: he is new in a world that is strange to him and he is in process of becoming, he is a new human being and he is a becoming human being. This double aspect is by no means self-evident and it does not apply to the animal forms of life; it corresponds to a double relationship, the relationship to the world on the one hand and to life on the other. The child shares the state of becoming with all living things; in respect to life and its development, the child is a human being in process of becoming, just as a kitten is a cat in process of becoming. But the child is new only in relation to a world that was there before him, that will continue after his death, and in which he is to spend his life. If the child were not a newcomer in this human world but simply a not yet finished living creature, education would be just a function of life and would need to consist in nothing save that concern for the sustenance of life and that training and practice in living that all animals assume in respect to their young.
Human parents, however, have not only summoned their children into life through conception and birth, they have simultaneously introduced them into a world. In education they assume responsibility for both, for the life and development of the child and for the continuance of the world. These two responsibilities do not by any means coincide; they may indeed come into conflict with each other. The responsibility for the development of the child turns in a certain sense against the world: the child requires special protection and care so that nothing destructive may happen to him from the world. But the world, too, needs protection to keep it from being overrun and destroyed by the onslaught of the new that bursts upon it with each new generation.
Because the child must be protected against the world, his traditional place is in the family, whose adult members daily return back from the outside world and withdraw into the security of private life within four walls. These four walls, within which people’s private family life is lived, constitute a shield against the world and specifically against the public aspect of the world. They enclose a secure place, without which no living thing can thrive. This holds good not only for the life of childhood but for human life in general. Wherever the latter is consistently exposed to the world without the protection of privacy and security its vital quality is destroyed. In the public world, common to all, persons count, and so does work, that is, the work of our hands that each of us contributes to our common world; but life qua life does not matter there. The world cannot be regardful of it, and it has to be hidden and protected from the world.
Everything that lives, not vegetative life alone, emerges from darkness and, however strong its natural tendency to thrust itself into the light, it nevertheless needs the security of darkness to grow at all. This may indeed be the reason that children of famous parents so often turn out badly. Fame penetrates the four walls, invades their private space, bringing with it, especially in present-day conditions, the merciless glare of the public realm, which floods everything in the private lives of those concerned, so that the children no longer have a place of security where they can grow. But exactly the same destruction of the real living space occurs wherever the attempt is made to turn the children themselves into a kind of world. Among these peer groups then arises public life of a sort and, quite apart from the fact that it is not a real one and that the whole attempt is a sort of fraud, the damaging fact remains that children –that is, human beings in process of becoming but not yet complete–are thereby forced to expose themselves to the light of a public existence.
That modern education, insofar as it attempts to establish a world of children, destroys the necessary conditions for vital development and growth seems obvious. But that such harm to the developing child should be the result of modern education strikes one as strange indeed, for this education maintained that its exclusive aim was to serve the child and rebelled against the methods of the past because these had not sufficiently taken into account the child’s inner nature and his needs. “The Century of the Child,” as we may recall, was going to emancipate the child and free him from the standards derived from the adult world. Then how could it happen that the most elementary conditions of life necessary for the growth and development of the child were overlooked or simply not recognized? How could it happen that the child was exposed to what more than anything else characterized the adult world, its public aspect, after the decision had just been reached that the mistake in all past education had been to see the child as nothing but an undersized grown-up?
The reason for this strange state of affairs has nothing directly to do with education; it is rather to be found in the judgments and prejudices about the nature of private life and public world and their relation to each other which have been characteristic of modern society since the beginning of modern times and which educators, when they finally began, relatively late, to modernize education, accepted as self-evident assumptions without being aware of the consequences they must necessarily have for the life of the child. It is the peculiarity of modern society, and by no means a matter of course, that it regards life, that is, the earthly life of the individual as well as the family, as the highest good; and for this reason, in contrast to all previous centuries, emancipated this life and all the activities that have to do with its preservation and enrichment from the concealment of privacy and exposed them to the light of the public world. This is the real meaning of the emancipation of workers and women, not as persons, to be sure, but insofar as they fulfil a necessary function in the life-process of society.
The last to be affected by this process of emancipation were the children, and the very thing that had meant a true liberation for the workers and the women–because they were not only workers and women but persons as well, who therefore had a claim on the public world, that is, a right to see and be seen in it, to speak and be heard–was an abandonment and betrayal in the case of the children, who are still at the stage where the simple fact of life and growth outweighs the factor of personality. The more completely modem society discards the distinction between what is private and what is public, between what can thrive only in concealment and what needs to be shown to all in the full light of the public world, the more, that is, it introduces between the private and the public a social sphere in which the private is made public and vice versa, the harder it makes things for its children, who by nature require the security of concealment in order to mature undisturbed.
However serious these infringements of the conditions for vital growth may be, it is certain that they were entirely unintentional; the central aim of all modern education efforts has been the welfare of the child, a fact that is, of course, no less true even if the efforts made have not always succeeded in promoting the child’s welfare in the way that was hoped. The situation is entirely different in the sphere of educational tasks directed no longer toward the child but toward the young person, the newcomer and stranger, who has been born into an already existing world which he does not know. These tasks are primarily, but not exclusively, the responsibility of the schools; they have to do with teaching and learning; the failure in this field is the most urgent problem in America today. What lies at the bottom of it?
Normally the child is first introduced to the world in school. Now school is by no means the world and must not pretend to be; it is rather the institution that we interpose between the private domain of home and the world in order to make the transition from the family to the world possible at all. Attendance there is required not by the family but by the state, that is by the public world, and so, in relation to the child, school in a sense represents the world, although it is not yet actually the world. At this stage of education adults, to be sure, once more assume a responsibility for the child, but by now it is not so much responsibility for the vital welfare of a growing thing as for what we generally call the free development of characteristic qualities and talents. This, from the general and essential point of view, is the uniqueness that distinguishes every human being from every other, the quality by virtue of which he is not only a stranger in the world but something that has never been here before.
Insofar as the child is not yet acquainted with the world, he must be gradually introduced to it; insofar as he is new, care must be taken that this new thing comes to fruition in relation to the world as it is. In any case, however, the educators here stand in relation to the young as representatives of a world for which they must assume responsibility although they themselves did not make it, and even though they may, secretly or openly, wish it were other than it is. This responsibility is not arbitrarily imposed upon educators; it is implicit in the fact that the young are introduced by adults into a continuously changing world. Anyone who refuses to assume joint responsibility for the world should not have children and must not be allowed to take part in educating them.
In education this responsibility for the world takes the form of authority. The authority of the educator and the qualifications of the teacher are not the same thing. Although a measure of qualification is indispensable for authority, the highest possible qualification can never by itself beget authority. The teacher’s qualification consists in knowing the world and being able to instruct others about it, but his authority rests on his assumption of responsibility for that world. Vis-a-vis the child it is as though he were a representative of all adult inhabitants, pointing out the details and saying to the child: This is our world.
Now we all know how things stand today in respect to authority. Whatever one’s attitude toward this problem may be, it is obvious that in public and political life authority either plays no role at all–for the violence and terror exercised by the totalitarian countries have, of course, nothing to do with authority–or at most plays a highly contested role. This, however, simply means, in essence, that people do not wish to require of anyone or to entrust to anyone the assumption of responsibility for everything else, for wherever true authority existed it was joined with responsibility for the course of things in the world. If we remove authority from political and public life, it may mean that from now on an equal responsibility for the course of the world is to be required of everyone. But it may also mean that the claims of the world and the requirements of order in it are being consciously or unconsciously repudiated; all responsibility for the world is being rejected, the responsibility for giving orders no less than for obeying them. There is no doubt that in the modern loss of authority both intentions play a part and have often been simultaneously and inextricably at work together.
In education, on the contrary, there can be no such ambiguity in regard to the present-day loss of authority. Children cannot throw off educational authority, as though they were in a position of oppression by an adult majority– though even this absurdity of treating children as an oppressed minority in need of liberation has actually been tried out in modern educational practice. Authority has been discarded by the adults, and this can mean only one thing: that the adults refuse to assume responsibility for the world into which they have brought the children.
There is of course a connection between the loss of authority in public and political life and in the private pre-political realms of the family and the school. The more radical the distrust of authority becomes in the public sphere, the greater the probability naturally becomes that the private sphere will not remain inviolate. There is this additional fact, and it is very likely the decisive one, that from time out of mind we have been accustomed in our tradition of political thought to regard the authority of parents over children, of teachers over pupils, as the model by which to understand political authority. It is just this model, which can be found as early as Plato and Aristotle, that makes the concept of authority in politics so extraordinarily ambiguous. It is based, first of all, on an absolute superiority such as can never exist among adults and which, from the point of view of human dignity, must never exist. In the second place, following the model of the nursery, it is based on a purely temporary superiority and therefore becomes self-contradictory if it is applied to relations that are not temporary by nature –such as the relations of the rulers and the ruled. Thus it lies in the nature of the matter–that is, both in the nature of the present crisis in authority and in the nature of our traditional political thought–that the loss of authority which began in the political sphere should end in the private one; and it is naturally no accident that the place where political authority was first undermined, that is, in America, should be the place where the modem crisis in education makes itself most strongly felt.
The general loss of authority could, in fact, hardly find more radical expression than by its intrusion into the pre-political sphere, where authority seemed dictated by nature itself and independent of all historical changes and political conditions. On the other hand, modern man could find no clearer expression for his dissatisfaction with the world, for his disgust with things as they are, than by his refusal to assume, in respect to his children, responsibility for all this. It is as though parents daily said: “In this world even we are not very securely at home; how to move about in it, what to know, what skills to master, are mysteries to us too. You must try to make out as best you can; in any case you are not entitled to call us to account. We are innocent, we wash our hands of you.”
This attitude has, of course, nothing to do with that revolutionary desire for a new order in the world – Novus Ordo Seclorum – which once animated America; it is rather a symptom of that modern estrangement from the world which can be seen everywhere but which presents itself in especially radical and desperate form under the conditions of a mass society. It is true that modem educational experiments, not in America alone, have struck very revolutionary poses, and this has, to a certain degree, increased the difficulty of clearly recognizing the situation and caused a certain degree of confusion in the discussion of the problem; for in contradiction to all such behavior stands the unquestionable fact that so long as America was really animated by that spirit she never dreamed of initiating the new order with education but, on the contrary, remained conservative in educational matters.
To avoid misunderstanding: it seems to me that conservatism, in the sense of conservation, is of the essence of the educational activity, whose task is always to cherish and protect something the child against the world, the world against the child, the new against the old, the old against the new. Even the comprehensive responsibility for the world that is thereby assumed implies, of course, a conservative attitude. But this holds good only for the realm of education, or rather for the relations between grown-ups and children, and not for the realm of politics, where we act among and with adults and equals. In politics this conservative attitude–which accepts the world as it is, striving only to preserve the status quo–can only lead to destruction, because the world, in gross and in detail, is irrevocably delivered up to the ruin of time unless human beings are determined to intervene, to alter, to create what is new. Hamlet’s words, “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right,” are more or less true for every new generation, although since the beginning of our century they have perhaps acquired a more persuasive validity than before.
Basically we are always educating for a world that is or is becoming out of joint, for this is the basic human situation, in which the world is created by mortal hands to serve mortals for a limited time as home. Because the world is made by mortals it wears out; and because it continuously changes its inhabitants it runs the risk of becoming as mortal as they. To preserve the world against the mortality of its creators and inhabitants it must be constantly set right anew. The problem is simply to educate in such a way that a setting–right remains actually possible, even though it can, of course, never be assured. Our hope always hangs on the new which every generation brings; but precisely because we can base our hope only on this, we destroy everything if we so try to control the new that we, the old, can dictate how it will look. Exactly for the sake of what is new and revolutionary in every child, education must be conservative; it must preserve this newness and introduce it as a new thing into an old world, which, however revolutionary its actions may be, is always, from the standpoint of the next generation, superannuated and close to destruction.
The real difficulty in modern education lies in the fact that, despite all the fashionable talk about a new conservatism, even that minimum of conservation and the conserving attitude without which education is simply not possible is in our time extraordinarily hard to achieve There are very good reasons for this The crisis of authority in education is most closely connected with the crisis of tradition, that is with the crisis in our attitude toward the realm of the past. This aspect of the modern crisis is especially hard for the educator to bear, because it is his task to mediate between the old and the new, so that his very profession requires of him an extraordinary respect for the past. Through long centuries, i.e., throughout the combined period of Roman-Christian civilization, there was no need for him to become aware of this special quality in himself because reverence for the past was an essential part of the Roman frame of mind, and this was not altered or ended by Christianity, but simply shifted onto different foundations.
It was of the essence of the Roman attitude (though this was by no means true of every civilization or even of the Western tradition taken as a whole) to consider the past qua past as a model, ancestors, in every instance, as guiding examples for their descendants; to believe that all greatness lies in what has been, and therefore that the most fitting human age is old age, the man grown old, who, because he is already almost an ancestor, may serve as a model for the living. All this stands in contradiction not only to our world and to the modem age from the Renaissance on, but, for example, to the Greek attitude toward life as well. When Goethe said that growing old is “the gradual withdrawal from the world of appearances,” his was a comment made in the spirit of the Greeks, for whom being and appearing coincide. The Roman attitude would have been that precisely in growing old and slowly disappearing from the community of mortals man reaches his most characteristic form of being, even though, in respect to the world of appearances, he is in the process of disappearing; for only now can he approach the existence in which he will be an authority for others.
With the undisturbed background of such a tradition, in which education has a political function (and this was a unique case), it is in fact comparatively easy to do the right thing in matters of education without even pausing to consider what one is really doing, so completely is the specific ethos of the educational principle in accord with the basic ethical and moral convictions of society at large. To educate, in the words of Polybius, was simply “to let you see that you are altogether worthy of your ancestors,” and in this business the educator could be a “fellow-contestant” and a “fellow-workman” because he too, though on a different level, went through life with his eyes glued to the past. Fellowship and authority were in this case indeed but the two sides of the same matter, and the teacher’s authority was firmly grounded in the encompassing authority of the past as such. Today, however, we are no longer in that position; and it makes little sense to act as though we still were and had only, as it were, accidentally strayed from the right path and were free at any moment to find our way back to it. This means that wherever the crisis has occurred in the modern world, one cannot simply go on nor yet simply turn back. Such a reversal will never bring us anywhere except to the same situation out of which the crisis has just arisen. The return would simply be a repeat performance–though perhaps different in form, since there are no limits to the possibilities of nonsense and capricious notions that can be decked out as the last word in science. On the other hand, simple, unreflective perseverance, whether it be pressing forward in the crisis or adhering to the routine that blandly believes the crisis will not engulf its particular sphere of life, can only, because it surrenders to the course of time, lead to ruin; it can only, to be more precise, increase that estrangement from the world by which we are already threatened on all sides. Consideration of the principles of education must take into account this process of estrangement from the world; it can even admit that we are here presumably confronted by an automatic process, provided only that it does not forget that it lies within the power of human thought and action to interrupt and arrest such processes.
The problem of education in the modern world lies in the fact that by its very nature it cannot forgo either authority or tradition, and yet must proceed in a world that is neither structured by authority nor held together by tradition. That means, however, that not just teachers and educators, but all of us, insofar as we live in one world together with our children and with young people, must take toward them an attitude radically different from the one we take toward one another. We must decisively divorce the realm of education from the others, most of all from the realm of public, political life, in order to apply to it alone a concept of authority and an attitude toward the past which are appropriate to it but have no general validity and must not claim a general validity in the world of grown-ups.
In practice the first consequence of this would be a clear understanding that the function of the school is to teach children what the world is like and not to instruct them in the art of living. Since the world is old, always older than they themselves, learning inevitably turns toward the past, no matter how much living will spend itself in the present. Second, the line drawn between children and adults should signify that one can neither educate adults nor treat children as though they were grown up; but this line should never be permitted to grow into a wall separating children from the adult community as though they were not living in the same world and as though childhood were an autonomous human state, capable of living by its own laws. Where the line between childhood and adulthood falls in each instance cannot be determined by a general rule; it changes often, in respect to age, from country to country, from one civilization to another, and also from individual to individual. But education, as distinguished from learning, must have a predictable end. In our civilization this end probably coincides with graduation from college rather than with graduation from high school, for the professional training in universities or technical schools, though it always has something to do with education, is nevertheless in itself a kind of specialization. It no longer aims to introduce the young person to the world as a whole, but rather to a particular, limited segment of it. One cannot educate without at the same time teaching; an education without learning is empty and therefore degenerates with great ease into moral emotional rhetoric. But one can quite easily teach without educating, and one can go on learning to the end of one’s days without for that reason becoming educated. All these are particulars, however, that must really be left to the experts and the pedagogues.
What concerns us all and cannot therefore be turned over to the special science of pedagogy is the relation between grown-ups and children in general or, putting it in even more general and exact terms, our attitude toward the fact of natality: the fact that we have all come into the world by being born and that this world is constantly renewed through birth. Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.
This good woman next blessed Solomon’s God in these beautiful Words—“Blessed be the Lord thy God, which delighteth in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the Lord loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king to do judgment and justice.” She blessed his God. So we are drawn to a sweet union of heart to God through a knowledge of Christ, and as our love flows downward ward from Christ to his people, so it goes upward from Christ to his Father. You will notice that she avowed her love to him because of his everlasting love to his people. Notice, she does not say anything about Abyssinia— she is thinking about Israel, about the chosen. She sees distinguishing, discriminating, electing love, and she perceives the everlastingness of this love—“Because he loved Israel for ever, therefore he has made thee king.” O brethren and sisters, may we so grow in grace that we may love the Father because he hath made Christ to be the anointed for this reason, because he loved his Church and gave his Son for it, that he might cleanse it from all sin by his own precious blood.
Once more, she then did what was the best proof of her truthfulness, she gave to Solomon of her treasures—“She gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.” And so souls that know the beauty of Christ give him all they have. There are no such spices as those which come from newly-converted souls. Nothing gives Christ greater delight than the love of his people. We think our love to be a very poor and common thing, but he does not think so—he has set such a store by us that he gave his heart’s blood to redeem us, and now he looks upon us as being worth the price he paid. He never will think that he had a bad bargain of it, and so he looks upon every grain of our love as being even choicer spices than archangels before the throne can render to him in their songs. What are we doing for Christ? Are we bringing him our talents of gold? Perhaps you have not one hundred and twenty, but if you have one bring that; you have not very much spices, but bring what ye have—your silent, earnest prayers, your holy, consistent life, the words you sometimes speak for Christ, the training up of your children, the feeding of his poor, the clothing of the naked, the visitation of the sick, the comforting of his mourners, the winning of his wanderers, the restoring of his backsliders, the saving of his blood-bought souls—all these shall be like camels laden with spices, an acceptable gift to the Most High.
When she had done this, Solomon made her a present of his royal bounty. She lost nothing; she gave all she had, and then Solomon gave her quite as much again, for I will be bound to say King Solomon would not be outdone in generosity, such a noble-hearted prince as he, and so rich. I tell you Jesus Christ will never be in your debt. Oh, it is a great gain to give to Christ; we give him pence and he gives us pounds; we give him years of labour and he gives us an eternity of rest; we give him days of patient endurance and he gives us ages of joyous honour; we give him a little suffering and he gives us great rewards. “I reckon that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Besides what he gives us in the covenant of grace, you note, he does for us what Solomon did for her, he gives us all that is in our heart, all that we can desire. What a King is our Saviour, who will not let his people have one ungratified wish, if that wish is a good one! Knock and the gate shall open. “Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it,” saith the Lord. “According to your faith so be it done unto you.” “Whatsoever ye ask in prayer believe that ye have it, and ye shall have it.” What precious promises, and all these are given to those who come with a humble enquiry, willing to get Christ first and then to get the rest afterwards.
Well, beloved, we are told that this Queen went home to her nation, and tradition says, that she was the means of proselytizing the Abyssinian people. I do not know whether that was true or not. It is remarkable that in the apostles’ days, there should have been an eunuch, a man of great authority under Candace, Queen of Ethiopia—it looks as if there may have lingered something of the divine light in this woman’s dominions right on to the day of the Saviour, so that there was found another queen there at that time, and another noble personage who would come all that distance to Jerusalem for to worship. Well, whether she did so not, I know what you ought to do; if you have come to King Solomon, and searched and found for yourselves, go and spread the fame of it; talk about him everywhere. It was the fame of him that first brought you: increase that fame and others will come. Talk of him when thou stayest in thine house and when thou goest by the way, when thou sittest down and when thou risest up; count no place to be an unfit place to talk of Jesus; bear him in thy bosom in thy business; carry him in thy heart in thy pleasures; wear his name as a frontlet between thine eyes, and write it on the door-posts of thy house, for he is worthy for whom thou shalt do this. His name shall be remembered as long as the sun, and men shall be blessed in him—yea, all men shall call him blessed, all kings shall fall down before him; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts, the whole earth shall be filled with his glory. Amen and amen. The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, were ended; and so shall ours be, too, when that consummation shall have really taken place.
Source: Charles H. Spurgeon Sermon: The Queen of The South, or The Earnest Enquirer: https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-queen-of-the-south-or-the-earnest-enquirer/