Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Great Reset

There has been much talk recently on the idea of a "Great Reset" for society in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic and lockdowns. Some people welcome the idea and others view it with horror. 

I found myself mulling over the phrase "Great Reset" a few days ago, and thinking how it applies to Christianity.

We are often told that the term "repentance" means literally "a turning around". I've noticed in my own case-- over and over and over again-- how easy it is for my Christianity to become simply a veneer that I throw over my own temperament, inclinations, preoccupations, and so forth.

It's very hard to let Jesus enter into you and reconstitute you all the way through, even though the New Testament tells us repeatedly that this is what we are supposed to do: "Anyone united to Christ is a new creation. The old order has passed away. Behold, all has become new."

I personally struggle to replace my own priorities with the priorities of Christ. Especially when it comes to the difference between ideas and people.

As readers of this blog will know, I'm fascinated by ideas, atmospheres, cultures, nostalgia, social history, and so forth. I have a strong tendency to focus on these rather than flesh-and-blood people. I spend far more time worrying about the decline of traditional poetry than I do about the homeless. Of course, traditional poetry is important, but it's hardly more important than homelessness.

The concern of the Gospel is always very much the person, especially the poor and the suffering.

This is only one example. I think the Great Reset (in this sense) is a perpetual project, one we have to be constantly opening ourselves to. Striving to follow God's plan for us, rather than our own preoccupations and inclinations. There is always the temptation to make him a constitutional monarch (or perhaps even a ceremonial monarch) rather than an absolute monarch.

For someone like me, who has a very powerful urge to cherish distinctiveness-- all distinctiveness, but especially my own-- this is challenging. However, I take comfort in the words of C.S. Lewis, from his lecture "Beyond Personality":

Now if we take the step, it involves losing what we now call our "selves." That doesn't mean that all people who accept Christ are going to be exactly like one another. I know it sounds as if it did. If there's one Christ, and He's to be in us all, actually replacing our personalities with His own, what difference will there be between us?

Now here I've got a rather difficult thing to say. On the one hand, it isn't true that we shall lose our personal differences by letting Christ take us over. On the other hand, I don't think Christ can take us over as long as we're bothering about what will happen to our personality. Let's take the first point first.

If a person didn't know about salt, wouldn't he think that anything with such a strong taste would kill the taste of all the other things in any dish you put it into? We know, as a matter of fact, it brings out the real taste.

Well, it's rather like that with Christ. When you've completely given up your-self to His personality you will then, for the first time in your life, be developing into a real person. He made the whole world. He invented it as an author invents characters in a book, all different men that you and I were intended to be.

Our real selves are, so to speak, all waiting for us in Him. What I call my "self" now is hardly a person at all. It's mainly a meeting place for various natural forces, desires, and fears, etcetera, some of which come from my ancestors, and some from my education, some perhaps from devils. The self you were really intended to be is something that lives not from nature but from God.

But on the other hand, it's just no good at all going to Christ for the sake of divinity or for a personality. As long as that's what you're bothering about you haven't begun, because the very first step towards getting a real self is to forget about the self. It will come only if you're looking for something else. That holds, you know, even for earthly matters: Even in literature or art, no man who cares about originality will ever be original. It's the man who's only thinking about doing a good job or telling the truth who becomes really original -- and doesn't notice it. Even in social life you'll never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking what sort of impression you make.

That principle runs all through life from the top to the bottom: Give up yourself and you'll find your real self. Lose your life and you'll save it. Submit to death, submit with every fiber of your Being and you'll find eternal life. Look for Christ and you'll get Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in. Look for yourself and you'll get only hatred, loneliness, despair, and ruin.

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