Things always hit harder when they’re close to home.
Perhaps that’s why waking up to images of a burning Minneapolis is rather painful. Twitter shows images of blazing buildings and looted stores, while masked rioters and bystanders roam the streets. (Those COVID masks seem to have come in handy.)
I’ve driven and walked those streets. I know people who live in those neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it’s those innocent people who will be most hurt by the riots, looting, and the burning of their neighborhoods. I know it. They know it.
The injustice wrought on George Floyd was terrible and the offending officer should be prosecuted, given a fair trial, and punished if found guilty. But is this chaos really the best way to deal with tragedy?
Sadly, the riots in Minneapolis and Los Angeles are just the latest examples of unrest in America. Restless from being cooped up by COVID lockdowns, feeling the economic squeeze, and fearful of the virus, Americans seem ready to explode at the drop of a hat. Add in anger over our leadership’s behavior and media censorship and the perfect storm seems to have developed in America.
How did we reach this state? Was there a point where we took a wrong turn?
Author and historian Will Durant offers insight on that question in Volume I of The Story of Civilization:
Institutions which were at first in the hands of the clergy, like law and punishment, education and morals, marriage and divorce, tend to escape from ecclesiastical control, and become secular, perhaps profane. The intellectual classes abandon the ancient theology and—after some hesitation—the moral code allied with it; literature and philosophy become anticlerical.
In essence, when our society’s major institutions – such as marriage, education, and law – cut ties with their moral foundations, the results are problematic. Looking for other moorings, society becomes chaotic:
The movement of liberation rises to an exuberant worship of reason, and falls to a paralyzing disillusionment with every dogma and every idea. Conduct, deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death.
In recent weeks we’ve seen churches shuttered due to COVID-19 restrictions. Just last week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz allowed restaurants and bars to reopen for up to 50 patrons, calling them “integral to what makes Minnesota great,” while at the same time restricting religious services to no more than 10 people. While Walz eventually changed his tune, his initial decree provides a sad indictment of how little our society values religion and morality.
Given Durant’s words and their similarity to our present culture, are we on the verge of seeing our country’s downfall? If so, is it still possible for us to reverse the present sadness, injustice, and chaos by returning to the roots of morality and faith which are so vital to a joyful, thriving society?
[Image Credit: Twitter @maxnesterak]
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.