Monday, September 28, 2015

Growth, Change, And Death

     Perhaps it’s for the best that the political news has been so stagnant lately, and not just because “no news is good news.” It also leaves me free to address other matters, including some to which I once devoted a much greater share of my thinking and writing.

     After reflecting on this story, Tom Kratman wrote as follows:

     Plausible. Idiots or traitors; Holy Mother Church lives because she changes so little. They will murder it.

     ...and as sometimes happens when his face has been slammed full-tilt into a bedrock truth of reality, a little light went on in Your Curmudgeon’s skull.

     If you’ve read John Wyndham’s classic dystopic novel Re-Birth, you might be familiar with the following passage:

     “Your work is to survive. Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled – they have nowhere more to go. But life is change, that is how it differs from the rocks, change is its very nature. Who, then, were the recent lords of creation, that they should expect to remain unchanged? ‘The living form defies evolution at its peril; if it does not adapt, it will be broken. The idea of completed man is the supreme vanity: the finished image is a sacrilegious myth.”

     It’s a perspective many would endorse without reflection. Many would say it’s beyond refutation. But it’s incomplete.

     Individual living organisms do appear to adhere to the law that “the cessation of change is the beginning of death.” Certainly we would resist ascribing the characteristic alive to something that never changes: i.e., that sits eternally in one place and in one position, consumes nothing, produces nothing, and exhibits no dynamism whatsoever. But what seems an ironclad law when applied to individuals appears flawed when we examine the peculiar kind of colony organism we call an institution.

     Institutions are assembled to focus on an agenda: a list of goals to be pursued. In a sense that transcends all matters of place, time, and personnel, the institution is the agenda and the agenda is the institution. The institution came into existence entirely because of the agenda; were the latter never to have formed, neither would the former.

     A particularly illuminating case of this can be found in the March of Dimes. The original March of Dimes was formed ostensibly to raise funds for the pursuit of a remedy for poliomyelitis. When the polio vaccine was perfected, the March of Dimes’ executives saw death approaching. So they rechartered: they changed their overt agenda from combating polio to combating birth defects. The executives kept their jobs, as did most of the lower-level employees, and the fundraising continued uninterrupted.

     Reflect on that for a moment. Let’s stipulate for the purpose of argument that the March of Dimes was sincerely focused on fighting polio. The victory over polio was stunningly complete; therefore, the mission had been accomplished and the March of Dimes could end. But it didn’t. It adopted a new nominal agenda so that those whose livelihoods depended on it wouldn’t have to seek other work. Therefore, if the original agenda was sincere, the institution that had called itself the March of Dimes was no more. In its place was an identically named institution, largely populated by the same workers in the same places, whose real agenda is the perpetuation of their jobs.

     Not every institutional death is announced via a corporate dissolution or notice of bankruptcy.

     The Catholic Church came into existence to conserve and propagate the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God, and the Redeemer of Mankind. That is the whole of its justification for existence. Should it cease to serve that end, it will no longer be the Church Christ Himself founded; it will have died. Perhaps something else will animate its corpse, seeing in it a useful vessel with which to pursue some other agenda.

     The institution is the agenda and the agenda is the institution. Tom’s observation that the survival of the Church requires that it change very little, and very slowly, is on all fours with this principle. Change in an institution’s agenda must remain wholly, organically consistent with the original agenda. Only a vague (and therefore of dubious sincerity) agenda permits large, swift changes without killing the institution that pursues it.

     From the original Rod Dreher article:

     These men — [Cardinals] Danneels, Van Luyn, Kasper, Lehman, and Hume, at least — all preside over dying churches.

     It is frequently observable that the bitter and resentful cannot abide the health or happiness of others. Though it would do them no good at all, they strive, entirely out of envy (“Hatred of the good for being good” – Joseph Sobran), to drag those others down into destruction with them. And so, it appears, do the European prelates tabulated above.

     A war is in progress. The survival of the Church – the real Church, not the “stained-glass staging area for the crusades of special interest groups” – is visibly at stake. And every sincere Christian on Earth is a soldier on the front lines.


Dystopic said...

I find it ironic that now, as the hatred of Christianity and the Progressive self-loathing of many Christians increases exponentially... I am, personally, finding my way back to God. Sometimes I think I am just attracted to lost causes. I don't know.

But I want to fight for the survival of Christianity, and not some watered down, Progressive entity *calling itself* Christianity.

What I can do, I will do.

Erbo said...

You've just restated Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy: Any organization will have two types of people: those dedicated to the organization's mission, and those dedicated to perpetuating the organization itself. Over time, the second group will gain and keep control of the organization.

Tom Kratman said...

Jerry's Law is somewhat off. There are _four_ kinds of people, not two, in a bureaucracy. Besides the two he mentioned there are those who work neither for the bureaucracy nor for the goals of the bureaucracy, but only for themselves, and there are those who do no work for anyone or anything at all, but just draw a paycheck. I surmise that the existence of those latter categories is all that makes living in a bureaucratic state remotely tolerable. said...

Amen Fran - all institutions of men eventually head south. Perhaps that's why Marx (Groucho) aptly said, "I won't belong to any organization that would have me as a member."

More interesting and encouraging to me is the apostasy Jesus predicted is happening as He said it would. The lukewarm politically correct church has no light to attract those seeking the true Light of the World.

My piece was written before I read your post - my intent is not to offend. I dare say there is a similar theme in both.


To Dystopic - don't delay - He may be shutting the door to the Ark very soon - don't be standing on the dock -- run to Jesus by way of the cross!