Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How a Prince Can Screw Up the World...and How a Prince Can Save It

The first "preliminary screw up" in "10 Books that Screwed Up the World" is The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli. That book had such an impact upon culture we have a character adjective in our vocab that people use...people smarter than me, I guess, because though I know the word, I'm not sure I've ever used it...at least correctly.

Anyway, the word is "Machiavellian" and it means, according to the dictionary.com entry--living according to principles in which "political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler is described...characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty."

The scariest and most evil principle Machiavelli puts forth in The Prince is that "the whole idea of being good...is rather naive," and that what is important is not "being good, but appearing good." Another principle is that you can get away with anything if you are able to "appear religious." Machiavelli asserts that if you can "appear" religious then people are more likely to trust you and think you are moral and good and it is then easier to deceive them so you can get what you want.

Machiavelli puts forth the idea that evil can be used to accomplish things one thinks are beneficial...in other words, he is one of the first people who truly popularized the idea that "the ends justify the means." It's interesting that the author points out that The Prince was one of Lenin's favorite books!

The problem of course is that evil truly exists, and if one begins to believe that evil may be used for good, it will eventually deteriorate into using evil for any reason at all, quite apart from thinking about the least possible benefit to humanity.

Machiavelli is also one of the first writers to popularize pragmatism as a world-view. Don't worry about whether something is good or beautiful or true...only live by what you think is most effective...do whatever you feel is necessary and forget about whether the world thinks it is right or wrong (let alone whether an infinitely Personal Creator God has Written absolutes into our existence!)

Machiavelli rejects the Christian world view and despises it by saying that Christians will think of heaven and it makes people ineffective in working in the world. He also wrote that Christianity "ties our hands" by limiting what we want to do with all kinds of rules.

There's the summary...but here's the scary part...how do Machiavellian principles dwell within my own heart? First, how often am I more concerned about appearances than the actual condition of my soul? How often do I set up my posing self in oder to appear moral or good or righteous before others? How am I often one person in public and another completely different person when no one else is around? How often do I put forth the appearance of "loving God" when my heart is cold? How often do I walk into Church on Sunday mornings as nothing but a poser?

How often am I a complete pragmatist? How often am I thinking about how I can control my life, my circumstances, even people in my life to "get what I want" in the most effective and necessary way and fail to consider the way of the Gospel which is loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and loving my neighbor as myself? Let's be honest...love is not often very pragmatic...and it's never easy.

You see, the same evil that lurked within Machiavelli's heart is not so far from mine...nor your's. This is why we need to flee to Christ continually...only the power of His death and resurrection and the sin-defeating might of His amazing grace can rid my own heart of Machiavellian leanings.

The saddest thing of all, perhaps, is that Machiavelli completely missed the point of the Christian life...we're not to be so heavenly-minded that we're no earthly good! The hope and vision of heaven is to be in our sites so that we work toward bringing the Kingdom of God into reality on this planet NOW! Certainly many, many Christ-followers miss this, but the Christian is not only concerned about the eternal destiny of the souls of people. We are concerned primarily about the glory of God...and God is glorified as suffering is alleviated, evil oppression is eradicated, people are educated, widows and orphans are taken care of, and yes, even nature is cared for...in addition to being concerned that all the nations hear the Gospel!

The Christ-follower who truly knows Christ and His word knows that the end NEVER justifies the means, that love must always win over pragmatism and that we are to work with all our strength to bring the reality of the Kingdom of God, in all it's beauty and goodness, to bear upon this planet in our every sphere of influence, including all our vocations and all our relationships.

So, the only answer to books that have screwed up the world is The Book that tells us how the world got so screwed up, why there are screwed up books and how Christ, the TRUE PRINCE, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is ruling to change the world...and invites us to join Him.


Paul said...

and yes, even nature is cared for...

Why is this an "even"? Human beings are part of nature, not separate from it. Nature is not a thing "out there" that we can decide to care for or not. If we don't care for it, all the other things won't be possible, because we won't have a place within which to pursue the all the things that will lead us to enlightenment (or God's Kingdom).

Anonymous said...

I have a response to this about to appear on my blogs, but somehow there were some points that made me shudder. So I want to reply to them, but my response is too long.

Anonymous said...

Yet I agree with some of things indicated. And what's so IMPRACTICAL about love when that's what Christians are COMMANDED to do? Except I don't see it....