News and Commentary

KHAN: Why Progressives Can’t Save The World
Atlas statue at Rockefeller Center in New York, United States, on October 11, 2017. (Photo by Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” Alexander Pope famously stated in his poem An Essay on Man. From a religious vantage point, that means it’s inherent to existence and beyond, not something that manifests itself by attending rallies, protests, or voting some perceived savior into office. Progressives seem to think otherwise and often in mind-numbing fashion.

From climate change to human rights, progressives insist that it rests upon their shoulders to affect some sort of cosmic change in the world. Their view of existence is rooted in a spiritual fallacy of sorts. For them, all of existence is self-contained and only exists on some fatiguing historical and horizontal line rather than the decidedly vertical aspirations that only faith can offer. There is little to no sense of God or the afterlife. Eschatological considerations are cast aside. Certainly, if God is even considered, His omnipotence and omniscience are rendered impotent.

As a result, progressives insist that civilization can only move forward through the efforts of human volition alone. It’s no wonder things only become worse with their dogged insistence.

In 1976, renowned religious scholar Huston Smith addressed the terrible, mythical stature this flawed notion of progress had achieved during the 20th century in his work Forgotten Truth. Smith writes:

“The [20th] century in which politicians have preyed on hope unprecedentedly, promising ‘The Century of the Common Man,’ ‘The War to End All Wars,’ ‘The War To Make the World Safe for Democracy,’ ‘The Four Freedoms,’ ‘The Great Society’ – this century of maniacally inflated expectations has seen utopian writing come to a dead stop…Even Bergsen, who moved Darwin into philosophy, came at the end to view that man was ‘being crushed by the immense progress’ he has made.” 

Now, more than forty years later, amid an onslaught of postmodernity and even more supposed progress — in medicine, technology and, most importantly, values — a silent pandemic of despair festers and grows all around us, particularly here in America, the bastion of all things seemingly progressive.

What progressives seek verges on fantasy and delusion. Their myopic, reductive view of the world bereft of any meaningful notion of God forces them to act as though omnipotence is a human possibility with just the right amount of outcry and activism. Inevitably, a terrible cynicism forms and festers as their efforts prove hopeless in effecting the radical change they convince themselves is possible.

To be sure, faith in God does not render us dogmatic or fatalistic. It can liberate us from the bonds of tragedy and despair. We do not labor like some histrionic Atlas with the weight of the world upon our shoulders, as is the case with so many progressives. Instead, faith and God embolden us toward humble heroism, sacrifice, and composure.

The lines that follow Pope’s famous words in his immortal poem are worth quoting in full for those of us that do our best to recognize that, ultimately, the world will always reside in God’s benevolence and might:

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast:

Man never is, but always to be blest:

The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

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