Ignatius Martyrdom by Lions in the Colosseum 2nd Century A.D.
While perusing the pages of history books, one could get lost in tales of tragedy, and horrors unspeakable. While the Barbarity of ISIS might seem out of step with humanity, the truth is its penchant for cruelty is much more the rule for mankind than the exception. Biblical savagery is borne out by other records as being all too common. In Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome, cruelty was a fact of life, nor was it merely as Mediterranean/Western phenomenon. Chinese Emperors killed as easily and without conscious as their Western counterparts. The cruelty of Mesoamerican peoples rose to rival the worst of the lot, regardless of time or place. Even though proto-socialist like Rousseau used to idealize the American Indian as living in a state of near godly perfection, their lifestyles were marred by constant warfare and barbarity as well.
In contrast to evolutionary science, the real climb from primordial ooze to higher life form is not found in the fossil record, but among the annals of man’s treatment of man. It was not, as the early progressives proclaimed, the natural evolution of humanity that raised man’s collective conscience to a higher plane, but a more sublime view of man’s place in the world. A deeper understanding that did not take place in the inner recesses of the human intellect, but was directed by a new philosophy/religion; one that proclaimed that we are our brother’s keeper.
Religion is a much part of mankind as hunger and the drive to procreate. A search for meaning, a reason for existence beyond just the continuation of a species, is a spark that lives in us all. Whether it has been allegiance to an individual, a cause, or a set of beliefs, all seek out their personal answer to “why am I here.” For the most part, the search for meaning has led down roads laden with blood.
The need to be needed, to serve and be part of something greater than oneself, can’t be gratified with platitudes. Most often than not, it has come to the beat of military drums, with rallying with cries of allegiance to some man or cause. Rarely, it has come in the form of religious fanaticism. No matter the form, it sweeps up the weak minded into the fervor.
The West slowly rose above this pattern by substituting servitude for drumbeats. Christianity slowly beat swords to plowshares through a simple concept; true meaning is found in serving God, and to do so through serving your fellow man. Aligning Natural Law and its values, with a purpose beyond greed, if forged the Judeo ethos into simple undeniable truths. For the world, the rise of Christendom, like the birth of Christ himself, marked a change in the world. While evil was not vanquished under its tutelage, nor was there an end to war, but the movement of societies from barbarity to civility was undeniable. These ideas were not contained to the West, or even Christendom, but spread across the globe. Even as the world has started to divert from this path, vestiges of Judeo-Christian values remain. Fading shadows of civility in a world turning in upon itself.
Today, the increase in societal violence is a reminder that, for humanity, a civil society is not a natural one. The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God have more often than not been tossed in favor of the baser nature of man himself; greed, selfishness, and tolerance of the same has to often been the rule. It is more than evident, the forces that lifted up the stature of women, stamped out slavery, and gave rise to charity are not necessarily irreversible. The civil society is predicated on shared values that promote a mutual respect and caring for one another. When these are removed, demagogues, demigods, and dictators take their place, directing mankind’s unchained inner demons for their own devices.
The founding fathers proclaimed that for a society to rule itself, it most first rule the inner man. Only a moral society can hope to rise to the challenge of democratically elected governance, any other is fit only for leashes and yokes. This sentiment was not just self-righteous meanderings, but an axiom proven by eons of human existence. The truth was, that the reappearance of self-rule, after a more than two millennia absence, was not happenstance, but a reflection that a society had risen to the task.
As the violent tear at the foundations of civil society, and rage replaces love as the emotion of choice, freedom will be sacrificed for order. A casualty of those who would supplant a belief in God, and respect for their fellow man, for worship of mother earth, neo-paganism, and/or statism in all its forms. Among this lot, the needs of their fellow man, and of the society that nurtures them, are ignored, if not wholesale attacked. Division is replacing unity, with each man an island or part of one. A fracturing of society that sets mankind once again on a course to become an unruly mob, fit only for the harness.
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Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Edmund Burke