CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Any Fool Can Destroy Things

Jul 12, 2020

The wise build, while the fool destroys:

We live in a time in the West where the work of centuries is being undone in days and weeks. Western civilisation took many hundreds of years to build, but it is being destroyed overnight. The radical left is on a mission to destroy everything in its sights.

We see this with groups like Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and so many other radical hard-left groups that hate the West and want to see it razed to the ground. The cancel culture of course is a part of this, as is the radical left side of politics.

One can offer plenty of analyses of such things, whether from a cultural or social or political or ideological perspective. But those who run with the Judeo-Christian worldview have the best vantage point by which to assess, understand, and rightly diagnose these matters. As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said:

It is a characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unaware of the tragedy. Humanity in a crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives. Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because they have no standard outside of themselves by which to measure their times. If there is no fixed concept of justice, how shall men know it is violated? Only those who live by faith really know what is happening in the world; the great masses without faith are unconscious of the destructive processes going on, because they have lost the vision of the heights from which they have fallen.

A key way to demonstrate the benefit of this vantage point is to examine the nature of the one who fully opposes God and his ways in all things: the devil. Jesus very succinctly summarised what his main activities entail: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

That is about as good a description as any of what we now see all around us, with rioting, looting, anarchy, arson and murder in our major cities. Satan has plenty of his minions working overtime to tear down, to demolish, and to desecrate.

I have been reading through the book of Proverbs again over the past few days, and I have already written about one main topic found therein: fools and folly. What Scripture says about fools very nicely describes those who are seeking to burn down our cities. See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/07/10/on-fools/

And one proverb that I read this morning jumped out at me in this regard. Proverbs 14:1 says this: “The wisest of women builds her house,  but folly with her own hands tears it down.” What is true of the individual, or the household, is true of nations as well.

Fools destroy, but the wise build. And it is always so much easier to pull down and destroy than it is to raise up and build. As mentioned, it takes a very long time to make something valuable and of worth, but it takes very little time to bring it all down.

I have often quoted some key thinkers on these truths over the years, and they are worth being heard from once again. Will and Ariel Durant said this in The Lessons of History: “Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.”

Philosopher Roger Scruton remarked, “Good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created… The work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation is slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century.” Or as G. K. Chesterton put it in a slightly different context: “It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.”

And in his important 1948 essay Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, T. S. Eliot said this:

I am talking about the common tradition of Christianity which has made Europe what it is and about the common cultural elements which this common Christianity has brought with it. If Asia were converted to Christianity tomorrow, it would not thereby become a part of Europe. It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe have – until recently – been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian Faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does, will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a Nietzsche. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith. And I am convinced of that, not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready made. You must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great-grandchildren: and if we did, not one of us would be happy in it. To our Christian heritage we owe many things beside religious faith. Through it we trace the evolution of our arts, through it we have our conception of Roman Law which has done so much to shape the Western World, through it we have our conceptions of private and public morality. And through it we have our common standards of literature, in the literature of Greece and Rome. The Western world has its unity in this heritage, in Christianity and in the ancient civilisations of Greece, Rome, and Israel, from which owing to two thousand years of Christianity, we trace our descent.

And often this quick destruction of a culture or a civilisation happens more from internal pressure and decay than outward resistance and attack. Many have spoken to this. Arnold Toynbee put it like this: “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder.” And Abraham Lincoln said this: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Or as Will Durant put it, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.”

Ronald Reagan was right to say this: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.”

And Malcolm Muggeridge wrote:

So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over—a weary, battered old brontosaurus—and became extinct.

The rage and hatred, the destruction and nihilism that we see fully on display from the militant left is the stuff of fools. Our culture is awash with fools, and it will not last long unless the wise, the responsible, and the righteous say ‘enough is enough.’ Who will stand against this destruction and degeneracy? Who will resist this flood of evil?

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11 Responses to Any Fool Can Destroy Things

  • Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
    Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?
    Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?
    Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?
    By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
    We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

    Not for weight of glory, nor for crown and palm,
    Enter we the army, raise the warrior psalm;
    But for love that claimeth lives for whom He died:
    He whom Jesus saveth marches on His side.
    By Thy love constraining, by Thy grace divine,
    We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

    Jesus, Thou hast bought us, not with gold or gem,
    But with Thine own lifeblood, for Thy diadem;
    With Thy blessing filling each who comes to Thee,
    Thou hast made us willing, Thou hast made us free.
    By Thy grand redemption, by Thy grace divine,
    We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

    Fierce may be the conflict, strong may be the foe,
    But the King’s own army none can overthrow;
    ’Round His standard ranging, vict’ry is secure,
    For His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure.
    Joyfully enlisting, by Thy grace divine,
    We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

    Chosen to be soldiers, in an alien land,
    Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band;
    In the service royal, let us not grow cold,
    Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold.
    Master, wilt Thou keep us, by Thy grace divine,
    Always on the Lord’s side—Savior, always Thine!
    Frances Ridley Havergal

  • well said. I found some of what CS Lewis wrote years ago scary. Now it is happening. Also it is reminiscent of what happened in China in 1940s. Thanks

  • Now I read where the University of Southern California are going to remove a John Wayne display because of some allegedly racist remarks he once made! Is this the start of Old Hollywood Icons being torn down because of things they may have said or done in a different time and era? How far will this madness go?

  • Dear Bill, Thank you so much for this article.I couldn’t agree more. There are plenty of warnings in the Bible about preparing ourselves. People were living as if they didn’t have a care in the world just prior to the great flood. Matthew’s Gospel also teaches the parable of the ten maidens. Five were ready to meet the Lord and five were foolish and hadn’t prepared themselves. These days these passages seem to be more meaningful than ever before.

  • I finished reading this item with a will to live, not to become extinct, to leave a better world for my posterity.
    How to?
    I need to equip my immediate posterity with the same willpower, the same ethics. “I am only one but I am one” and with family and friends I am a great many more than one, I will continue to sign petitions, I will circulate meaningful enlightening proverbs by email and SMS, I will support those with positive, enlightened understanding. I will not lie down and die, without first giving this my major effort. Christ is my hope, the basis of my faith, the leader of my Church, my Saviour and my friend. There is much to do to prepare for His coming, I will do my part, as much or as little as this may be, and He will come.

  • So much of Francis A Schaeffer’s prophetic writing is coming to pass.

  • Thanks Bill, things look bleak and out of control as Satan has deceived the whole world. Satan’s main failure is ‘pride’ and so he is the father of lies, a destroyer and murderer to get his way.
    The United Kingdom was once the greatest nation and now the United States will fade away like the UK. I heard Abraham Lincoln once said ‘The US is too proud to pray to the God that made us.’
    It looks like people will have to decide which side they are on – the side of God and His righteousness or the side of the Liar, Deceiver and Destroyer that they think will bring them peace, happiness and fulfilment but makes them into fools.
    It’s best to keep praying for Godly leaders and the salvation of our loved ones. Unfortunately, to handle mankind, God has to let things get worse before they get better – like having a baby.

  • I checked to confirm Durant’s quote re ‘one century’ timescale for civilisation to disappear because I wondered if it was a typo for ‘one generation’. But I think Reagan’s timescale of ‘one generation’ for freedom to disappear is closer to the risk. Freedom in Russia disappeared in a generation and has only partly recovered, but then our freedom is looking pretty shaky too.

  • “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked” Proverbs 25:26.

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