My latest article on MercatorNet takes the providential view a step further by speculating on what good might come out of the dismantling of traditional moral structures and principles in society and the state.
Like an internet service-provider, we will increasingly expect the state to keep us connected and free from unwanted interference, the perfect venue for the exercise of autonomy.
And despite its association with various ethical issues, autonomy is not a bad thing. It’s a part of our humanity and deserves exercise and respect.
The rise of individual autonomy is not intrinsically evil, nor was the paternalism of the past.
But with providence in mind, the overall trend suggests a development or evolution of our social and political structure, and it’s no accident of history that the rise of individual autonomy came on the heels of the most horrific expressions of collectivism and statism.
Having a smaller, less stable income these days has left me newly appreciative of certain biblical passages:
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Money too is more than food and clothing, and as such I think it gives us a sense of security and sufficiency that inhibits our sensitivity to providence. Why should we ‘trust in God’ when we have permanent employment and a guaranteed income?
This balance between material security and spiritual dependence is complex, as demonstrated by the contending interpretations of the beatitude of the ‘poor in spirit’, and the story of the rich young man who went away sad.
It’s not wealth per se that is the problem, but our devotion to it over and above higher things; allowing it to dominate our lives and our minds. At times it can be hard to tell whether we are the masters of wealth or the slaves, driven by financial imperatives with nothing higher to intervene or change our minds.
I think this is the significance of my decision not to follow the financial imperative back into mediocre employment for the sake of a reliable income and the sense of security and sufficiency it affords. The decision to cease compromising my integrity for the sake of money means acknowledging something higher than my income in a society where a high income is more often than not the summum bonum.