Monday, January 31, 2005

Missionaries in Paris?

In Samuel Gregg's column from today's WSJ titled Corporatism, Entrepreneurship, and Faith, he highlights the lack of entrepreneurial spirit in Europe. He discusses causes such as bloated and restrictive beaurocracies concerning small business as well as the social welfare norms, but he also addresses the "enlightened" secularism with its attendant dissociation and despair that plagues the vital young people who could be building Europe's future.

It is difficult for people with atheistic mindsets to be what John Paul II calls "people of hope." Those with no hope have only the present. They have no compelling reason to be interested in the future -- for themselves or for others. Why should those who refuse responsibility for the future, or those who do not concern themselves with it because they will have departed this life in 30 years' time, care about unsustainable levels of welfare dependency, paralyzed labor markets, or crippling regulation?

The idea that there is something wrong with foisting the payment for one's present comfort onto future generations (as many Western Europeans seem content to do) is incomprehensible to secularist minds. For if we believe that all that matters is our own present satisfaction and that no one owes anything to others, then it does not seem unjust to mortgage the future of others -- even our own children. The same deadly logic lies just beneath the surface of Lord Keynes' celebrated quip that "in the long run, we are all dead."

Gregg concludes by identifying this situation as the opportunity for evangelism, and I'm not sure I disagree. However, the irresistable image in my mind was of hair-frocked, sandaled missionaries banging their bibles among the cafes and cabarets of darkest Paris and Berlin. I do think someone with some constructive message better get over there, because people can't thrive without hopes. We are seduced by our dreams like bees by flowers, or too often, like moths by flames. As we've witnessed, in the absence of a benevolent message of meaning and joy, power-hungry leaders will arise within that vaccuum with loud, compelling promises of identity and purpose through destruction.

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