Friday 13 January 2012

Rotten organizations


One of the hardest, and most paradox generating, aspects of modern life for a reactionary Anglican Christian is that all the organizations are rotten; including the institutional church.

I can still remember what it was like to believe that my medical school and university, the Medical Research Council, the National Health Service and other large organizations in which I worked were basically good, I even remember feeling that the British government was basically good.

By basically good I mean well intentioned, good at heart, productive of mostly good decisions and policies...


And over the years all these comforting feelings have fallen away or been stripped away. When almost every single decision an organization makes, and (especially) every new policy or rule, every initiative is bad - and not just slightly bad - then comes a time when your attitude 'flips'.

So suddenly you are in an essentially hostile world - where power resides in bureaucracies that run everything and are active agents of evil. Of course good people and good impulses remain in these organizations (thank Heavens) - but you can see them being mopped up and eliminated over the years.

What this means is that I find myself in the service of evil - since I live in a world of these organizations. Not the service of pure evil, of course! - but in service of organizations whose hearts are rotten.


It is like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Voldemort rules from behind the scenes - using and subverting the established institutions to opposite goals - and the situation resembles Mr Weasley at the Ministry of Magic (promoting a pure blood agenda) or Professor McGonagall at Hogwarts (where torture is on the curriculum) - and where the Daily Prophet is propaganda in moral inversion and people believe it. How can a hoping-to-be-good individual operate in a trying-to-be-bad institution? Might they actually be making matters worse, lending support to the evil agenda? such that people might say: "well if Weasley and McGonagall are going along with all this stuff, it must be okay - they're decent people...".


What to do when a society, an organization, an institutions is set up such that it serves evil?

And such that individuals are neutered - all authority vested in impersonal committees, impersonal rules - where responsibility is displaced up and up until it reaches the purest ideology (just following orders); where the basis of each evaluative decision is bad in principle as well as practice...


Some reactionary Christians may feel that their Church is a refuge from this - but that is obviously impossible for an Anglican to believe - and I feel that other denominations are deluded on this matter: maybe this is an advantage for Anglicans? The recognition that insofar as a church or part-of-church is powerful, it is corrupt; insofar as a church is true it is beleaguered.

The clarity of knowing that there really is no powerful institutional refuge. The recognition that all which is good in an institution is under threat, feeble, may disappear at any time. Sooner or later Mr Weasley will be sacked and arrested; sooner or later Professor McGonagall will be forced to leave Hogwarts, the good priests will retire and be replaced by undercover Leftists.




Wurmbrand said...

In reacting against the deplorable and flaunted sins of our own time and place, we should remember that "the whole world lieth in the Evil One" (1 John 5:19). That, I take it, is the word of "the disciple whom Jesus loved" very late in his life. It is a truth perhaps more evident in our time and place than in others, but it would have been true too in Byzantium, etc.

In every Christian believer, and perhaps even in every person, there is a longing for something perfect, something untainted by evil.

I think we have God's promise of two such things. First, we have the Gospel, with God's promise that where His word is preached it will not return to Him empty/valueless. Second, we have the Sacraments. Where they exist at all, they are perfect. Their outward appearance has generally been unimpressive and in our time is likely to be associated with poor music, a liturgy fallen from its best language, and so on. But the Sacraments themselves remain.

I don't deny that there is a challenge with regard to both of these. What IS the true and pure good news about Christ? We are offered more "gospels" than one. Where ARE the assured Sacraments? Some Roman Catholics, for example, would probably say that, in my Lutheran circles, there is no real Eucharist.

Nevertheless, we have these treasures, even if "in earthen vessels."

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dale - Yes, Yes.

Senexada said...

An old Moldbug post contains a similar sentiment:

"If you taught chemistry at a university, you taught chemistry at a university which had a chief diversity officer, a department of African-American Studies, etc, etc. You knew what these people were. You knew what these people did. At least, you knew that whatever it was, it was not scholarship. You said nothing. What kind of servant of truth are you, sir? You served not truth, but the Party. Sign the form, sir."

Resolving this problem -- how to move and work in corrupted organizations without abetting evil -- would be a worthwhile endeavor for the orthosphere.

Bruce Charlton said...

@S "Resolving this problem -- how to move and work in corrupted organizations without abetting evil -- would be a worthwhile endeavor for the orthosphere."

Indeed it would. Probably the answer derives from the insight that this world is fallen, corrupt, the domain of evil - and working from there.

The basic problem (as Dale indicates above) is therefore historical, intrinsic and inescapable - on earth.

Of course, I began at the opposite pole, so psychologically it is difficult for me to make that transition.

Gabe Ruth said...

As in all times, the mission is to build the church. The hard thing is to understand the radical nature of the activities required and you're doing great work here communicating that.

But I always feel like there's an undertone of despair in your writing that is misplaced. Beyond the givens that Dale gives, there are two other things that we know:
we will lose the fight for this world, for it is ruled by the prince of darkness, and we will ultimately prevail (or rather, our Lord will). One thing that is easy to forget when fretting about the state of our institutions (even churches) and society is the efficacy of prayer and spiritual warfare. This is not to say that the visible fight is unimportant or should be abandoned. But cheer up. We live in interesting times, and to be honest I'm not sure I'd have it any other way.

Bruce Charlton said...

@GR - Like many people, I spend most of the time vacillating between Pride and Despair, which are as bad as each other.

In functioning in rotten institutions, one thing I try to regard as an iron rule is honesty. It is amazingly difficult to do - especially when others regard it as selfish indulgence/ fanaticism.

We are expected, almost required, to be routinely and unthinkingly dishonest for the 'benefit' (= expediency) of others - not to lie (that would be too risky) but deliberately to mislead in a deniable fashion by selectivity, rhetoric, bias etc.

Yet just 25 years ago nearly everybody in university science was scrupulously honest about everything...

Samson J. said...

As in all times, the mission is to build the church.

Yes, far, far too easy to forget, but very comforting once remembered, because we can *do* that, even if we feel we can't change society.

Otherwise, very good (and encouraging) comments from you and Dale. And speaking of that:

Like many people, I spend most of the time vacillating between Pride and Despair

I have this personality type, too, but I want to encourage you that it gets easier to deal with the longer one is a Christian. One increasingly learns to accept going "gaily in the dark", confident that God is who he says he is.