Thinking about Amanda Thatcher’s reading of Ephesians 6 at her grandmother’s memorial yesterday reminded me of something. The line between good and evil runs not so much between man and man, but right down through the center of each one of us.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was always bringing us back to this. So does much of the great literature of the world. From Abraham, Saul and David through St. Peter, Sophocles and Dante and down through Hamlet, Othello and Lear, finally into our own times in the examples of Heathcliff, Jean Valjean and Frodo Baggins — the great protagonists and heroes of literature have been souls divided against themselves. This is at the heart of what we mean by the tragic worldview.
Most of the great human errors, on the other hand, have shared another view of the human: the view that the primary dividing line runs between men, groups, tribes, sexes, traditions, even civilizations. These totalizing heresies have brought misery and blight into the world — Marxism, Naziism, much of Islam, some medieval Christianity, feminism, gender, race, and identity movements, to name just a few.
This is the Manichean view of reality held by much of the progressive contemporary world. Deeper than surface differences, it is what unites free-thinking leftists and Islamic misogynists, offense-taking feminists and child pornographers, Unitarian women ministers and killers such as Che Guevara.
The We and the They must be maintained at all cost.
Of course we are seldom faced by such pure types, but rather mixtures. It is the preponderance of type that is at issue here. Which view of humanity is given preference? That is the heart of it.
St. Paul in the words of Ephesians is at pains to remind us that our first battle in life is not with the Other, but with the Self. Until that struggle is engaged, nothing else matters, since it is possible to win the world and lose the soul.
It is not only the New Testament that teaches this, but, as I have said, much great literature as well. That is why those who will not comprehend this understanding of reality are, in the most literal sense, illiterate.