Recently I wrote a piece about how Darwinian evolution has affected our society and one of the points I made was that the constant deference given to blind, purposeless change, change for change’s sake. Here I’d like to look at a specific manifestation of this national preoccupation: the change-the-world syndrome.
Changing the world, leaving it a better place, making a difference are all catch phrases that no one looks at with any noticeable discrimination, but it doesn’t take a very long look to see that this concept has wrought far more misery than magic.
In the first place the concept is swollen with arrogance and self-importance. Not that changing the world doesn’t happen – the world does change, but it doesn’t happen on purpose. It happens because people see a need – orphaned children with nowhere to go, or sick people with no one to care for them, or students who want to learn, and they build orphanages or hospitals or schools and the world improves -- in one tiny place at one point in time. Suffering and misery and ignorance continue, but the power of evil is held at bay.
During the incarnation Jesus himself, though he came to pay the price of sin for us all, did not come to make the world a better place. He did heal the sick, raise people from the dead, and feed the hungry, but he didn’t do it wholesale – just here and there in specific places at specific times for specific purposes – usually to demonstrate that He was, in fact, God. When he gave the Great Commission to his disciples he didn’t tell them to go out and change the world; he told them to take the gospel to the Jews, the Samaritans and then to the Gentiles and they did that. Eventually the world did change, but as a by-product, not as the disciples’ original intent -- Christians did eventually build orphanages and hospitals and schools, kindness eventually took hold, but as a by-product of their gratitude to God, not as an arrogant plan to “make a difference.”
Nowhere in Scripture are we told to change the world. Jesus directed us to treat others as we would want to be treated. He told us to love our neighbors and our enemies, and those are powerful forces, but he didn’t say to “make a difference.”
For one thing, “making a difference” is a morality-free concept. Hitler made a difference – and that’s what he set out to do. So did Joseph Stalin. So did Mao Tsi-tung. And the difference those men made was horror personified. Altogether they murdered at least 100 million people – all in the name of “changing the world.”
“Changing the world” inevitably requires changing human nature, but human nature cannot be changed -- unless each person desires to change his own nature, and even then it requires divine intervention; it can’t be accomplished by fiat. Even with death staring them in the face, people cannot change who they are just because someone tells them that they have to.
Eric Severeid once said that “the chief cause of problems was solutions,” and the “change the world” crowd specializes in silly solutions that cause huge problems. The whole environmental boondoggle has come about as a result of this overwhelming hubris. True, we can and should be just and caring stewards of the world God made for us, but to go to the extent of treating other humans like they had no right to walk on the earth is not part of that picture. I live in Oregon where the economy has never recovered from the spotted owl decree and 30-some years later owls are still dying out. The problem is with cause and effect – it’s very, very hard to prove and to destroy an industry and people’s livelihoods on the supposition that some theory is correct is irresponsible and dangerous.
The CTW syndrome affects not only industry, but also time-honored institutions. Let’s look at just one that has nearly been destroyed by this pernicious and presumptive paradigm:
Our education system used to be the best in the world; it prepared American children with the knowledge and skills needed to build the most astounding nation the world has ever seen. Even though John Dewey progressivism began gnawing at the guts of our schools by the early 1900’s, we didn’t start to really see the result until well past the middle of the century.
I started teaching in 1975 and my purpose for going into the profession was to teach; that was what I wanted to do; I was interested in being part of the process of learning. I wanted to provide for others those gifts my best teachers had given me. That was all. And after 30 years in high school classrooms I can assuredly say that was enough. If I’d had to change the world too, I wouldn’t have been a very good teacher; I wouldn’t have had time to teach them the truth.
If I had a student in my high school class all year I would only see him less than four 40-hour weeks. That’s not much time in which to teach him all about writing and literature and public speaking – let alone to pound him into the little “worker bee” a state officer once announced was the desired end result.
Yet, more and more teachers see their jobs as transformational, as directed more toward changing the nature of the child and therefore the nature of the society. Forty years ago I listened to a federal employee explain to our local school board that certain programs were needed in the early grades to get students ready to accept evolution when it was presented – why would that be of concern to the federal government? Aren’t we to teach what facts we have and train the students in the time-honored methods of thinking about and assessing those facts? Evidently, changing the world by changing the students’ view of that world is more important, even though we have no evidence that task can be done without causing more damage than it can fix.
In the last years of my life in the public schools I was horrified by the fear present in my students’ writing – fear of global warming, of environmental disasters, of things they had no control over. No wonder so many have slipped into drug use and quit concerning themselves with their education – why bother?
And though teachers are, for the most part, hell-bent on stamping out bullying, as if that awful part of human nature could be altered by watching cute little films, many feel free to do some bullying themselves as they try to shove kids into uniform, progressive round holes – the end does justify the means in this business of changing the world.
Boys are no longer allowed to be boys – we punish them for shooting finger-guns and drug them if they don’t sit still. And, conversely, girls are expected to go after both careers and boys as if they were the ones filled with testosterone. Both girls and boys are subjected to Planned Parenthood propaganda, anti-American doggerel, socialist whining, and political correctness all in the effort to “leave the world a better place.” They feel the awful weight of the “change the world” expectation – an even greater responsibility than the federal debt we’ve saddled them with.
I don’t have space here to talk about the many ways the CTW mentality has altered the church, the law and now medicine (To make the world better we’ve authorized doctors to kill both the unborn and sick?). We’ve ruined national defense and crumbled our constitution all with the superior attitude of “making a difference.”
The world will, one day, be a better place, but you can’t do a good thing in a bad way and get good results; we’re reaping the rewards of our national arrogance right now and it will get worse before it gets better. Can we all just relax, do whatever it is that God has designed us to do, in our little corner of the world, and leave the grand scheme of things in God’s hands where it belongs. Someday the world will be changed for the better and when that day dawns it will be God’s doing, not ours, and it will be perfect.