Needing Eden

All of us –- liberal or conservative, Muslim or Christian, black or white -– are homesick. Deep inside all of us lurks a longing for something, someplace so lost in the past that we can no longer name it. I contend that we compose music in minor keys, stage tragedies, and write mournful poetry just to express this. Anyone who stops in the midst of this hectic life to think, to actually feel, knows what I’m talking about -– it feels like missing someone terribly, but not remembering who.

We all deal with this lost-ness differently. Some of us drink or do drugs. Some of us hide in frantic sex or work or social involvement. We play endless computer games, read mystery novels, watch hours and hours of bad TV. We grasp for wealth and power. We go shopping, we gamble, we go bungee-jumping and cover the longing with an adrenaline surge. Some us figure it out and grope our way back to God. What we’re missing is Eden and our evening walks with Him.

One of the great sicknesses of our time is our insistence that we can recreate Eden and do it on our own terms. We have assumed that our unhappiness crawled out of a badly designed social structure –- one that has allowed some to get ahead while others go without, one that falls short of paradise. Perhaps we misinterpret our longings and think the emptiness can be filled with things –- if only we had some of the money the rich have too much of.

This resentment toward the rich is understandable if you go back to, say, medieval times when wealth came when one sucked up to the local royalty enough that he shared with you whatever wealth he’d stolen from someone else. A man who buckled on his armor and rode off to war with his king was banking on the king’s gratitude after the battle. The rich back then didn’t get rich by inventing something useful, manufacturing something everyone wanted, by making life safer, less painful, or more fun for everyone.

I recently watched a documentary on one of the old manor houses in England and I was struck by some statistics. The owner of the manor (bequeathed to him by some king) often entertained a hundred people for dinner. One of the most admired dishes at these dinners was turtle soup. It took one turtle per guest and each turtle cost 20 pounds sterling –- the average yearly wage for the servants serving this exorbitant meal. Under those circumstances I can understand the bitterness that could take root in a person’s soul.

I listened to a woman –- a professor (of Marxism 101, I assume) trying to explain how right and true and good it would be to tax the rich (which did not include her, she assured the host) at 80%. She just assumed that they had no right to that money, no more right than the nobles of the 11th century, and that everyone would live happily ever after if the rich were poorer. If she can’t think any more clearly than that, she doesn’t deserve her professorial position.

But this the 21st century, a thousand years after the turtle soup, and now any person who can muster the determination and the self-discipline to make something of himself, can, theoretically, do so. No one is locked into a feudal system, or a rigid caste arrangement; deep-seated resentment is misplaced and sounds silly, like a five-year-old complaining that his brother got more ice cream.

But in all fairness to the professor, she was just wanting Eden. She doesn’t understand that, in a sense, it’s gone -– the cherubim are stationed at the gate and we can’t get back in. Every human being since Eden has something wrong inside him. We’re all broken, from the get-go; no matter what our physical, mental, or social standing.

However, God did provide the information we need to produce a society that will provide the best possible organization, considering our fractured condition. Any society made of human beings is one built with crooked bricks and that takes expert engineering. The bricks can’t do it themselves.

The closest mankind has ever come to building a viable social order is recorded in the Constitution of the United States. That document recognizes the brokenness of man, his tendency to aggregate power, and it took the laws of God – the design of the Chief Engineer –- into account. It has worked well –- not flawlessly, but well for over 200 years.

But here we are faced with a generation of Americans who are trying to assuage their longing for the Garden by denying that we ever left it, by denying the God that created that Garden, by thinking they can make their own Eden.

And look what it’s taking to do it:

  1. Government so vast, so wealthy, so powerful that we no longer have a clear idea of where the power is even located. Is it in the bureaucracy? The press? The courts? It certainly doesn’t seem to be in the legislature or the presidency anymore.
  2. Schools dedicated to indoctrination instead of education, where speech is tightly controlled, ideas other than the DIY Eden-approved memes are prohibited, and where self-discipline and decency are no longer required.
  3. Taxation that limits all of our activities; taxation that is intended not only to raise revenue, but, more importantly, to control our daily activities; taxation that robs us of our incentive.
  4. Division. The fact is that you can’t organize individuals nearly as easily as you can groups, and if you can pit the groups against each other you can distract them from the truth of their unique individuality. The only group that is not easy to herd is the family and therefore the family also has to be eliminated and to do that sexuality has to be shaken loose from its moorings, allowed and encouraged to run amuck ruining children, killing babies, and, as an added bonus, the destruction of the Christian church. Our previous administration accomplished a great deal in this area. The much-lauded “diversity” is a celebration of just that -- the fracturing of a previously stable society.
  5. Heavy doses of guilt, of angst, of hopelessness, because angry, unhappy people are also easy to manipulate. No sense of purpose can be allowed to flourish.
  6. Language manipulation. For one thing, if you change meanings often enough, no one knows what anyone is talking about so political prestidigitation is easier. For another, it’s easier to control people’s thinking if you control their language.

You see, Eden was a place of free will –- to eat or not to eat; that was the question –- the only question. But man didn’t choose well, so those trying to mickey-mouse a new Eden know not to include free will. In Brave New World Huxley kept his population so giddy with Soma, sex, and entertainment that most didn’t realize that they’d lost that all-important attribute of being human. Orwell’s Big Brother didn’t allow any options, either, and in Shangri-La, Conway could do a lot of choosing, except for one decision –- the choice of leaving. The place was perfect, but it was a prison nevertheless.

The world is littered with dead and dying utopian dreams. Man has been trying since Babel to recreate that first perfect garden. Sir Thomas More wrote out his utopian plan in the 15th century. The Pilgrims tried to rewrite society’s rules that first awful winter in Plymouth. Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao, now Maduro and Kim Jong-un all have tried to make perfection out of evil. But it can’t be done. Not on human terms. We have to wait for God to come do it for us –- and He will. Until then we will continue needing Eden.

Deana Chadwell is an adjunct professor and department head at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon.  She teaches writing and public speaking.

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