Human society has been evolving over the centuries from very integrated, homogeneous populations with little or no individual liberties under authoritarian rulers, to very diverse populations with almost unlimited individual freedoms under representative, limited rulers.
The first model of society, a patriarchal monarchy, was an enlarged version of the patriarchal nuclear family. Father rules, mother supports and advises, children obey and are mentored by both. Father’s religion, his political beliefs, his ethics are passed on to mother and children, all questions barred. Hence, the early states of human culture.
Hebrew society, homogeneous, and kept so by pruning, as needed. Greco-Roman society, far less homogeneous, but still held uniform by use of force, even brutal force. Christian society, again more homogeneous like its Hebrew ancestor, and kept so by authoritarian structures modeled on the nuclear family, as before.
Christian society, having within itself something new that was also nascent in Hebrew and Greco-Roman society, the concept of individual as opposed to group identity, evolved and continues to evolve into a society which grows more diverse and individualistic, undermining the bases of all prior human societies.
It has been assumed since the beginning of the age of revolutions (probably the Puritan revolution in England, perhaps earlier) that there is such a thing as human rights, and by that it is assumed, individual rights. With each succeeding revolution, 1688 in England, 1776 in America, 1789, 1830 and 1848 in France, this concept of the individual as paramount, even over every earthly power or authority, has grown in strength and momentum.
Most of these ideas of individual liberty find their origin in the bible, specifically the New Testament. Why, then, the rise of Christian societies that were still every bit as authoritarian and ignorant or contemptuous of human rights as their predecessors? There is a tension in the gospel which is in fact inherited from the Hebrew prophets between the individual and society, both seeming to make demands on us, ethically. It’s this tension, or ambiguity, that lies at the root of what is currently happening in modern society.
Traditional society is based on the family. Modern society is based on the individual. Where does Christian society fit into this, and is there even such a thing?
It goes even further back than this. Traditional societies are organic in the same way that the bodies of complex life forms are organic. The individual cells in a human body have different functions, but none of them has the right to go its own way. None can leave the body, except by death. Dead cells are excreted and replaced by new. Again, the cells in a complex life form have no free will. They are what they are by coming into being as part of an organism.
Modern societies are, from this viewpoint, inorganic. They are something like clusters of single celled organisms that can stay together, creating an illusion of society, but which can go their own way, or even operate against an enveloping cluster in which they find themselves engulfed.
The seemingly unstoppable momentum of modern world society, evolving from traditional, organic societies with little individualism, to a single inorganic one in which individualism is the priority, is actually an illusion. What is happening is, non-individuals are being converted into individuals momentarily, so that they can be reincorporated into a new authoritarian anti-individualism even more brutal than the worst of those seen earlier in history.
The world wants to be a society of individuals with total liberty, and that makes true society impossible, because individual wills seek their own good, not the good of society. The only way, then, to have any semblance or illusion of society at all is to impose authority once again, and there is no way to do this other than by violence to the individual in one form or another.
Nascent within Christian society, even from its beginnings, is the society described by the prophets of Israel, and realized by the first disciples of Jesus Christ. For lack of a better term, I will call this ‘true society.’ Later on, I will give it its proper name.
True society looks like traditional society because it is organic, based on nature, but that is only the beginning. True society has perfect individual liberty, because every individual will is attuned to and voluntarily in agreement with one Mind. Individual wills seek the good of society because they want to, not because they must. Why would they want to? Because love binds them together, not force. Where is there such a society, if it exists?
The life of the Holy Triad is exactly that kind of society. That life was hidden from mankind until the coming of one of the divine Persons in that Triad, namely Jesus Christ, to earth. In His life and commandments we see the possibility of true society, of living the life of heaven on earth, which is the life inherent in the Holy Triad.
This is the society that we were made for, at once patriarchal, familial, ordered, yet providing the greatest degree of personal, individual liberty. Christ came to free us from our passions, and He has accomplished that work in those who follow Him.
This is no ‘giving us freedom to take it away again.’ That is the game of religion. No, the very life of the Holy Triad is open to us, we too can be One just as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One. That is the essence of Jesus’ high-priestly prayer for us.
The world will continue moving in the direction of greater and greater ‘freedom’ towards a destination of totalitarian chaos, as organic and living society devolves into inorganic and dead society. It has already realized that it cannot have it both ways, and so the machine has begun to take over the functions of the living man.
We who are in Christ, brethren, are moving in the opposite direction, as death is being put to death in us, and we are being raised to life like the son of the widow of Nain.
That procession was heading for the graveyard. Jesus and His disciples were going the other way, and He took death captive, releasing a dead man to life. Let us love one another, and insist on nothing less than living the life of the Holy Triad, the only true society unto the ages of ages.