Once more we are ambushed by the world we live in and on which we all depend for a living and any kind of a future. This time it is not a dictator or a false ideology, it’s not war or a threat of global annihilation from a nuclear conflict. It’s the near-total dislocation of our way of life caused by a tiny virus we cannot see. A virus, so fragile it cannot stand water and soap. If ever we needed a reminder of the fragility of life and of our carefully fabricated systems to give us security and stability, this is it!
It swept the world after its emergence in China, no passport controls, oceans or fences. When it hit us we mobilised our resources, human and political and all to no avail. When this havoc is over, virtually everyone will have been touched by its fatal embrace or affected by its impact on our economies and our society.
The mighty United States, will have spent 5 trillion dollars on its health and economic challenges in this process – US$14 000 for every man and woman and every child. Still it was unable to halt ten per cent of all adult Americans losing their jobs and being thrown onto the mercy of the State for sustenance. At the other end of the spectrum India saw tens of millions of the absolute poor lose their places of work or opportunity and forced back to their villages to survive. No one escaped the onslaught – even the wealth of the Gulf could not protect Dubai which now sits silent and empty and is going broke.
Just think about our pillars of safety and security: –
NATO: Created in the aftermath of the Second World War and during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. NATO is the most powerful military alliance ever created and has led the way in not only ensuring that conflict between the historical antagonists of Europe never takes place again, but also ensuring that Soviet and Chinese power, created on the back of their enslaved populations, are unable or unwilling to take the risk of cross border incursions.
The Multilateral Institutions: Also the product of post war leadership and crafted at a time when financial collapse and the cost of rebuilding Europe and Japan threatened to destabilise the world. Since then these institutions have overseen the continued stability of the World we live in. Many of us have no idea of how they have contributed or the impact on our individual lives, but in many ways these have played a cornerstone role in the new world order.
The United Nations: Most people have no idea that it was an Afrikaner who played a key role in the Boer War at the turn of the 20th Century, who first envisaged a new global institution representing all countries and capable of mediating in global and continental conflict. Jan Smuts not only envisaged the new institution but crafted its first Mandate and Charter. When this fore runner institution collapsed it was replaced by the United Nations which has survived in the past 70 years despite its many critics and the antics of some international leaders. No one questions its role today – just its effectiveness, but we are more stable and at peace than ever, because of these institutions.
The World Trade Organisation: If I was to identify any one institution that has done more to alleviate global poverty and to drive the greatest and most sustained boom in history, it is the WTO and its associated free trade agents. We may fear the new market power of China and the other Eastern Tiger States, but there can be no doubt that free trade has done more to bring prosperity of sorts to billions and to have raised up countries who just 75 years ago were isolated islands of poverty and human degradation.
Democracy and Free Markets: 75 Years ago we were in the grip of ideologies that were created by mankind on the premise that God did not exist and that Man was fundamentally good and would eventually create a world in which we were all equal and all had enough to live on in comfort. It was an enticing vision and captured much of the world’s population. In defence the countries whose history dictated a different world view based on the Bible and the Christian traditions laid down in the previous centuries, raised up barriers of political and economic and even military might. They argued our democracies and free market societies are superior in every way to the path the communist States had chosen.
When the United States led the world down a road that led to the demise of the Soviet Empire (Reagan)and the opening up of China (Nixon), we all thought we were on the boundary of a new dispensation. The policies of the west had won. Democracy and freedom would sweep the world. The reality is very different – Russia is now a medium sized power, but once again under the control of the Orthodox Church and a Tsar. China has become part of the world, no longer in self isolation and poor, instead a global player with the power and reach to influence the world.
Now we have the Covid pandemic and a global crisis that is rooted in the bug and its aftermath. That would be enough of a problem to disturb our new sense of security and purpose except that in the past four years the United States has had a President who has challenged the very foundations of this global and continental system that has done so much for everyone. Thank God for strong institutions in the USA and the example of political sanity when the Vice President of the United States stood up in Congress and in a dignified and controlled way read out the results of the recent election that will bring Biden into power on the 20th of January.
Trump has done enough to sink his political ship and perhaps we can now go back to the basics that have served mankind so well in the past half century. But can it ever be business as usual? We need to step back and use this crisis to review our values and beliefs and to challenge the growing secularism and agnosticism that is taking hold. We need to return to the truths contained in the Bible that Mankind is not only a created being but has potential for both good and evil. Did we ever need to understand that when we have such stark examples in our recent history?
We need to understand and accept that human leadership outside of a basic fear of God and the consequences of violating His rules for life, is always dangerous. China is to be feared, not because of its power and economic capacity, but because God is not revered and feared in its Chambers of Power.
Mankind can only be trusted with power on earth if he understands that he will be held to account and that there must be limits to his authority and reach. The majority of the men who crafted the US Constitution were deeply Christian men who had fled Europe and religious persecution. They understood the limitations of human government and deliberately constituted the USA in a system of checks and balances that has kept the US on the rails of history all these years and this continues today – as we have just witnessed.
The danger that presents itself to us today is rooted in the fact that Europe is fast becoming what we might call a post Christian society. The most ungodly nation on earth today is probably secular France, not post-Communist China or Russia. The fastest growing Christian Church in the world today is probably in China which does not even recognise God in its affairs. Where ever people have to struggle every day for their basics, God is at the very centre of their being and their hold onto any kind of belief in the thought that there might be some wider meaning to life and a better future for all of us.
When the world throws us into the tumult of history and upsets all that we hold on for safety and security, the only thing to do is to put your hand in His hands and trust Him for your future. It is after all, the only place of safety.