On Today's News
Graham Greene's "The Destructors" was published in 1954, the same year that William Golding's _Lord of the Flies_ was released. The two stories have similar themes - bands of boys who become animals when left to their lowest instincts - but I find Greene's a tighter, more powerful plot.
Greene's story focuses on a gang that roams the ruins of post-WWII London looking for mischief. Amid all the bomb rubble, a single, gorgeous 200-year-old house stands, a house designed by architect Christopher Wren. The inside of the home is as marvelous as the outside, and its rooms are filled with historic and artistic treasures.
The boys decide to make trouble on their largest scale ever, sneaking into the house when the owner is off for a weekend and tearing everything up. They start on the inside, methodically breaking apart whatever is beautiful and worthwhile piece by piece. When this detailed work finally is complete, they fix ropes to the inner house supports, tie those ropes to a vehicle, and watch the whole building collapse as the vehicle pulls away. At last, the entire street is destroyed. What the Nazis began, the sons of England complete.
Greene was converted to Christianity in 1926, moved to faith by arguments that moved his intellect instead of his emotions. I am not as familiar with Greene's work as I would like to be, but from what I do know, I think of him as a bit of a contrarian. He was not the sort of traditionalist who just absorbs orthodoxy and moves on. He asked questions. He wrestled with hard concepts. So, it's super interesting watching someone like Greene rub up against postmodern thinking.
Deconstructionism is a postmodern movement that challenges the reliability of several foundational concepts in Western society. Everything from metanarratives (larger stories of faith and culture upon which we base smaller beliefs) to the reliability of language is disassembled.
Derrida, one of the chief minds of Deconstructionism, didn't write _Of Grammatology" until 1967, but forces of existential thought which fed the fires of disorientation and meaningless had been growing since the late 19th century, and they flourished in the post WWII era.
I don't know if Greene's metaphor in this particular short story was intentional or not, but as I look at where we stand in time, I can't help but see connections.
Today I read a news piece about a man in power using his political force to tie ropes to fundamental support beams in our culture. If he succeeds, a significant piece of our national architecture will crumble.
But as I consider this, I am reminded that the destruction of our culture didn't start with the big things. Just like the post war home in Greene's story, rebellious children of our own country have been sneaking in and tearing up what is good and beautiful piece by piece. What is now happening on grand scale began in little places with little hands.
I'm not sure if this problem can be fixed now or what it would take to repair it. From what I've read of the political processes of Mao and others, there are strategic benefits to politicians being provocative, benefits to throwing a society off balance into chaos. Knowing that makes me wary of being led by emotions, and almost feel like I am holding my breath. I keep sneaking off to quiet corners to just pray. Whatever action is to be taken, God's leadership and empowerment are absolute necessities.
In the closing scene from Greene's "The Destructors," the driver of the vehicle looks back on the ruined house and says, "There's nothing personal, but you got to admit it's funny." He sees a national treasure destroyed, a man's belongings wrecked, and he finds humor in it.
There is at least one good warning here, and this warning is that there is nothing funny about animalism. In the face of desolation, there is an appropriate time to grieve. It's a sign of sobriety to be sad about what is evil.
What happened today in our nation was ugly and wrong. It puts millions of children at risk. It is a rope around the beam of American culture, a rope around the neck of innocence, a rope around the safety of the vulnerable.
I hope you will take time to be sad about it. Don't diminish it. Don't laugh about it. Stay human. Feel the sorrow of the loss, for it is significant.
Then I would urge you to step back into your realms and find joy. Make beauty in any way God gives you. Redeem in a thousand private places. Find peace after you find tears. Mourn then look upward.
Multiply the gospel where it can be a balm. Ask the Living God what He would have you do, because He has planned our tasks for us since before time began.
Here we are, Lord. Send us to this barren land.