Lima Peru-- A recent study found that the bigger the government, the more services it provides, the less religious the people are. Karl Marx would respond: “See I told you so!” after all, that was one of his theories in communism. The more the state of the proletariat provides, the less people would adhere to religion.
Jesus would agree as well. The results of that study could be found in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus says one sentence and five thousand people walk away, only twelve remain. The reason is that those who walked away were seeking worldly satisfaction, remember this all happened after He fed them with the loaves and the fishes.
Peter explains why he and the other eleven remained. They were not looking for worldly satisfaction, they were looking exclusively for eternal life.
But what is eternal life all about: nothing less than the definition of our being. If you seek nothing but worldly satisfaction, which most people do, then you are seeking nothing on an ontological level. You are living as a thinking creature in the same category as the animals—a living being seeking satisfaction of your worldly needs and wants. However, if you are seeking the source of your being and everything that God promises us, to be fully human and fully alive, which is the glory of God, then the promises of the big government will not attract you.
This is maybe why religion is struggling in today’s western cultures: People seek to live better in the world and are not living for what is best for their eternal future. While others who seek the eternal will prioritize their lives through those values that lead them closer to Christ.
In other words, as Jesus teaches: what we treasure most is what our heart will seek. If you
do not treasure eternal life, then you will not seek it, and will seek what gives you what you treasure. If your highest priority is to be rich, or famous or successful in worldly terms, you will have no need or desire to pursue eternal life. However, that will also put you in a position of slavery to those treasures. Jesus teaches us this as well.
He speaks in the parable of the house built on sand that you can construct the life you want, until an outside force takes it away, then you have nothing. However, if you construct your life in Christ, then even if everything goes wrong, you lose nothing because you have Christ. He is the rock of our foundation.
It is clear that according to this study, most people seek worldly satisfaction and not ontological treasures. So they will pursue those treasures outside the realm of the promises of religion and will ditch religion if it gets in the ways of their worldly treasures. This may also explain why socialism seems so much a major force in the world today. If you seek only worldly satisfaction, socialism makes sense.
However, there are those such as myself who truly believe in eternal life and seek it. Therefore, the promises of this world do not excite us as much as the promises of Christ. We will always be in the minority, especially in these days. But our priorities also make us freer and help us to understand the realities of our being more.
I had a chance to visit one of the most remote places in the world, the Altiplano high in the Andes Mountains of Peru.
There, I found small communities of ranchers tending sheep, llamas, alpaca and cattle. They live with few of the comforts we enjoy regularly and probably live a life closer to their Inca ancestors than those of the modern world thirteen thousand feet below.
What promises can any government give these people who live an ancient way of life far from real civilization? Marx would declare them as living on the opium of the people, but what can Marx promise them in the long run? Nothing more than he could promise to their city dwelling counter parts, a satisfaction of their human needs and nothing beyond this.
I do not believe that the promises of Marx would be attractive to them. Nor do I believe Marx’s ways are cost effective. In the altiplano, in the spring, when the sun is out, it is warm, but when the sun goes down, it becomes about forty degrees colder at the minimum. If the really wanted to satisfy their human needs, oil or gas would have to be supplied to keep them warm at night: there are few trees in this area, so firewood is not readily available. They do not have many forms of heating devices to keep them warm at night, except for heavy, heavy blankets. It is a tough existence. They live off the ranches there where they tend to their animals and sell their wares to the within local communities.
If they seek the ways of the world and all their creature comforts, they will have to abandon their way of life, move to the city at the bottom of the mountains and embrace modern urban living. Many have. Those in the altiplano neither nor choose to make that move. This is even more pertinent because in the 1970’s the government of Peru ended industrial farming just so the common folk could build and tend to farms. Their life is tough, and far from Marx’s dream.
So what does Marx promise them? Nothing more than what they are doing now. Christ promises them a whole new way of looking at the world and the ways of life regardless of their culture and environment.
Yes, it is true that the most educated seem to be the less religious according to this study, but that only means they have been educated in the ways of worldly values. They have decided that they will submit to the sting of death and its finality and live “just for today” as us baby boomers sung about in the sixties.
However, like Peter and the other apostles, at least ten of them, the promises of this world, including the finality of death, do nothing for us. We want more; we want the promises of eternal life in Christ and we will do all we can to seek them. Marx offers us nothing in the long run but a house built on sand. It is Christ who gives us what Marx can not. When Marx’s promises succumb to the sand they are built upon, we will continue on our trek to what Christ promises: being fully human and fully alive in the presence of the source of all being Nothing less.