For much of my life I’ve found purpose in the idea of saving the world, or at least making it better than the way I found it. In this, I am like many young people and quite a few older ones as well.
We all have different ideas about what saving the world looks like, but we all feel that pull to do something to right the wrongs: the crime, the injustice, the poverty, the sickness, the division, the warfare, the moral decay, the familial breakdown, the decadence, the corruption. And there are real things we can do to fight back and pin down the evil in the world.
But there is no *saving* the world in the end – not fully, anyway.
The last of the generation that did, in a sense, “save the world” – the Greatest Generation – is now living to see their victory at an end. American culture and unity are disintegrating rapidly, people are at each others’ throats, truth has dissolved in the morass of TV and social media, and the evil empire of China is more powerful than ever before, likely to overtake us if they haven’t already.
Every action has its equal and opposite reaction. The yin and the yang will seek balance. And no human can stop that, just as no human can suppress every flaw and sin and weakness in his own heart – let alone the hearts of all men. There are moments of salvation, but they don’t last forever. We live in a yin and yang world – opposing forces constantly rising to challenge and rebalance each other.
This should make us question whether salvation for *the world* is indeed our purpose. Maybe the world is the stage, and *we* the players in it. Maybe it is our characters that God is interested in.
Maybe what the evangelicals taught me all along is true, in a sense. It is about the salvation of our own souls, or the ennoblement of them by long experience in the field. The world is too big for any of us to control, but we can at the end of our days present ourselves to God and say we tried our best with what we had in our hands.
So, in the end, did the Greatest Generation fail? On the contrary. Many of them forged incredible virtues that gave them a purer and higher life, and blessed the people around them. They became better people. They may not have prevented the future fall of America, but they prevented the fall of their own souls in this life. If we can all do the same, we can expect to see some improvement in the world – but we can also be hopeful if the barbarians burn our best work.