Monday, September 28, 2009

Men and Themselves 9/22/09, edited 9/29/09

Men and Themselves 9/22/09, edited 9/29/09

How does a ruler keep his subjects docile and easily controlled? Some say with force. Some say with gifts. Some say with promises. Some say with all of these used in a prudent, thoughtful, and random mixture to keep the people unsure of their enemies and wary of their friends. Satan works the same way.

As we all have, I have a lifetime of experience with people in general, but I have had a very limited experience with the Russian people over this last year and a half. We walk under 15 minutes from our apartment to the office, ride the Metro for about that long to the Zoloni Kupola (green roof) train station area where we rent the fourth floor in an office building for our branches, we shop at Megas, Ashawn, or Ikea, mostly, and we go to an occasional ballet or museum. We are prisoners of our inability to communicate with the general public, but we have made some observations of people in general, and specifically here, that I think I can defend.

Amidst our limitations and fears, we have made many acquaintances and some, I hope, life-long friends, mostly with members of the church here, but we have no relationships with people outside that circle, so the things I want to write about here are based solely on observations from afar and conversations with our Russian friends who are willing to speak candidly.

From this limited, and admittedly biased point of view, I believe I see some things that help me understand people a little more and I have concluded that the men that I have met, as a class, have lost their reason for existence. They have little or no purpose and therefore are cut adrift in each man's own culture that really does not value them. As a result, they have turned inward to themselves in search of meaning and, finding none, turn to some means of making the pain go away.

OK . . . I'll defend that thesis, but while you are asking yourself "what is this guy talking about" think to yourself, what was a man's role in the world a thousand years ago? He was a warrior, a defender, a hunter, a provider, a lawgiver, a law-enforcer, the collective strength of the village, the tribe, the family, and the center of everything. How about 500 years ago?

Then came the industrial revolution, massive leaps in technology, weaponry, fortification and production; fewer men and more technology. How about 150 years ago? They were still sitting at the head of the family, village, and state, giving and enforcing. Then came the 20th century and the world turned up-side-down. Women began to assert themselves. They began to smoke in public. They began to drink in public. They wanted to do the things historically reserved for men. They wanted to enjoy the same rights and the same vices as men. They began to earn their own money, buy their own things.

And then it happened. Men went off to war and women went to work wholesale. When the men came home the mold was broken and women, refusing to go back into the kitchen and began to seek equality in earnest until today they can do anything they want without a man. The old saw about not buying a cow is turned around to say, "Why put up with a bull when beef is cheap." They can earn their own money, own their own property, have multiple relationships, prevent or instigate pregnancy, get married, conceive babies artificially, be protected by hired men of the police and the courts; a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

So what do men do to gain some esteem. They get rich, get tough, get hostile, get mean, get drunk, get other women, get cars, get lands, get, get, get, but what's the point? No one really cares except people who want to take advantage of what he has gotten. Men are simply not necessary in our modern world. They are like buggy whips in a land of the Porsche. I see it here in Russia too. Men congregate together on street corners at night, drink themselves into oblivion, and ignore their families while demanding the right to do so as a cultural heritage. You NEVER see women standing in a group, passing around a bottle. They don't need to. They have their role and their identity. Even the most abused woman knows who she is.

To what do Russian men aspire? After whom do they pattern their lives? To whom do they look for a model? For what purpose do they even exist? Centuries of culture have been erased by the Social Engineering of the modern world and now what does the Russian man-on-the-street, or any man in any country, do for self-esteem. Where does he get his sense of himself? What is his reason for living?

The answer is in discovering mankind’s real purpose for being here and men’s role in God’s plan for his children, but men generally, and especially men in Russia, are distrustful of religion because it was used for centuries as a means of control, not of liberation. Karl Marx is quoted as saying, in his article on Hegel, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

Lenin said the same thing slightly differently. "Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression that everywhere weighs on the masses of the people, who are crushed by perpetual toil . . . Religion is the opium of the people. Religion is a kind of spiritual gin in which the slaves of capital drown their human shape and their claims to any decent human life." (Lenin, Selected Works, XI: 658.)

Dr. David Livingston said it well on his web site. “When religion has been devised or manipulated by man to control people, it becomes a binding, blinding system. No doubt, this is what Marx and Lenin considered to be the situation in Germany and Russia." This is how a ruler controls the people. This is how Satan plans to defeat us. He uses promises of heaven, threats of hell, and gives the control of both to minions of the state. No wonder Russian men run from religion.

So what is the cure? What is the hope? What is the savior of men and, as a result, their families? It is the Savior Himself, His Gospel, His Church, and the truth about men. In the Gospel of Jesus Christ men learn that they are sons of God, younger and in need of much training, but brothers to the Lord Jesus Christ. They learn that God the Father has a plan that puts full responsibility on them for the welfare of their families. That IS what men want, that IS what gives men a reason to live, that IS the measure of their creation; responsibility, work, leadership, providing, protecting, guiding.
And in that Gospel, as part of that plan, men carry the authority of God, the priesthood of God, for the benefit of their family. Not for themselves, not for their own power and aggrandizement, not for their own vanity and lusts, but for the benefit of all mankind. That is why the men hold, carry, provide, and honor the priesthood of God, because it is their job, their duty, their right, their charge, their school to learn to be "like" God; giving of themselves for the good of others.

I have seen the miracle of the Gospel change a man in 4th Branch as a classic example of my point. Here was a drunk. Here was a father, husband, child of God literally laying (actually sitting) in the gutter with a bottle of booze trying to make the pain go away when along came Elder Kravchenko and his companion. After months of teaching, cajoling, promising, blessing, and more teaching, this derelict of a man was clean enough to be baptized. I was there and I saw the light in his wife's eyes. I saw the love in his daughter's face. This man was loved and was becoming worthy of that love.

I later was there when he baptized his daughter. Here is this "lost soul" now holding the Priesthood of God, literally a student in the School of the Prophets, learning to be a real man. I was there when he was sustained as the Financial Clerk of his Branch and I saw the joy in his wife's eyes and the love in his daughter's face. I don't know if all is forgiven, but I saw what I saw and that was priceless. He is surely not perfect and he is probably not whole yet, but he has discovered what men around the world are lacking and he's holding on; the priesthood of God and his true self.

God bless him for his efforts. God sustain him in his personal struggles. God grant him grace to continue.

What a man, What a God. What a country

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