Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Christ Among the Partisans (By GARRY WILLS)

THERE is no such thing as a "Christian politics." If it is a politics, it cannot be Christian. Jesus told Pilate: "My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here" (John 18:36). Jesus brought no political message or program.

This is a truth that needs emphasis at a time when some Democrats, fearing that the Republicans have advanced over them by the use of religion, want to respond with a claim that Jesus is really on their side. He is not. He avoided those who would trap him into taking sides for or against the Roman occupation of Judea. He paid his taxes to the occupying power but said only, "Let Caesar have what belongs to him, and God have what belongs to him" (Matthew 22:21). He was the original proponent of a separation of church and state.

Those who want the state to engage in public worship, or even to have prayer in schools, are defying his injunction: "When you pray, be not like the pretenders, who prefer to pray in the synagogues and in the public square, in the sight of others. In truth I tell you, that is all the profit they will have. But you, when you pray, go into your inner chamber and, locking the door, pray there in hiding to your Father, and your Father who sees you in hiding will reward you" (Matthew 6:5-6). He shocked people by his repeated violation of the external holiness code of his time, emphasizing that his religion was an internal matter of the heart.

But doesn't Jesus say to care for the poor? Repeatedly and insistently, but what he says goes far beyond politics and is of a different order. He declares that only one test will determine who will come into his reign: whether one has treated the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the imprisoned as one would Jesus himself. "Whenever you did these things to the lowliest of my brothers, you were doing it to me" (Matthew 25:40). No government can propose that as its program. Theocracy itself never went so far, nor could it.

The state cannot indulge in self-sacrifice. If it is to treat the poor well, it must do so on grounds of justice, appealing to arguments that will convince people who are not followers of Jesus or of any other religion. The norms of justice will fall short of the demands of love that Jesus imposes. A Christian may adopt just political measures from his or her own motive of love, but that is not the argument that will define justice for state purposes.

To claim that the state's burden of justice, which falls short of the supreme test Jesus imposes, is actually what he wills — that would be to substitute some lesser and false religion for what Jesus brought from the Father. Of course, Christians who do not meet the lower standard of state justice to the poor will, a fortiori, fail to pass the higher test.

The Romans did not believe Jesus when he said he had no political ambitions. That is why the soldiers mocked him as a failed king, giving him a robe and scepter and bowing in fake obedience (John 19:1-3). Those who today say that they are creating or following a "Christian politics" continue the work of those soldiers, disregarding the words of Jesus that his reign is not of this order.

Some people want to display and honor the Ten Commandments as a political commitment enjoined by the religion of Jesus. That very act is a violation of the First and Second Commandments. By erecting a false religion — imposing a reign of Jesus in this order — they are worshiping a false god. They commit idolatry. They also take the Lord's name in vain.

Some may think that removing Jesus from politics would mean removing morality from politics. They think we would all be better off if we took up the slogan "What would Jesus do?"

That is not a question his disciples ask in the Gospels. They never knew what Jesus was going to do next. He could round on Peter and call him "Satan." He could refuse to receive his mother when she asked to see him. He might tell his followers that they are unworthy of him if they do not hate their mother and their father. He might kill pigs by the hundreds. He might whip people out of church precincts.


The Jesus of the Gospels is not a great ethical teacher like Socrates, our leading humanitarian. He is an apocalyptic figure who steps outside the boundaries of normal morality to signal that the Father's judgment is breaking into history. His miracles were not acts of charity but eschatological signs — accepting the unclean, promising heavenly rewards, making last things first.

He is more a higher Nietzsche, beyond good and evil, than a higher Socrates. No politician is going to tell the lustful that they must pluck out their right eye. We cannot do what Jesus would do because we are not divine.

It was blasphemous to say, as the deputy under secretary of defense, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, repeatedly did, that God made George Bush president in 2000, when a majority of Americans did not vote for him. It would not remove the blasphemy for Democrats to imply that God wants Bush not to be president. Jesus should not be recruited as a campaign aide. To trivialize the mystery of Jesus is not to serve the Gospels.

The Gospels are scary, dark and demanding. It is not surprising that people want to tame them, dilute them, make them into generic encouragements to be loving and peaceful and fair. If that is all they are, then we may as well make Socrates our redeemer.

It is true that the tamed Gospels can be put to humanitarian purposes, and religious institutions have long done this, in defiance of what Jesus said in the Gospels.

Jesus was the victim of every institutional authority in his life and death. He said: "Do not be called Rabbi, since you have only one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, the one in heaven. And do not be called leaders, since you have only one leader, the Messiah" (Matthew 23:8-10).

If Democrats want to fight Republicans for the support of an institutional Jesus, they will have to give up the person who said those words. They will have to turn away from what Flannery O'Connor described as "the bleeding stinking mad shadow of Jesus" and "a wild ragged figure" who flits "from tree to tree in the back" of the mind.

He was never that thing that all politicians wish to be esteemed — respectable. At various times in the Gospels, Jesus is called a devil, the devil's agent, irreligious, unclean, a mocker of Jewish law, a drunkard, a glutton, a promoter of immorality.

The institutional Jesus of the Republicans has no similarity to the Gospel figure. Neither will any institutional Jesus of the Democrats.

14 comments:

Tom Becker said...

I think it's important to mention that this article was printed in the Sunday NYTimes of all places!

Jordan Hylden said...

I'm not usually very impressed with Wills. Here, I think he makes a big mistake to say that
there "is no such thing as a Christian politics." Of course there is: "politics" is the work of living together in the polis, and if Christianity doesn't have something to say about that, then I don't know what it DOES talk about. Of course the Gospel is about more than what we is usually called "politics," but it'd be quite an odd Gospel indeed if it had nothing to say about the way we live together in the world God created.

It seems to me like Wills isn't a very serious thinker on this topic.
Just like most everyone else right now screaming their heads off about
"theocracy," unfortunately. Wills is at least more consistent that people who are perfectly happy with Christian doctrine making an impact on economic policy and racial equality, but go nuts if it might be seen to apply to abortion or religion in the public square. He says that Christian faith shouldn't affect politics, period. But I find that hard
to see as anything but ridiculous.

Tom Becker said...

Jordan -

Ti think the point that Willis is making (and maybe I'm reading into this too much, but I don't think so) is that Jesus is offensive to both conservatives & liberals (or moralists & relatavists if you will). 'Conservatives' in general don't like the liberality of Christ - that grace is free, comes to the 'undeserved' and that we're called to work against the injustice and oppression (eg work with the poor & ostracized/the weak) that exisits in the world - that the gospel is not a pull your self up by the bootstraps. Liberals in general don't like the fact that Jesus is not wishy washy, that there ARE moral absolutes (ie no one comes to the father except through me), can't stand the 'intolerance' of a low anthroplogy or high view of sinfulness. At every turn Jesus is in our comfortable little faces.

One character of God cannot exisit at the expense of another - ie God cannot be loving at the expese of justice.

When we attempt to politize Jesus it often comes at the expense of one aspect of him that we find disagreeable. By definition poltiics in in the business of exclusion, but Jesus in the business of forgiving sinners. Our faith can inform our views for sure, but to wave the Christian banner around political issues has never (historically) caused anything but problems. We are by default Theologians of Glory who want to claim for ourselves the glory that only rightly belongs to Him and in the seculuar kingdom that means trying to squeeze Jesus around our agendas.

Jeff Dean said...

Tom,

I agree. A pox on both their houses.

Can someone please write a book soon about how utterly ridiculous it is for Christians to support the integration of religion in any way with the state?

Has everyone forgotten that the studied seperation of church and state was conceptualized BY Christians, FOR Christians? For three hundred years, one government killed the Christians that didn't agree with that government.

Have people truly fallen for the myth of progress? Do they actually believe we won't slip into another period of cultural chaos?

The moment the government is allowed to be infiltrated by religion seals the fate for our grandchildren, who'll be persecuted for their faith in Christ.

Just wait. I promise. Just wait.

bpzahl said...

We live in a country where supposedly church and state are together in the same camp. And kids have to go to mandatory chapel and prayers. And they hate it. And religious education, which is mandatory, is taught so poorly that everyone leaves highschool with the worst caricature of Christianity there could be.

Jordan Hylden said...

So...

While I agree with a lot of what has been said, there are I think some issues that need to be looked at more closely.

Tom, I agree with you that Jesus should make both "conservatives" and "liberals" uncomfortable, as they're usually defined in this country. And I also share your distrust of tying Christianity to a political program, or reducing Christianity to politics (a crime of which many people in mainline denominations have been guilty).

But that doesn't mean that Christianity can't inform our views, like you said. And I would argue that it also doesn't mean that we have to leave our faith-language at home or in church when discussing political issues. Historically, this country has actually used spiritual language when framing all of its major reforms-- MLK's civil rights movement being only the most recent and memorable. Now, how we actually go about doing this is another question, and I'll also agree that a LOT of what has passed for faith-based politics in the last couple of decades has been terrifically harmful. But that doesn't mean it's wrong in principle. Ross Douthat wrote a great op-ed about this a couple of days ago in the WSJ; I recommend it.

Jeff, I agree that state interference in religion is the last thing we want. Unfortunately we're already getting it-- the Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws, for example, which directly affected Catholic Charities' adoption policies. But does that mean that we have to become France, and strictly enforce laicete (secularism) in ALL areas of the public square? Should our public life be so devoid of religion? I think not. In Europe, that's led to an ironclad public secularism, that quickly makes all religious ideas and beliefs irrelevant. I'm actually not dissatisfied with the current American "civic religion," which acknowledges God on currency, the pledge of allegiance, the Inaugural Oath, and etc.; and the way in which religious people cand and do make their voices heard in the public arena. Many liberals at the moment are ranting on about the dangers of theocracy, which is alarmist and historically uninformed.

Bonnie, I also agree with you that we probably don't want to emulate the European state church model. That's been bad for both the state and the church-- the American formal separation, with public recognition of God's authority, and the involvement of religious leaders and ideas in the political process, is pretty good on the whole. Messy, I'll admit, and it makes a lot of people angry, and could stand some work as far as tactics and sensitivity go, but at the same time probably the best on offer.

Colton said...

Jordan,

Of course Christianity informs our political views. Are my opinions on the death penalty and civil rights affected by Christianity? Yes. But do I think that, in our American democracy, Christianity should be the primary basis for our political beliefs? No. This is partly because of the church/state objections that Jeff so eloquently raised, and partly because I personally don't think Christianity is very interested in politics. From a Christian's perspective, I fail to see why politics are ultimately that important. There, I said it. And yes, I did concentrate in Government in college.

You said in your post: "But does that mean that we have to become France, and strictly enforce laicete (secularism) in ALL areas of the public square? Should our public life be so devoid of religion? I think not. In Europe, that's led to an ironclad public secularism, that quickly makes all religious ideas and beliefs irrelevant."

Wow!!! How much I disagree with that! I guess I want to better understand what you mean when you say that this state-enforced secularism "quickly makes all religious ideas and beliefs irrelevant." Because it sounds as if you believe that politics and political systems have the ability to reign in the power of the gospel-- power _over_ the gosepl! To me, nothing could be further from the truth. God is so much bigger than our governments. He can use them, yes, and I'm sure he has to spread the good news. But is he in nay way limited by how we choose to govern ourselves? Heck no!

Christianity is so radical that it can NEVER be "mainstream" in the eyes of the world. If it has become the norm or the mainstream thing, then either it has been watered down significantly (The Bible Belt, anyone?), or I have died and gone to heaven, which will be pretty awesome (and different than the U.S, I might add).

(By the way, I do find gov't interesting, and beleive governemnts serve an important purpose. But compared to the wonder and importance of the gospel, I could care less.)

Jordan Hylden said...

Hey, Colton--

Well, we do need to be clear about one thing, which is something on which we agree. The Gospel is never irrelevant. It is the answer to the question of every human life, embodied in the person of Christ and shown forth in the Cross and Resurrection, in all its power. That I think we all can agree about! :)

But that said, I maintain my previous assertion. In France, it is vigorously believed that religion has no place in public life whatsoever. Zip, zero, nada, none. The EU recently decided to omit all reference to God in their constitution. An Italian politician came under heavy fire for admitting that he was a believing Catholic, and that this influenced the way he thought about public ethical issues. In Europe, the state is MUCH more pervasive than it is here. You receive your education, health care, pension plan, insurance, and nearly everything else from the state, from cradle to grave. Thus, nearly EVERY public conversation is political in nature, since nearly everything has been absorbed by the state. And NONE of this is allowed to have anything to do with religion. Religion comes to occupy an increasingly narrow "private" sphere, that apparently has nothing to do with the way we order our lives together, what we decide is publicly just and unjust, and etc. Have you traveled around Europe some, Colton? Religion really is irrelevant to the lives of most people. And the all-pervasive secular state has a LOT to do with that. This is what France in particular inherited from their Revolution, which was anti-clerical through and through.

And then, briefly-- does Christianity have anything to do with "politics"? I'll put it this way: what is politics, other than the ordering of our lives together? Doesn't Christianity have something to say about that? Is it possible to make an amoral decision? If not, doesn't that mean that our moral decisions need to flow from the self-revelation of God in Christ? Is it irrelevant what sort of government we have, or what actions it takes? And if not, shouldn't our beliefs about and actions towards government also flow directly from Christ's witness and teachings? Is the Gospel something that somehow affects only the internal life of faith, and has nothing to do with the redemption of the entire world? Didn't Christ come to make all things new?

I'm as wary as you are about Moral Majority fundamentalism, which basically amounts to beating people over the head with Bible verses. But that's no reason to think that a religiously informed public philosophy isn't possible; indeed, isn't necessary!

Jordan

simeon zahl said...

Hi Jordan,

I have to say I'm more with Colton on this one, though I'm very interested in what you're saying.

I don't think you have addressed yet what I see as Colton's main point: he thinks you are attributing too much power to the State in relation to the Gospel, that your arguments all assume that the Gospel is something that needs politics, or political recognition of some kind, to support and defend it-- that the Gospel is in very real danger of "losing" the battle for what you call the "public square", and that it therefore needs politics in some sense to defend it. Colton's point is that God is not bound by the EU constitution. You cite France and Italy and their "ironclad secularism" (you are right,of course, about how profoundly secular these places have become) as evidence of the power of politics/ governments/ those who control the "public square" to squelch the Gospel.

First, Bonnie's point is still a telling one: England has had Christianity in the "public square" all the way along-- they just raised a gigantic cross outside of the town hall here in Cambridge a few days ago for Holy Week-- and is very nearly as secular as France or Italy. So perhaps the story is more complicated.

So why is Europe so secular? I would say that the heavily secular public squares over here are much more a symptom of secularism than its cause. The politics that worries you so-- and me, too!-- is much more the symptom than the cause. If you want a cause, I would look more to things like the World Wars, or even, going back a ways, the Thirty-Years War-- i.e. unimaginably significant cultural and spiritual cataclysms on a level orders of magnitude higher than anything the US has experienced, barring possibly the Civil War in the South. That's just an example. There are a thousand other reasons for European secularism; the point is just that you can harldly lay the blame exclusively at the feet of a secular culture or politics, or even, I would argue, marginally so. To do so would be to attribute a power to politics over and against the Gospel that I do not think it has in most cases.

Another case in point: China. Christianity is absolutely booming over there, in direct opposition to the government. Or, for that matter, the early persecuted church in the Roman Empire! Christianity was in fact doing very well before Constantine.

Also, although I think I know what you mean, could you define more precisely this term "public square"? As in, whose "public square"? And who determines where the public ends and the private begins? A definition would be helpful.

Anyway, the main point is that you seem to be attributing a hugely significant and potentially decisive power to the public square to effect the spread of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God, for instance in the case of France. Colton thinks this is a mistake, and I agree. With it it seems that you turn a very real and important _second-order_ issue into a first-order one-- in theological language, you are giving ultimate signficance to a penultimate.

Is that an unfair charge?

simeon zahl said...

Let me add that part of the motivation for my disagreement with you, Jordan, is that in the academy there is almost no issue more regularly and widely discussed than the relationship of Christianity to social justice and politics. I attended a course this Winter on precisely that topic.

There is an assumption at least among certain evangelicals that these issues have been ignored or deliberately set aside in favor of a false overemphasis on the Gospel as something personal, "spiritual", and unrelated to the wider world. This assumption really bothers me, because the academic theology has been talking about almost nothing else for about 90 years! Barth began his career in a radical Religious Socialism that criticized the theological powers that be for ignoring the relationship between church and World-- in 1911! Between Barth, Bonhoeffer, Juergen Moltmann, Gutierrez, Stanley Hauerwas, and John Howard Yoder, you have about half of the reading lists in most courses in either modern theology or Christian ethics.

The point is, although some evangelicals may have missed it, you can hardly enter a Christian theology classroom without discussing the supposed failure of Protestantism, especially evangelical Protestantism, to take the World and the church's social obligations in that World seriously.

It is interesting to me that, for example in my own studies of Christoph Blumhardt-- who was the spiritual father of the Religious Socialists at the turn of the 19th century with whom Barth was involved-- you find the concern for the social having its origin precisely in a vibrant evangelical, pietistic type faith.

The second-order stuff follows naturally, organically, and descriptively when you have the first-order stuff right. When you start with the second-order, you have already lost the battle. I think this is what Colton was getting at.

Jordan Hylden said...

Thanks, Simeon--

You make some good points, and I agree with many of them. First, let me say that I'm with you 100% in lamenting the transformation of mainline denominations from beacons of the Gospel into sancified civics classes. And I'm well aware that a great many seminaries, dioceses, bishops, and congregations still think this way. Here at Harvard, I've quite often argued (for instance) that the Veritas Forum needs to be focused on the core doctrines of the faith, i.e. the life-changing power of Christ to free us from guilt and shame and transform us into sons and daughters of God. If we in our churches aren't doing THAT, we may as well pack it up and go home. (The parishoners certainly will; they have in ECUSA).

But what I'm reacting against is the either-or mentality that we've come to in American evangelicalism. Either we care about politics and social justice, or we care about the Gospel, one or the other. That's been reinforced now by the newfound political power of evangelicals, e.g. the Moral Majority and James Dobson and all the rest. Many of us-- for instance, the people who post on this site-- are now reacting against THAT, too. So, we're not only reacting against the disastrous immolation of the mainline denominations, but we're also reacting against the Religious Right as well. So, we tell ourselves that God and Caesar do not mix, and say that Christianity has nothing to do with politics.

I'm arguing that that, too, is a significant error. All of politics is a moral endeavor, and if we Christians abdicate from our role in the moral conversation of this country, we will have left it to the secular elites. This would also be disastrous, inconsistent with American democracy, and a sad loss for the nation at large. (This is, by the way, essentially Richard John Neuhaus's argument in "The Naked Public Square.")

So, what does this look like? You asked, Simeon, if it was really so important to have Christianity in the "public square," since it seems to exist there in England, but nowhere else in the country! Certainly, I don't mean that we should have an established church. That hasn't worked well in Europe, and paradoxically I think has even worked AGAINST faith in the public square. Precisely because of the Church's establishment, it has been forced into the role of sanctifying whatever the state happens to want, and furthermore has been afraid to say anything that might rock the boat, for fear of losing its broad-church establishment status or being "sectarian." So, ironically, where in England you have a VERY public state church, you also have a Christianity that is often afraid to challenge the values of the culture at large.

So, from that, you can guess that my conception of Christianity in the public square has very little to do with having "establishment" status. Rather, I mean to say that it is very important for the Church to espouse a Christianity that is not afraid to publicly proclaim that when we say Christ's resurrection changes everything, we MEAN it! There is a way to think Christianly about family law, the environment, the tax system, welfare, foreign policy, abortion, and so on down the line. I mean to say that there is a distinctly Christian way of thought-- our knowledge that Christ is Truth embodied should, and indeed must, affect the way we think about everything else. We should not let our faith become an entirely "private" thing, having nothing to do with "politics." That is nonsense. In 1860, it was the Christian thing to do to say that slavery was wrong, and that something should be done about it, just as in 1960 it was the Christian thing to do to say the same about racial segregation. It continues to be the same case that our faith can and should affect the way we live in the world and order our societies.

Now, of course there are MANY caveats to this, having to do with the propose-impose distinction mainly, and the need for Christians to share the Gospel in love, rather than beat our neighbors over the head with Bibles. That is the failure of much of the Religious Right, and we must be extremely wary not to repeat their mistakes. Nevertheless to disengage from politics as such is misguided, from a different direction, and we mustn't do so.

Finally-- I accept your first-order and second-order distinction, Simeon and Colton. The first thing we are to do is proclaim the Gospel in truth and love, in word and with our very lives, within the community of the Church to the entire world. If we don't do that, then nothing else matters very much. But after that, we face a choice: do we retreat into Benedictine monasteries, resolving to carry the faith pure within our communities, hoping to attract people by our love and witness, and leaving the rest of the world to its own devices? There is a time and a place for Benedictine spirituality and communality, but I would contend that now is not that time. We are also called to be salt and light within the world-- a Franciscan calling, if you will, to go out among the people of the earth. If we abdicate from this responsibility, our nation will be the poorer for it. If we allow America to become something like France-- if our public square becomes characterized by an ironclad secularism-- then the regnant public assumption will be that Christianity does not matter. I am not saying that the Gospel cannot be preached in this context. I am saying that it creates a widespread assumption that Christianity is irrelevant. I do not thing that is a good thing. There must be a balance to strike somewhere, between Religious Right Bible-waving politics, and Benedictine withdrawal. I think the balance consists in publicly speaking the truth in love, and constantly showing forth the truth that Christ matters in EVERYTHING we do, and that even now He is making all things new.

simeon zahl said...

Great response, Jordan. I think I can sign on to what you're describing 100%. The key thing always to keep in mind is the motivation or source for application of the Gospel- which of course knows no boundaries and effects EVERYTHING, as you say- to politics and societal issues and so on. It must always come forth as fruit comes forth from a healthy tree. So I would say that, where the Gospel does not seem to be producing fruit, including political/ societal fruit, we can conclude that there is something wrong with the "Gospel" that is being preached.

For instance, where the Gospel preached is not prophetically critical of all kinds of aspects of human society, it has lost the proper use of the Law. Where, on the other hand, it is critical of society in a self-righteous, us vs. them sort of way, then, also, it has forgotten the Law, which is always directed at us sinners first and foremost, not just "them" sinners. Perhaps, to some degree, most of ECUSA represents the former, whereas most evangelicals, especially the Religious Right, represent the latter.

I would add personally, as I'm sure would you, that, given human nature, the latter is the far greater danger. It is not at all counterintuitive to criticize others- the World does it all the time- whereas it is difficult and counterintuitive to the point of impossible to point the sword back at ourselves. Both dangers are real and must be avoided, but I think we have made a mistake when we are not always more frightened of the latter. And in a way, it is the sword directed at ourselves that shows us most clearly what outside of ourselves is in fact most dangerous. Jesus had much more of a problem with pharisees than with sinners.

Again, nothing, I think, that you will disagree with. Just some additional thoughts. Again, loved your latest.

mike burton said...

Just a comment on these very thought provoking posts...

My career, just until a couple of years ago, (oddly enough, just around the time of my conversion), was politics!

Not policy, although there was some of that, but campaign consulting and management.

The ideas set forth by jordan, and the concluding revision by simeon, sound great!

The only problem is that it is very "pie in the sky".

For someone (a Christian) entering into the realm of the present political landscape to be able to successfully live according to the "first order" as described is almost entirely impossible.

On all sides of the political spectrum, and please take this from someone who spent over 10 years of his life living and breathing this crap, lying, cheating and stealing is the norm.

That goes especially for the Dobson's, Robertson's and Falwell's who must not only conduct themselves this way just to play the game but in doing so, deny their own faith!

Anyway, starting from scratch, Christian political involvemnt the way you fellows have described it here sounds wonderful.

I'm just afraid we've passed the point of that ever becoming reality.

Peace,
Mike

Jordan Hylden said...

That's a good question, Mike. In fact I had a similar argument with an acquaintance of mine this weekend-- he's planning to go to law school and become a trial lawyer, just like I formerly hoped to do. We both agreed that it was very important for faithful Christians of moral courage to participate in the justice system, just as he is planning to do. My problem was that although I knew he should do it, I had no idea how he could without compromising his faith and moral principles.

I think that's where we stand here. We know that we cannot withdraw. But how can we participate in a moral way, witnessing to our faith? Having little experience, I do not know how to answer that question. But Augustine, as I recall, took a good crack at it, and I think we are called to the same endeavor.

Don't you agree, Mike? Few Americans actually LIKE the corruption and cheating that one finds in our political system. There must be a way to do things differently. The very great problem is finding out how one does it, in the context of one's particular place and time. What do you think you personally could do? Surely there must be SOME way. In fact there has to be. We have no guarantee it will be easy. Christ said, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world."