This is the way

An interesting article written by Shayla Love was recently published in Vice. Love follows the rising popularity of Stoicism, a philosophy which died out in antiquity, recorded largely by Marcus Aurelius and Seneca. The Stoics believed in being virtuous, living ethically but most famously, taking a sober view of life, not stressing about things outside their control.

Today, Love notes, a lot of Stoic ideas have been co-opted by marketing, a pick ‘n’ mix selection of disciplines for modern life-coaching, self-help and entrepreneurs— “not so much a philosophy as a collection of life hacks for overcoming anxiety… curbing anger, and…finding stillness and calm.” Stoicism’s practical applications make it very “meme-able” but it is not surprising that it is striking a chord with many.

As the Mad Christian has observed, the tsunami of 2020 has left a lot of wreckage but also exposed the fragility of things we once assumed were here forever. Life in Modern-land can make victimhood seem attractive, but you don’t need the grit of a Mandalorian to appreciate that a serious acceptance of how life is can help stave off a feeling of helplessness.

At this moment, some Stoic realism may be just what is needed in the white noise. The value of focusing on things near at hand has become an antidote to the frenzied chattering of those far away. Producing things yourself is a satisfying counterpoint to mass-produced Stuff and online existence. Opting out of the cracking pace to spend time in God’s Word and with your family  refuels your peace of mind. 

No fatalism is necessary, though, for those in Christ Jesus. We can know, as recorded by the prophet Isaiah, God declares the end from the beginning. His counsel will stand and he does his own good pleasure. We can live this life with quiet endurance, knowing that he waits for us at the finish line. 

We serve no sovereigns here

The recent death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, made news around the world. His grandsons William and Harry wrote warmly of his mischievous sense of humor and his skills on the BBQAmerica’s leaders paid tribute to the Prince, noting his support of the Queen and his dignity during difficult times. While the US fought to be free from the monarchy, the tradition and grandeur of the British court is still a source of intrigue.

Prince Philip’s royal life was remarkably different to his childhood, which was something akin to a novel. He was related to Russian royalty, and was born a prince of Denmark and Greece. Despite this privilege, his grandfather was assassinated a few years before Philip was born and his father was deposed in Greece, arriving destitute in England. His mother battled schizophrenia and was treated by Sigmund Freud. The young Prince was briefly schooled in Nazi Germany and later in the harsh Scottish highlands, while his family fell apart. To marry Queen Elizabeth, Philip relinquished his titles, adopted Anglicanism and changed his Germanic surname.

Some have criticized the British royal family for not showing enough emotion; others marvel at the ability to carry out their duties despite personal suffering and trauma. The monarchy is a dinosaur in a therapeutic society that has all but demoted personal responsibility and discipline to optional extras in the pursuit of happiness.

The doctrine of “sola feels” governs a lot of the discourse on social media— if it makes me feel good, it’s true. There is a season for everything under heaven, as Solomon wrote, including times to laugh and cry. There is great wisdom in discerning what is appropriate. To a society which is used to being ruled by feelings, a man who is governed by a sense of duty, by the traditions of an office, by the needs of a nation, is largely a mystery.

But just as the Prince was like a man out-of-time, so are Mad Christians. Unlike the worldlings, dictated to by emotions and taking orders from the zeitgeist, we are taught by the Word and keep in step with the Spirit. Our allegiance is not to our happiness, but to a sovereign King, whose law is a delight, whose comfort is profound and whose ways are just. We know where our treasure lies and it won’t be long til faith is sight. “Behold I am coming soon and my reward is with me.” Even so, come Lord Jesus!