Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Eliot: Machinery, Society, and Man's End

Image:  T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

I just finished T. S. Eliot’s essay “The Idea of a Christian Society.” It includes a broadcast talk Eliot did in 1937 as an Appendix. His closing thoughts in the talk on “machinery,” society, and man’s end, brought to mind how this might be applied to contemporary technological advancements (e.g., the internet, etc.).

Any machinery, however beautiful to look at and however wonderful a product of brains and skill, can be used for bad purposes as well as good:  and this is as true of social machinery as of constructions of steel.  I think that, more important than the invention of a new machine, is the creation of a temper of mind in people such that they can learn to use a new machine rightly.  More important still at the moment would be the diffusion of knowledge of what is wrong—morally wrong—and of why it is wrong.  We are all dissatisfied with the way in which the world is conducted:  some believe it is a misconduct in which we all have some complicity; some believe that if we trust ourselves entirely to politics, sociology or economics we shall only shuffle from one makeshift to another.  And here is the perpetual message to the Church:  to affirm, to teach and apply, true theology.  We cannot be satisfied to be Christians at our devotions and merely secular reformers all the rest of the week, for there is one question that we need to ask ourselves every day and about whatever business.  The Church has perpetually to answer this question: to what purpose were we born?  What is the end of Man?

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