In Our Time

Vengeance Is Mine, Saith Ms. Jeong

In Europe some time during the 17th and 18th centuries the class of people who were known after 1789 as “the left” made the shocking discovery that the world is not perfect: not even all it might be but should be and, indeed, can be.  To the leftist mind, this imperfection was unnatural, and therefore rectifiable.  Since human nature is naturally good and fair, the left reasoned, something or someone bad must have corrupted it; and that something or someone needed to be identified, named, and blamed.  That was the first necessary step toward setting the world to rights.  The second was to remove the evil agency from power, punish it, and substitute for it an agency for good—“the people”—to recreate the lost paradise on a basis of universal goodness and justice.

Whom, then, to blame?  An obvious candidate—the first one, actually—was the Roman Catholic Church that for nearly two millennia had taught the primary doctrines of Original Sin and man’s radical dependency on God the Creator, both of which directly denied the proto-liberals’ assurance of mankind’s innate goodness and man’s ability to function, indeed to thrive, unaided by a Deity.  Yet the Roman Church had already been challenged, and in some countries replaced, by other churches—and still all was not well, let alone perfect.  The Protestants had not succeeded in...

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