William Golding wrote the novel The Lord of the Flies back in 1954. It is a story about a group of boys who are stranded on a tropical island during a nuclear war. They are in a literal paradise with no restraints, rules or supervision. They can do anything they choose and there is no one to tell them that is wrong. Seems like the beginning of a fun youth fiction book, right? I loved My Side of the Mountain. Yeah, not so much.
In Goulding’s work, the boys initially have a grand old time frolicing and playing like kids dream about. But gradually a shift occurs. Without societal or parental influence, their innocent joyousness is replaced with something terrible. As a sort of leadership forms among the boys envy, greed and lust for power begin to show themselves. The evil that lurks in all men’s hearts, even little men, bears its ugly fangs as the boys pursue their heart’s desires and fight those trying to stop them. Violence breaks out against the characters who stand for good and truth in the story who get in the way. They are impediments to others getting what they want and without rules to the contrary violence is the natural reaction. Each man desperately must fulfill his wants even if that involves destroying those who get in the way. The boys of Goulding’s story are no exception and the story that begins with an idyllic island paradise ends with boys killing each other for more power and gain. Anarchy and death are the results of man being allowed to truly follow his heart.
The heart is desperately wicked after all.
William Goulding story was meant to be more than just a story of boys who crashed landed on a remote island. It was an allegory, a picture within a picture, about the nature of man. Within the confines of society and culture man is polite and structured. He obeys laws, goes to school and learns to get along. Yet, if you loose the bounds upon him and allow him to follow his heart, man will fight, kill and maim to get what he wants. Goulding saw the horrors of World War 2 and Hitler and Stalin so he knew of what he wrote.
Goulding’s allegory is consistent what we find in the Bible. Man’s heart is evil says the Lord. When people throw off God’s rule and replace Him with their own desires anarchy and death is the result. We need only read the Book of Judges for evidence of what happens when each man does what is right in their own eyes. The time of the Judges stands as a warning to us all about setting rules based upon our judgment. The Kings of Israel are another example. When David’s heart becomes set upon Bathsheeba what does he do? He must have what he desires and Uriah, a friend of David and ones of his trusted men gets crushed along the way.
When man believes that life is about man getting what he wants, evil is inevitable and life is ugly.
If we look around at the world today, we are not quite to the days of the Judges or the savagery of the tribes of the Lord of the Flies. We still are a society greatly influenced by Christianity. We are people still under the guidance of simple Christian thoughts like “do unto other” and “love other” that have no place in other cultures. The idea of justice for the disenfranchised is completely foreign to some cultures and religions.
Yet, these constraints are being removed at an extraordinarily rapid pace. In the western world, constructs that had been in place for hundreds of years are being done away with at a dizzying pace. Morality and norms are being trampled under foot in the name of progress and claimed enlightenment. It is hard to even keep up with what each part of society is deciding is not needed anymore. These biblically influenced societal norms are being replaced with a morality defined by the loudest voices in society. Whoever is the loudest, most shaming or most convincing gets to define what is right. It doesn’t matter if it is right, just as long as we want it! It is like what Josef Stalin said when asked to consider the moral objections of the Vatican to his madness “How many divisions does the Pope have?”. Today’s version may be more like “How many protestors or boycotters does my opponent have?”
It is still might makes right, just in a different package.
What is the result of all of this “progress” we have been experiencing? Strife, chaos, anger, and confusion seem to plague us. There are cultural clashes wherever we turn and groups throw off the old and strive to get their desires met. Signs of anarchy and societal breakdown are everywhere. The things that are good in the world are attacked by those who seek to follow their heart. They want something, therefore, society should change to allow it to happen. 10,000 different groups screaming that their needs and wants are most important and ready to battle to the end to get them met. It is a scary picture.
Where does it lead?
Well, William Goulding, David, and the Judges seem to all point to the same answer. Where each person does what is right in their own eyes conflict, death and anarchy follow close behind. A scarier picture than the factions that are tearing at each other today is where such division usually leads.
What is the antidote for these conflicts when everyone claims to be fighting for the truth? When everyone feels such emotions behind every cause they back even if they contradict each other?
That answer is the same as in 1954 or when David sat on the throne.
Jesus stated that He is the truth. He did not state that He knew the truth or spoke the truth both of which are also true. Jesus stated that He is the Truth, the Way and the Life. When life has gotten contentious, confusing and dangerous. When all else seems to be crumbling, it is the truth that sets us free and places us on the right path. Jesus said He came to set the captives free. He pierces through all the clamoring voices with the Truth that has been the same since before the Earth was formed: Himself. Only HE can fix it. We can only repair any fractures in the foundation of society through preaching Jesus and Him crucified. It is He who built the society that we love so much to begin with. Only He can repair it…or see us through if the Lord of the Flies times do come.
Turn to Him today. Allow Him to fix it in our lives today and preach Him to others to fix our societies. Only He is big enough to handle it and change men’s hearts.
Btw – Did you know that the Lord of the Flies is a name from the Bible? It is another name for Satan. William Goulding appears to have been making quite a pointed statement with the name of his book.