Changing society without changing character

We must at some point stop looking for new information or social arrangements or religious experiences that will draw off the evils in the world at large, abolish war, hunger, oppression and so forth, while letting us continue to be and to live as we have since Adam.»? This is the illusion of our age, the Holy Grail of modernity, a pleasant dream in secularism.»? The monstrous evils we deplore are in fact the strict causal consequences of the spirit and behavior of "normal" human beings following generally acceptable patterns of life.»? They are not the result of strange flukes, accidental circumstances, or certain especially mad or bad individuals.»? The tyrants, satanic forces, and oppressive practices of this world play upon our "merely decent" lives as a master organist dominates his or her instrument but is wholly powerless without it.

The debate about whether "the answer" lies in social or in individual change goes on and on only because both sides are thinking at a very superficial level.»? Establishing the rights of labor and of the various ethnic groups, shifting ownership of the means of production from private to public hands, outlawing various types of discrimination, governmental outlays for welfare and education, and so on, will certainly make a difference—good or bad—but they will not eliminate greed, loneliness, resentment, sexual misery and harm, disappointment with one’s lot in life, hunger for meaning and recognition, fear of sickness, pain, old age and death, or hatred of those of other cultures.»? But then neither will the vapid, mass produced experiences of repentance and faith—if we may indeed call them that—that now commonly are announced as entrance into a new and supernatural life.

…learned people tell us that personal virtue is not an answer to social ills.»? The effect of this saying is to keep people working at changing society without attempting the radical transformation of character.»? It pleads for a continuation of "life as usual," which is precisely the source of the problem. (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, pp. 234-5, 238)