Perhaps many of us with the new eschatological worldview perceive a need for major changes in the way we do business within our societies. The question I have is this: What will be the new mechanism, the new paradigm, by which we will address the various issues and aspects of our society in order to bring about real change? Whatever we have been doing in the past cannot yield dramatically new results, so I look for a radically different mode of operation in all that we do.
As I consider our historical approach to progress in many areas of our lives, I am impressed with how strongly we are attached to the notion that competition is the way to “bring the cream to the top”, to foster innovation, to encourage excellence in every field of endeavor, to promote progress and ultimately solve the world’s problems. Supposedly when two or more individuals or groups race one another toward the same goal, they draw from each other the best effort that both can achieve and thereby encourage the maximum in accomplishment from everyone involved. This is apparently the rationale for our societal fixation with this notion that competition is the ultimate motivator behind progress.
The glorification of competition as a virtue, is seen everywhere. It pervades our business models, drives our education system, colors our foreign policy, fuels our materialism, promotes our obsession with youthfulness, and serves as our major form of entertainment. I ask myself what brings about this obsession with the glories of competing. Is this something that is just inherent in man’s nature, or is it something more subtle?
In pondering this question, I consider the possible effect of the traditional, futurist eschatology on our national mindset. Under traditional eschatology, the forces of good and evil continue to struggle with each other; and good men, those who are the best among us, are called into service to resist the evil along side God. The idea of continuing spiritual conflict is applied by easy extension to the physical realm through the various forms of competition that I mentioned. If participation in the spiritual struggle and being recognized as a winner is ennobling, then establishing one’s competence as a winner in these other arenas must also be worthwhile.
The essence of competition is the differentiation between winners and losers. Competition does not generally produce win-win situations. Competition provides space for only a few winners, certainly never more than 50% of the participants. The old eschatology with its associated message that only the select few were acceptable, established the rules of competition in the spiritual game. Winners were few and could count on glorification. Losers were many and they were to be condemned. If you don’t want to be condemned, become a winner by competing hard and winning. Follow the rules. Work hard. Then maybe you’ll win. God only accepts winners. Does this all have a familiar ring to it in terms of our societal mores?
Actually to say that God only accepts winners is true. However, gloriously God has made us all winners, so our acceptance is assured by His power and graciousness.
What are the implication of the new eschatology and its much grander picture of God’s redemptive accomplishment on our mechanisms for transformation? As I search for the answer to this question I look to an aspect of Christ’s completed work which I believe has drawn scant attention down through the years. Ephesians 2 and other passages indicate for me that God’s redemptive work was designed not only to bring man into full fellowship with God but also to re-unite all mankind into a collective community where the old animosities, the old struggles, the old sense of the need to compete would be relinquished. This new realization of the brotherhood of all mankind provides an opportunity for a dramatically new methodology of change, progress, and societal transformation.
The polar opposite of competition is cooperation. What could be accomplished if the desire to excel individually and be recognized as a winner was replaced by a wish to mutually resolve the issues we face without regard to who gets the credit, who makes the greatest contribution, who wins and who doesn’t. Is it unreasonable to expect a national emphasis on cooperative effort to be dramatically more effective than the current preoccupation with competition?
No body wants to be a loser, but competition compounds the ranks of the losers. Many, however, can make a contribution to a cooperative effort and be recognized as part of the team that overcame a problem. Cooperation allows all to be winners and opens the way for innovation and creativity sparked by a mutual sharing that competition by its very nature disallows. Competition as a virtue is simply a metaphor for the old eschatological worldview with its emphasis on continuing struggle between good and evil.