Alan Keyes
Killing, anger & violence: Nothing new under the sun
Alan Keyes on 'confusion of good and evil that plagues our very souls'
By Alan Keyes
April 3, 2018

How do we know what's new? One of the empirical consequences of aging is that one's perception of "what's new" changes over time. In my experience, the fact that self-driving cars are right this instant headed toward a highway near where I live is something new. Passion-driven teenagers gathering in droves to demand changes in public policy is not. Neither is the fact that the changes they seek logically contradict the result for which they yearn.

The fact that what many construe as youthful idealism falls prey to cynical manipulation by more experienced souls who are fully aware of its self-consuming inconsistency is nothing new. Neither is the pathetic spectacle of people, supposedly equipped to teach the young, who call upon them nonetheless for instruction. For me, the experience of a Roman Catholic pope who praises the youthful longing for goodness and justice as the very childlike spirit Christ embraced is nothing new. But what of the spectacle of a Roman pontiff who seems to pamper and encourage the callow self-conceit of "wisdom," even though it conflicts with truths pronounced or exemplified by Christ? Even after a lifetime, this is something unsettling and new.

When I was a teenaged student in my first year at university, the campus I attended became embroiled in controversy. It was stirred up by the perception that academic study had no "relevance" to the issues of social justice, like racial discrimination, the profusion of poverty, and the Vietnam War's supposedly cynical waste of youthful lives. A professor in one of my classes approached me to discuss what was happening. I was disappointed when, instead of the spirited defense of the pursuit of truth I mostly expected, I witnessed a gobsmacked specialist. He seemed to have no sense of the profoundly moral importance of the disciplined way of life he was, in outward appearance, successfully pursuing.

At the time, I had but little sense of the general collapse of moral self-confidence this incident exemplified. I was myself a fervently callow youth, more than a bit disposed to see moral passion as necessary and sufficient proof of moral understanding. However, my Roman Catholic upbringing worked to keep this in check. So did the fact that, even in the little experience of higher learning I had at that time, I was already being challenged, in Socratic fashion, to "know what I do not know."

In dealing with politics and government, clear, logically coherent ideas and concepts are not enough. Neither are fervent, unmistakable passions. People who passionately believe that love conquers all and peace is paramount give way to the surge of moral indignation that claims to achieve that conquest by coercive force of law. So they applaud vindictive lawsuits intended to force conscientious people into bankruptcy. In the name of what they call "social justice," they disturb the peace and brandish violent threats. To mitigate their fear of untimely death, they clamor for measures intended to deprive people of the moral and material wherewithal to defend themselves against killers bent on murder, or using murders to achieve tyrannical power.

The primordial fallacy of the so-called "administrative state" is that the administration of things (guns, for example) suffices for human government. But every advance in our technology proves that, where there's ill will, there's a way. Today, we falsely fixate on guns. Meanwhile, a few drops of the right biological venom, a little misting of the right deadly virus, and masses die more easily than one. Outlaw guns, and a few criminals, unlawfully armed, will concentrate on acquiring such means of massive death to distribute them, for a price, to those disposed to murder many. Thinking to make schools safe from when bullets fly, we may merely shift the focal point of evil, making it even deadlier.

People are usually not preoccupied with murdering others. But the capacity to kill exists in most of us, as if in reserve against deadly threats. Re-enforce these natural dispositions by educating the mind habitually to respect the will of the Creator who instilled them, and their mutual counterpoise becomes an inner resource of the soul, focused on preserving life, and the maintaining the well-disciplined character needed to do so. But in our time, the very people who pretend to flatter the aversion to dying by promoting "gun control" simultaneously promote the disposition to murder defenseless human offspring in cold blood. So, the warm heart of family affection is, by selfishness, turned to stone. Hearts of stone don't have far to look for the wherewithal to murder. And selfish passions, thus encouraged to the extreme, will not burn out without finding what they seek.

How do we know what's new? The Son of David writes:
    What is it that has been? The same that shall be. What is it that has been done? The same that shall be done. There is nothing new under the sun. Nor is man able to say: Behold this is new: for it has already gone before in the ages that were before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)
To individuals, or a people, who have experienced success, this biblical observation is by no means discouraging. If experience teaches us anything, it does so in light of what has gone before. In previous generations, Americans endured periods when the threat of violence haunted our everyday life. They have known periods when the will to do violence bid fair to rule our lives, overthrowing peace and liberty. It may seem new to us that this threat now arises from a confusion of right and wrong, good and evil that plagues our very souls. Because that confusion seems new to us, we fall prey to the belief that it will take something new to remedy it.

But, as we fall into it, how can we fail to take account of the abyss that wasn't there before? What is missing is the ground on which we stood to battle amongst ourselves over the right and wrong of where we stood. Has this ground fallen away, or have we departed from it? Is our fall a matter of time, or does it come in consequence of our surrender of the standard by which we measure time, space, and all things else? We look for something new when, perhaps, nothing will do but what was there before – not just before now, but before all.

You know what I'm saying. In your very soul, you know. Why not, for a moment at least, Be still! (Psalm 46:10) Peek into the glimmer of knowledge that flickers in each of us. 'Tis the season for it.

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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