Rules for the Remnant (Part 1)

Have you ever felt alone? Have you ever felt like you are the only one who cares? Have you felt like the weight of the world rests squarely on your shoulders? If so, then be encouraged to learn that you are not alone. There are many others, just like you, who believe that they are all alone in their quest for political sanity and common sense. You are not alone in your aloneness.

How can I say this? How do I know this to be the case? Because I am alone, just like you. I sit down each day and compose a daily writing for this website that seems to me to be nothing less than a exposé of the rampant hypocrisy and corruption present in our modern American political machine and yet—as the day turns to night—I realize anew that those 750 words had about as much effect as the 750 from the day before (and the day before that, and…). My well-intentioned and insightfully brilliant (thanks Mom!) writing dies as quietly and unnoticed as it was conceived. Some read it, some comment on it, some like it, some hate it; but all forget it. Much like the vitamin taken each morning, daily political commentaries are swallowed with little thought or reflection.

So why do it? Why waste seemingly valuable time and effort putting words together day after day, only to get up and do it yet again? Because this apparent futility and laboring in obscurity is the very calling of those who work for the Remnant. Albert Jay Nock describes this paradox better than anyone in his essay, Isaiah’s Job. Nock points out that there is—and always will be—a marked difference between the “masses” and the “Remnant,” and despair is a prevalent occupational hazard. Using the biblical prophet Isaiah as his role model, Nock defines the general strategy taken by most Remnant workers in their desire to be heard: “Everyone with a message nowadays is … eager to take it to the masses. His first, last and only thought is of mass-acceptance and mass-approval. His great care is to put his doctrine in such shape as will capture the masses’ attention and interest.”

Of course he is right. No one sets out to be systematically ignored; especially those who make loud and repeated claims about not caring what others think. However, Nock further says, there is a grave danger here as well:

This attitude towards the masses is so exclusive, so devout, that one is reminded of the troglodytic monster described by Plato, and the assiduous crowd at the entrance to its cave, trying obsequiously to placate it and win its favour, trying to interpret its inarticulate noises, trying to find out what it wants, and eagerly offering it all sorts of things that they think might strike its fancy.

In other words, appealing to the masses with a Remnant message is a fool’s errand. Assuming that the masses are ignorant is indeed correct, but assuming that they are concerned enough about their ignorance to remedy it is not. Remnant Rule #1: The masses are passive. Isaiah understood this:

He preached to the masses only in the sense that he preached publicly. Anyone who liked might listen; anyone who liked might pass by. He knew that the Remnant would listen; and knowing also that nothing was to be expected of the masses under any circumstances, he made no specific appeal to them, did not accommodate his message to their measure in any way, and did not care two straws whether they heeded it or not… The prophet of the American masses must aim consciously at the lowest common denominator of intellect, taste and character among 120,000,000 people; and this is a distressing task. The prophet of the Remnant, on the contrary, is in the enviable position of Papa Haydn in the household of Prince Esterhazy. All Haydn had to do was keep forking out the very best music he knew how to produce, knowing it would be understood and appreciated by those for whom he produced it, and caring not a button what anyone else thought of it; and that makes a good job.

This is the real point. It is a bitter pill to realize that your message is unpopular, but it is unpopular for the simple reason that it is most necessary. Anyone can tell others what they want to hear, but being a prophet of responsibility and hard work will win you few friends and admirers. Remnant Rule #2: Speak the truth clearly, even when no one appears to be listening.

Read Part Two>>