Comparing Social Commentary in Dover Beach, Second Coming, and Church Going

Comparing Social Commentary in Dover Beach, Second Coming, and Church Going

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Comparing Social Commentary in Dover Beach, Second Coming, and Church Going

Human society has always struggled with the conflict of faith versus technology. Faith has always been a symbol of order, and increasing technology has always been the scapegoat for "mere anarchy." When faith ebbs, technology or new scientific concepts are blamed. Technology is a convenient target because when people lose faith in the church, science is a hard-based, factual thing in which to believe. The increasing chaos in society can be blamed on the decreasing faith in religion that has been shifted to technology.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, European society was in chaos. Since no other civilizing force in which to believe was in existence, when the Roman Catholic Church made itself a organizing power, it set up a precedent that attached itself to the mind set for the next few centuries. Religious beliefs are synonymous with the "calm" and the peace that relieve life's turmoil. For a long period of time, there was no other steadying force, so "the Sea of Faith" was the sole source for easing "the turbid ebb and flow of human misery." Tradition has kept this view of religion popular.

Still, religion itself cannot hold the attention of human society forever. Eventually, as displayed in "Dover Beach," faith in religion and its structure will fade in the light of new ideas and new human inventions. Society's faith cannot always be "full" because as civilizations grow individuals become more independent. They begin to think for themselves, which causes life to become more subjective. With less imposed structure, individuals will determine that they do not subscribe to all of what their predecessors believed, and they are left "wondering what to look for." Technology often replaces religion because it is far more tangible than the concepts of organized religion that require blind faith. It is easier to believe in something touchable. In "Church Going," this attitude is examined. A wistfulness for a time when faith came easier is apparent, but there is also "an awkward reverence" for the ways of religion even if they are no longer believed.

Once people place their faith in technology rather that something spiritual, they will find that while technology is concrete, it does not provide guidance for social behavior or the human spirit as most religions do. In "The Second Coming" the world is spinning out of control.

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Technology can be developed much faster than social awareness or maturity, so when faith is lost, people are troubled for reasons that they cannot define. Without order and spiritual answers, "things fall apart," and the world seems to be a pointless, terrible place. The previous hopes for the end of the world die along with the other elements of faith. The "rough beast" shows that the world needs those elements to guide society, or the world will make a disheveled spiral to its own destruction.

"When disbelief is gone," people will begin looking desperately for something else in which to have faith. The "grating roar" that takes faith away like the sea that takes the pebbles must eventually bring it back like the returning tide. People need guidance, and while they may push it away, they desire it nonetheless. When organized religion has vanished, simply "[being] true to one another" may take its place. The churches themselves may leave society, but the desire for spiritual guidance "can never be obsolete." Those who allow it to become so will continue to live in chaos.

These three poems relate to the present millennium in that Americans have become morally bankrupt. New technological conveniences are developed daily, but many people feel lost and depressed. This sense of depression is coupled with a general feeling of disorder because Americans have let their faith lapse. Due to the impending millennium, the intensity of these feelings are increasing. People are "[clashing by night]" because their need for guidance is strong, and they are ignoring it. They cannot determine right from wrong or friend from enemy. Despite the fact that there are many religious and nonreligious answers to cling to, Americans are headed toward the new year in a chaos and panic.
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