Monday morning we watched our iPhones ding updates again…more people dead…more people injured…more insanity…more carnage…more questions…less answers. It seems never-ending, and it is.
Have you ever watched a Ken Burns’ documentary on war? Once you do, and you see men killing each other, face to face, brother to brother, and you see Presidents struggle with what to do, sometimes led by a higher power, sometimes clouded by the times, you’ll see that there is a fact that you cannot ignore-evil has been around forever. And while it prowls and devours, we keep looking around for answers and medicine to mask its fury, it only grows.
Is humanity in 2017 is careening out of control?
Is it bursting with compassion?
Perhaps we’ve never been so acutely aware of the evil and tragedy in our world until right now. And that is why we are flabbergasted and brokenhearted and upended. We were lied to about what was going on in Vietnam, we didn’t even know… We knew about Russia and Afghanistan in the 80s, but we only saw it from 6-6:30 when Tom Brokaw told us about it. We heard rumors of riots in L.A. in the 60s and again the 90s, and famines in Ethiopia, and conflict in Libya. But we weren’t flooded with it, like we are now.
And it’s just so much tragedy. So much anguish. So much suffering. How do we stop it? How do we FIX it?
We weep and we wonder and we secretly praise God it wasn’t us or our loved ones…this time, but we worry it will be someday…don’t we? We suffer survivors’ guilt.
Right now, sex is sold.
In our parent’s lifetime (and even ours) bodies have dangled from trees, for being other. And basic civil rights had to be FOUGHT for, as if they weren’t deserved.
In my grandparents’ lifetime Jews, gypsies, and Slavs were shot in the street just for being who God created them to be.
In a previous generation, ship loads of people were brought here, treated like cargo along the way, and sold like goods.
Before that, land was stolen from an entire people group and redistributed because it could be.
Even farther back, some of the very same people who stole that land and made it their own without asking, were themselves, fleeing oppressive, hostile, and violent governments that sought to kill them because of religion.
I could go on and on and on. Evil has always been here and it’s not going anywhere. It seems to be getting worse. But I would contend that our world has always been broken. And I’ll be honest and tell you that in light of that fact, sometimes, I feel hopeless, and scared, and small, and helpless.
I have a wide array of friends and readers: Christians, atheists, agnostics, ponderers, and questioners, Democrats, Republicans, etc.. But in times like this, it is absolutely impossible for me not to talk about my faith. I know some of you disagree on that count. But please know that I’ve spent the last two days thinking about you, specifically and how to say what I feel clearly.
I will not make this blog political, because frankly, politics will always fail us. A good friend of mine noted, that two parties can in no way encompass us all. And if they can’t encompass us, as people, they cannot save us from the problem of evil. Yes, we should engage with politics and do what we can as long as we can, but we have to remove politics from our altar of hope. Because in a thumb war between evil and law, evil will always find a way. Without access to war, evil will make war. Without access to weapons, evil will devise more.* Without something to destroy, evil will find something good and ravage it.
We need to be careful to fight the actual enemy, rather than only throw medicine at it. We need a diagnosis before we find a cure.
Last week, I was working on a post about bias, when I walked by a car at school pickup completely covered in horribly offensive political bumper stickers (horribly offensive TO ME) and my first thought was, “what are they doing here?” Do you see what I did there? I othered them, that fast, in my brain, right after I’d spent a whole afternoon thinking about bias and hate.
So here’s my tune. And I’ll always sing it. When we see a tragedy too great for our minds to comprehend, maybe first we should go inward and attack the hate and evil in our own hearts. Hang out with a two-year old, take a psych class, or watch a dystopian thriller for 5 minutes and you’ll see the slope toward utter depravity is slippery within us. We all have bias, we all have hate, we all have rage. Combatting evil starts here, in me (with what I think and say), in my home, then in community, and then in the world.
Friends, not to oversimplify things, but it starts with you and me, “we, the people.”
It’s starts with prayer in place of anxiety.
It starts with loving our neighbor, but it also starts with not hating our enemies.
It starts with going the extra mile,
fighting the negative thoughts toward fellow humans-regardless of their views (that’s a tall order in 2017, a very tall order),
listening instead of arguing,
recognizing mental illness before it spirals out of control,
paying attention to misfits and wanderers,
saying NO to unkindness, in any form,
standing up for the underdog,
speaking up for people who don’t have a voice.
That’s how we start.
And then look for helpers. They are there, just like Mr. Rogers said. Don’t underestimate the transformative power that helping can have on someone’s life. That, in fact, it can turn them from evil to good.
In Christian circles, we call this “working out our salvation” or “discipleship” or more simply being “little Christs.” Many people confuse Christianity for Pharisaism. But don’t. Don’t confuse strident rule keeping and finger-pointing for discipleship. Jesus asked us to look like him, and act like him. John the Baptist said of his cousin, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” And then he was beheaded by a Herod Antipas to please his wife. There has always been evil. There has always been depravity.
Jesus says it better than I ever could in one million years,
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’[q] and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies![r] Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends,[s] how are you different from anyone else?
Matthew 6:43-48 NLT
Here’s the deal, friends. The times are dark, but I love you so much and appreciate you. Thank you for being here. We’re in this together.
*My education on gun control laws in this country is so lacking, that it is outside of my scope of practice. And I will not debate or engage it until I take time to research. Of course people die at the hands of guns. People die a thousand different ways. This is not a place to chat about gun control. :):)