Like many I know, I have been paying less attention to the swirling morass of the news these days. Most of it is glum and discouraging anyway, and, here in the “Great White North”, summer is all too brief to waste on keeping up with the latest blasts in the present mockery of “discussion and dialogue” in uber-confused Western culture. Besides, between true news (??) and the boundless volume of the less reliable variety, it is often hard to draw a firm line in the midst of all the spin and vehement opinion masquerading as considered point of view.
Everyone has a point of view, of course. But the problem is that it is now uncommon to find any serious attempt to talk about an issue. Most of what passes for commentary consists of dismissing the writer-commentator’s submission as mere strong bias or even some sort of incipient “Communism” or “Fascism”. Lamentably, those accusing “those other people” of being the bogeyman have little real understanding of the ideologies involved, and probably don’t care that they are ignorant thereof. In place of dialogue we are stuck with polemics, histrionics, and ad hominem denunciations of “those Nazis/Commies”.
Canada is very similar to many other First World nations in much of its public life’s dominant trends and concerns. I find the near impossibility of having real discourse about important things in my home country, let alone the Great Republic to our south, increasingly disturbing. What are the repercussions of this stark polarization for our social and political life? Its impact can be seen in virtually everything, as can the disdain and scorn for any opinion and perspective other than one’s own. This disease proliferates in social media and even some of the supposedly professional media.
What is of even greater concern for me than most of the general “Right vs. Left” screaming sessions that populate the public and private commentosphere is the penetration of this malignant ethos into the Christian sector, especially in North America. There too listening and a desire to achieve real insight have taken a serious hit.
Cynics and critics of the Church (no specific branch or denomination in mind) will say that this has always been true of Christians and Christianity. Unfortunately, this has too often been valid. The history of the persecution of “heretics” and the infamous wars of religion after the Reformation and Counterreformation illustrate this, plus crusades, slavery justification, pogroms, colonial invasions and genocides, and witch-hunts perpetrated in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace and the great Reconciler of humanity with the Creator.
So many of the scenarios and diatribes coming from too many voices declaring that God has shown them the truth behind the politics, economics, and social programs of this age, whether they are for or against any specific Party, candidates, or ideology, sound so familiar to so much that has happened since late antiquity. It would be a very long story and series to go back over all that. As Qohelet said, “There [really and truly as regards human nature and behaviour] is nothing new under the sun.”
It may prove true that we are quite close to or even in the last, Last Days and on the verge of the Great Tribulation. I am aware that quite a few believe that we are now seeing such signs, and they may be right. My generation thought this back in 1973. People thought it in World War 1, and in WW2 called Hitler the Antichrist.
But Jesus told us that it is not for us to know the times or the seasons. Rather, above all other things, we should be busy building the Kingdom. While we shouldn’t be ignorant of the enemy’s nature and schemes (stealing, killing, lying, destroying), neither should we be glorifying them, even inadvertently, by obsessing and spending great swaths of our time searching for them in every subtle nook and cranny. That stuff has always been there and will continue to be for however much longer Yeshua ha-Mashiach tarries. I too long for His coming, but all my worrying about how dark things are getting won’t hasten it one micro-second.
The mistake is to obsess about such signs and prophetic pronouncements and apparent sort-of-look-like-fulfillments to the point of forgetting what the true and perpetual calling of Jesus’ earthly Body always has been and remains today. It is to love God, love our neighbour, look after the helpless, defenceless, least esteemed and able to care for themselves, the oppressed, etc., and tell people the good news that the Lord-God Creator has given us a way back to Him through Yeshua. It is not rocket science depending on abstruse calculations of what constitutes the fulfillment of all the signs given in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, the apocalyptic passages in the Epistles, and, especially, the Book of Revelation. It is certainly not that peculiar North American obsession about being raptured out of this vale of tears in a sort of Great Escape before the Devil gets control for a few years.
A sure measure of our life in Jesus is to what extent the peace which is His great gift to His people, even in the midst of trouble and turmoil, continues to bring forth His light in our own lives and in the Church. Another is the presence of the Spirit’s fruit: “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law,” says the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5.
That fruit should come forth in both words and actions, including, as hard as it may be, graciousness towards those who mock us and belittle us. Especially moreso when strong differences emerge among sisters and brothers of God’s family. As James tells us regarding our propensity to pass judgment on the purity of one another’s faith, “Who are you to judge another person’s (God’s) servant?” And as Paul admonishes us, it is often when we think we are strong enough to lay the truth (as we see it) on others like a scolding parent that we are most likely to fall. “Pride goes before a fall.”
Obsessing about and continually lamenting the toxic political and social realm of today is a form of deadly, creeping deception. The enemy of our souls is quite pleased to see us mired in it. For when we sink into that pit, it is quicksand with its fascination upon our minds and what seems like the estimable desire to “be aware of the enemy’s schemes lest we be deceived”. We become so weighed down and fatigued and drained that we lose sight of and motivation to be engaged in the straightforward life of Christ’s Kingdom being made manifest on earth.
It is clear from all of the New Testament that the “spirit of this age and this world” (aion and kosmos in Greek) are opposite and opposed to those of the Kingdom of Jesus. He told us, “By their fruits shall you know them.” What fruit do we want to both produce and consume?
Yes, He also told as to be “as wise as serpents”, but in the same breath He added “and as innocents as doves”. At times, we need to “expose the evil deeds of darkness”, as in naming them for what they are, but the best exposition is by being the light. I have become more aware, or been reminded, that a lot of the darkness is plain enough to everybody, even non-Christians.
So I must be about the Father’s business, which is essentially not very complicated as we said above: caring for the downtrodden, the poor, the wretched, the homeless and forsaken, the despairing, the forgotten, the sick, the abandoned and friendless, etc. And that begins in God’s family, but certainly does not end there.
The enemy of our souls and of humanity itself is very happy to see Christians mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of the sorcerer’s brew our culture has become, or fixed upon how sadly backslidden and fallen into error and somnolence so much of the worldwide Church (no particular denomination intended) has become. Truth be told, most of us (mea culpa) in the West have been affected by those two afflictions to some extent.
We all need to reread the seven letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation and take Jesus’ admonishments to them to heart. As to unravelling the seals within seals and wheels within wheels, well, if the best minds in Christendom haven’t been able to do it in two thousand years, (“and they too have the Holy Spirit” as Paul might have said) I doubt that we will either. But I suspect that a lot of it is already past and whatever’s left to come will take us all by surprise in the when, where, what, who, and how. We already know the “why”.
Above all, trust Yeshua and Adonai and love your neighbour and you can’t go far wrong.