WHAT’S GOIN’ ON? What a week in the life of our nation. The news lands one blow after another in the past week.
- A takeover of ten blocks in Seattle with no end in sight.
- Outside instigators of the riots/looting in major cities.
- Destruction of Civil War and other historic statues and memorials.
- Tension over defunding or reforming law enforcement.
- Another police killing of a black man in Atlanta.
You can add to the list. How are we, as Christians, to make sense of it?
AS AN EDUCATOR: Allow me a moment to reflect as an educator. The term is “imagined communities,” a 1983 book written by Benedict Anderson. He suggests that a nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (Anderson, B.R. O’G. , Imagined Communities). We all imagine what our nation is like, its values, hopes, struggles, diversities, freedoms, institutions, etc. We feel we are part of the United States in the way we imagine the United States in our minds.
Perhaps you can identify with my experience when I say to myself again and again, “This is not the nation I imagined it to be.” In the chaos and clamor, we might be tempted to dismiss or ignore the hullabaloo, and just wait for things to get back to normal. However, we must consider the possibility that we are entering a new normal, a social upheaval like the one we experience in the 1960s. At this point, I certainly don’t know, and I’m not convinced anyone else can predict with accuracy where all this is headed.
AS A BIBLE TEACHER: The Bible, especially the New Testament, shapes how I view the world. As a follower of Christ, I believe we are a persistent and pervasive “counter-culture” in the world because we are citizens God’s Kingdom:
- For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20).
- For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come (Hebrews 13:14).
- So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household (Eph. 2:19).
I am also convinced that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). What is happening is more than what meets the eye or makes it on the news channels.
Twenty-five years ago, I read Engaging the Powers, by Walter Wink (1992, page 9). In the opening chapter, he helps his readers Come to terms with what it means to engage the powers and to deal with the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” His illustration has something to say about our current situation, I believe.
Think, for example, of a riot at a soccer game, in which, for a few frenzied minutes, people who in their ordinary lives behave quite decently on the whole suddenly find themselves bludgeoning and even killing opponents whose only sin is rooting for the other team. Afterward, people often act bewildered and wonder what could have possessed them. Was it a Riot Demon that leaped upon them from the sky, or was it something intrinsic to the social situation: a spirituality that crystallizes suddenly, precipitated by the conjunction of an outer permissiveness, heavy drinking, a violent ethos, a triggering incident, and the inner violence of the fans? And when the riot subsides, does the Riot Demon rocket back to the heavens, or does the spirituality of the rioters simply dissipate as they are scattered, subdued, or arrested?
You may find it best to imagine the Riot Demon or a collective spirituality that energized the rioters. No matter how you envision the rush of evil, the point is the same; there is more than meets the eye. We are dealing with “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
In his book, Professor Wink makes three points:
- First, the powers are (or were at one point) good. We certainly see this in concerned protesters raising genuine grievances.
- Second, the powers are fallen. We have all seen the alarming pictures of looting and riots, of violence and intolerance.
- Third, the powers can be redeemed. The Riot Demon cannot be redeemed, but the spirituality of people can be rescued.
AS A CHRISTIAN: There are many faithful ways to respond to our current crisis. Some, especially our younger brothers and sisters, may join the protest. Others will remain at home and pray for the nation. Still, others will write letters to people in power. We can all reach out with words of encouragement and acts of compassion and support. And, let’s be clear, NO Christian joins the violence.
Also, we can and should turn to God’s Word at such a time as this. Consider this list of Scriptures for reflection, grounding, and inspiration during these days. I encourage you to take a moment and read these familiar words. If I was leading a Bible class, I would have us read the Scriptures together and aloud as a prayer.
Genesis 1:26-27; Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Micah 6:8; He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Psalm 34:18; The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 103:6; The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
Isaiah 1:17; Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
John 3:16-17; For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Galatians 3:28; There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Revelation 7:9; After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
Listen to a new recording of an old song we need to hear with open hearts.
Miami-Dade College Singers – “Let There Be Peace On Earth” recorded April 29, 2020