Monday, August 11, 2014

Despair and Disparity

The world is falling apart, and I don't have the foggiest idea what to do about it.

Chicken is marinating in yogurt and garlic for the grill.  A glass of iced tea (Earl Grey and Jasmine green with a splash of lemon juice) is gathering condensation next to me.  There's a roof over my head, food in the fridge, clean water coming out of the tap, cheap and reliable power to run the air conditioner.  Downstairs the next episode of Dr. Who (season 6!  I'm almost caught up!) is waiting.  Somewhere in the distance, a car alarm is going off, but it took me a while to register what it was, because it's been so long since I've heard one.  And absolutely no one is trying to hack my head off with a machete.

I feel like a character in a post-apocalyptic drama.  Wearily stumbling upon what appears to be a picture-perfect Norman-Rockwell town.  A place of refuge from the chaos and turmoil that surrounds him.  It's...a little bit too perfect.  The town's benevolent leader smiles and speaks with honey dripping from his lips.  But what monstrosity will you find in his back room?  Step into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.  I just can't escape the sense that this peaceful bubble I'm sitting in isn't the reality.

The real world is out there, and it's a scary place, where bad things happen...unimaginably bad.  Sick kids, leaky water heater, dog hit by a car, a terrifying diagnosis, the unexpected, surreal scramble to attend the funeral of a loved one.  I have no idea what silent, secret personal hell my next door neighbor might be experiencing ten feet away from where I'm sitting.  And then...then...there is the jaw-dropping, brain-numbing, dear-God-is-this-actually-happening nightmare that is going on ten thousand miles away from where I'm sitting.  Things so incomprehensibly horrific that ten thousand light years would still be too close for comfort.

What am I supposed do with that?

There's this uppity song that they play incessantly on the only contemporary Christian music station we get around here. If you follow the Christian music scene at all, I'm sure you've heard it.  Like, a million times.  The chorus goes like this:

If not us, then who?
If not me and you?
Right now!  It's time for us to do something!
It's basically a frustratingly vague call to an unspecified action with overtones self-righteousness...striving to be an inspiring rock anthem, complete with a children's choir. I get the sense that I'm expected to whip out my lighter and wave it over my head.

I apologize if you love that song.  I'm really not trying to ruin it for you.  And I don't question the intent behind it.  And yes, I'm fully aware that I'm treading on hypocritically thin ice, so bear with me.

The song irritates me because, like so many things in our North American Christian culture, it is a case of sentiment over substance.  Most of us who take our Christian faith seriously would assert that we do have a responsibility to address the problems in our world.  But let's face it--we have this annoying tendency to address those problems by taking undeniably profound ideas and turning them into trite clich├ęs that we toss back and forth to one another.  Let's Be the Hands And Feet of Jesus!  The Embodiment of the Gospel!  The Gospel in Action!  (Hey look!  I came up with a new catch-phrase!  I wrote a song!  I posted a new blog entry!  I spent a whole hour feeling sad!  Time for a smoothie break!)

On the other side of this tiny sphere I'm sitting on, someone is grabbing a terrified person by the hair--a man, a woman, a little boy or girl--with their left hand, and with their right hand they are violently, repeatedly hacking at their neck with a dull, sticky machete until the head is separated from the twitching body.  I mean, this is actually happening.  Right now.  Perhaps even as I am typing this.

Bloody hell, what does the gospel in action look like there?  What does it mean to be the hands and feet of Jesus in that situation?

Maybe I should jump on the #WeAreN bandwagon and change my Facebook profile photo to the Arabic letter nun.  Don't get me wrong--if you've done that, I'm not dissing your demonstration of solidarity.  But I haven't done that, because I am literally heart-sick-nauseous with the sense of utter helplessness at this situation.  And I have nothing to offer by way of substance; only sentiment.  And I hate that.  I hate that this clumsy, hasty blog post is the only thing I know how to do.  And I hate the fact that if I woke up tomorrow and someone knocked on the door and told me that there was a plane fueled and ready if I wanted to go this hellhole and be feet on the ground for the sake of my brothers and sisters there, that my answer to that offer would be neither swift nor sure.

For now, my anemic offering is cold-sweat 2 AM prayers for the martyrs.  And (God help me) for the ones wielding the machetes.  And a desperate plea that if the time should ever come that someone grabs me by my hair...that the name of Jesus will be on my lips.

The world is falling apart, and I don't have the foggiest idea what to do about it.  So I'm faced with the daunting task of believing that there is One who not only knows what to do about it, but is doing something about it.  The only One who really can.  The One who knows exactly what is going on.  The One who is intimately familiar with the sound of Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.

1 comment:

  1. You are not alone sweet brother. You know that though. So if we only pray, we at least lift our voice to a living, mighty God who can lead us in our stupidity. I mean He is the One who created us and healed the lame, blind, etc... and stops the wretchedness of us if we only accept His offer of salvation. So I guess the best I can do right now is pray that they will turn in their wickedness and come to Jesus.
    Love you.....Jan A.

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