“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” – M. K. Gandhi
If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I’ve been discussing the book Roy H. Williams’ and Michael Drew’s book Pendulum, and its theme of history’s unfolding in alternating cycles of emphasis — from Me to We and back again, every eighty years. In Part II, I listed several things to look for that indicated the probability that the authors’ predictions were correct. The first two items on my list were attempts to incite violence and political delegitimization as a pretext.
I said, “I hope I’m wrong”
Unfortunately, over the weekend at a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, an assortment of “alt-right” groups — including neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and assorted white supremacists — clashed violently with their “alt-left” Antifa and Black Lives Matter opponents. Tragically and inexcusably, one of the Nazi-sympathizing protesters drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others.
Let me stop here and state categorically that I denounce neo-Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists and their hateful ideology. I also denounce Antifa, and BLM, and any ideology that asserts racial superiority or seeks to subjugate or divide according to race. Further, I condemn the use of violence to advance any cause, and I especially condemn the cowardly and terroristic use of a car as a weapon of mass destruction. I lived in Charlottesville for two years, and I am heartbroken at the evil that these factions brought to such a beautiful city.
I had planned to write this week on a different topic entirely, but I had to postpone my plans in light of the events and all the turmoil that has followed. I know my friends on the right are going to protest that the alt-right organizers of the protest had a lawful permit and that they were only defending themselves. Likewise, I know my friends on the left are going to say that Nazis are a particularly egregious type of evil — one that deserves violent opposition — and besides, the neo-Nazi murderer makes the actions of the counter-protesters moot. It’s more complicated than that.
As a Christian, I cannot in good conscience wink at evil, or look the other way. So while I condemn absolutely the white supremacist/neo-Nazi cause and the taking of innocent life, I cannot endorse the use of evil to oppose evil, or give a pass to groups simply on the basis of what they are against. I need to know what you’re for. Being against one sort of evil doesn’t confer virtue, especially if your preferred method is violence and subjugation. This isn’t an attempt at moral equivalency — some ideas and philosophies are clearly better than others. Some are only less repugnant than others.
I’m all for free expression and for vigorous public debate, and we have to find more constructive ways to address and resolve our differences, or the Fourth Turning/Peak We ahead of us is going to be unbelievably destructive to our country.
A higher point of view
As I have thought, prayed, read, grieved, and sought to learn the facts of what happened in Charlottesville, I have wanted some insight, some guidance on how to act redemptively. On Sunday, I opened my daily devotional from Scripture Union (if you’re interested you can subscribe here), and the appointed reading was Psalm 73. The New International Version translation reads as follows:
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.”
I reproduced the Psalm in its entirety so you can see I’m not cherry-picking verses. I found this remarkably apt and so encouraging.
Note that the psalmist is tempted to envy the wicked, and to despair at how they seem to get away with it. But that isn’t the whole story. He remembers that God is the sovereign and wise judge who dispenses perfect justice. So instead of following the blueprint of the haughty and the violent, the psalmist chooses to place his trust in God — to allow Him to deal justly with the wicked, and to be the source of wisdom and hope. This is just what I needed, so I’m sharing it with you.
It appears we are already moving into the turbulent times associated with a peak We. If so, let me encourage you to avoid the temptation to take the law into your own hands. God’s wisdom and His ways are higher than those of activists on the left and the right. He’s the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19b)
Beyond this, we can choose — actively — to love God and love our neighbor. This means to pray for those you regard as enemies, and to seek to do good to them and not evil. The first century church did this under imperial Roman oppression, and the underground church in China is doing it now.
I offer the following advice to you as well as to myself: Read verses 25 and 26 of the Psalm again, and ask God to become the hope and desire of your heart. Evil came to Charlottesville, but it does not get the last word — thanks be to God, our refuge and strength!