Why Have Lunatics Taken Over?

Sometimes people come to me and say, “Rebecca, you are amazing, wise, funny and smell like flowers and lemon Pledge. Why are you not recognized as the wonder you are by all of humanity near and far?”

To which I can only answer, “this is a great mystery to me as well.”

The other questions I get asked a lot are:

“has everyone lost their ever-loving-minds?”

“Why are the lunatics in charge of everything?”

and “Is there any hope for humanity left?”

As fate would have it, I happen to have answers to these questions. They are, respectively:

Pretty much.

Because lunatics appeal to all of our worst impulses and say things we want to hear.

Yes. The lunatics’ days are numbered.

Now, perhaps you too have noticed that the world seems, well, a bit unbalanced lately. The most violent, most hateful, most greedy, most dishonest actors in our world appear to be ascendant, if not triumphant. Families are in shambles, communities are shells and compassion seems to have gone MIA. Injustices which have festered for decades, if not centuries, are not even attempting to hide themselves, but are right out into the open, secure in the knowledge that few will object. The technological innovations that not so long ago were making humanity safer, healthier, more prosperous and comfortable seem to be reaching their limits and are threatening to turn on us. It’s very easy and tempting to be pessimistic and lose faith in the whole human project.

To a certain extent, this is an illusion. With the internet, global communication and 24 hour media, we can see things we were not previously aware of (or were in denial about). It used to be that if something awful was happening in another part of the world, we wouldn’t know it for months or years, if at all. If an atrocity was committed, we might read a news story about it and wonder what in the world was wrong with those people. Today we can watch videos in real time and get instant news from far and wide.

Since we all have front row seats to what’s wrong in the world, it’s easy to think that this is because there’s more wrong in the world. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. In America, the crime rate has dwindled down to rates not seen since the Eisenhower administration. Around the world crime has fallen, poverty has decreased dramatically, armed conflicts are less common and life spans are increasing. It’s not perfect, but we’re on a very positive trajectory.

However, it does seem that large portions of humanity are refusing to let go of their allegiance to the very worst tendencies that the human race are prone to. While the world and our understanding of it and ourselves has changed dramatically and brought massive improvements at every level, not everyone’s on board. It’s not that we’re any worse than in the past. People in the past were just as, if not more, prone to obnoxious, hateful, violent, ignorant, greedy, oppressive behavior and words as anyone alive today. What has changed, really, is that increasing numbers of us are openly and loudly refusing to accept those behaviors and attitudes as normal or acceptable – for any reason.

This has opened up a gap which is fueling both conflict and insecurity. The questions I get asked about what in the world is going on tend to come from those who want to see humanity turn its back on our hateful, oppressive, greedy, violent tendencies once and for all. They listen to the rhetoric coming from churches, politicians, individuals and governments and wonder if those who view the past as something to go back to rather than run from are going to win. And the answer is no. They will not. But it’s probably going to be ugly for a while.

I have two related reasons for saying this. The first has to do with the way God deals with sin and those who will not repent of it: he hands them over to “a depraved mind” (Romans 1:28-32).

Essentially, Paul says that when people refuse to repent of their sins and continually reject the call to love, mercy, peace, service and forgiveness, God will allow them to follow the desires of their heart to their own destruction. As they do so, their sin, error and the darkness of their hearts becomes more and more apparent. The longer they refuse to accept correction, the more outrageous their words and behaviors will become. Eventually, such people will become object lessons that others point to as warnings. And this is exactly what we are watching happen all around us.

When we see people, institutions and governments speaking and behaving in outrageous ways, we are being shown exactly what it looks like when a depraved mind is allowed free reign. So, while I understand people’s alarm at what they see going on in the world, and I do not in any way mean to discount the very real suffering of those who are on the receiving end of those who have been given over to their depraved minds, I tend to see these people as serving a useful purpose. Basically, they are exhibits in humanity’s world-wide asshole identification training program.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the unique things about the time in which we live is that what happens in the dark is being brought into the light. For most of human history, the worst actors have been able to gain and hold power through a combination of force and deception. It has generally only been after the fact that people were able to recognize the evil being perpetrated for what it was. In the moment, wars, slavery, feudalism, inequality and injustice seemed like reasonable ways to go about organizing the world. And there were always theologians and clergy willing and able to explain how these things were part of God’s will, just to make sure it all went down as smoothly as possible.

Dragging what was done in darkness into the light is of course a good, necessary step. But now we need to learn to recognize what we are looking at. Enter in the lunatics who are, if not fully in charge, making a good run for it. These people and their supporters are showing us, out in the open, what a depraved mind looks like. Our job is to learn to recognize them for what and who they are. It’s a painful and frightening, but necessary part of the process.

The next time you encounter someone or see a news story of someone advocating violence, hatred, greed, oppression and lies, imagine that you’re watching a wild life documentary with a narrator in the background intoning:

“Here we see the asshole in his native habitat. Observe how he lies and distorts reality in order to shore up his position in the group. Notice the tendency to advocate for the rich over the poor. Observe the way the asshole denigrates peace and glorifies violence. If you listen to the asshole’s warble, you can easily detect the various excuses utilized to oppress and dismiss those who threaten the diabolical system which the asshole relies on for sustenance. The asshole lives in a symbiotic relationship with other assholes. Assholes value other assholes for their willingness to speak asshole loudly and forcefully. The Asshole relies on abuse, dishonestly and a lack of empathy in order to maintain their illusions and avoid the pain of being wrong. The idea of having to give heed to the full humanity of those unlike themselves has not fully developed in the asshole. If you encounter an asshole in the wild, approach with caution. The asshole is driven by a depraved mind and should be considered dumb and dangerous.”

That being said, no one’s perfect, and the accusation of a depraved mind is easy enough to throw around as a weapon to discredit and defame others, of course. So what makes me so sure that the lunatics are being put on display for educational purposes and will not maintain their power forever? Well, part of it is because God has promised his ultimate triumph. The depraved mind cannot sustain itself in the presence of the glory of God and his ways, and so is doomed to ultimate failure.

The other reason for my confidence comes from the fact that I have had several different people bring me the same message explaining what we see happening around us right now. In fact, one of my readers who had made a commitment to pray for me and my family sent me a “word” that she felt God had lead her to convey to me. Much of the message was for me personally, but there was one part which spoke to the wider goings on in the world (the bold is the message, the parts in parenthesis comments from the person who sent it to me):

(At this point I saw the world, the earth from outer space)

It is like a cauldron, boiling and bubbling, the scum is rising to the top, and I will take it away and bring new life.

(it would seem more appropriate that he is talking about your world and life circumstances, but the feeling I actually had when writing this was that he was describing the world, that it was time to bring stuff up, like something is stirring)                                                                                   

 

Now, as a general rule, any claim of having received a “word” or message need to be taken pretty lightly. There’s a great deal of self-serving and deception that tends to surround such things. However, aside from the good character and faith of the person who sent this to me, this is a message I have heard from multiple sources which, to me, lends it credibility.

God is in the process of refining humanity. In Isaiah 1:25, God says: “I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities.” This refers to the process of refining gold and silver by melting down, adding lye which binds to the impurities in it and causes them to rise to the surface in order to be skimmed off and removed. These people who are advocating for violence, greed, hatred, oppression and the like are bringing humanity’s dross to the surface. The dross is removed as more and more people turn from the enemy’s ways and towards’ God’s rule of love, peace, mercy, service and forgiveness. The more outrageous the lunatics are, the more people will learn to recognize an asshole when they see one and turn away.

Of course, refining gold and silver is a process that must be done repeatedly in order to bring it to the highest levels of purity. Neither I nor anyone else can say how long this will go on or how many times we will have to see the assholes in action before humanity at large turns their hearts towards love. But ultimately, the time of the lunatics will pass. And in the meantime, hang onto your hats and your sense of humor. It’s bound to be a bumpy ride!

An Argument In Support of an Angry God

One of the modern criticisms of Christianity is that God seems different in the Old Testament than in the New.  In the Old Testament, God is wrathful, commits genocide, is angry, etc, etc.  Then in the New Testament he shows up and says, “love!”  I have long held that it was the people who changed, not God.  Maybe people were more civilized by the time of Jesus. After all, apparently they weren’t regularly stoning adulterers, although the practice hadn’t ever been renounced.  Or maybe they had turned over the messy business of putting people to death to the Roman Empire.  But even that was compromising with their own laws.  At any rate, it has always seemed likely to me that human civilization was in different places in the OT and the NT and that God adjusted tone accordingly.

Then last week, a slightly different theory struck me.  You seem I read the outstanding book Ideas that Changed the World by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto last week.  In it he points out something I have heard from other sources as well; that the ancient Hebrews were the source of the idea of a loving deity:

The idea that God should take an abiding interest in creation and especially in some particular part of it seems rashly speculative.  Most Greek thinkers of the Classical era ignored or repudiated it.  . .  The starting point of the thinking that led to the idea of a God of love was raised by the ancient Jewish doctrine of creation.  If God created the world, what was in it for him?  The Old Testament compilers had no obvious answer, but they did postulate a special relationship between God and his “choosen people.”  Occassionally, they called this “faithful, everlasting love” and likened it to the feelings of a mother for a child at the breast. . . The identification of God with love, which was enthusiastically taken up by Christ and his followers, was emotionally satisfying – a powerful, spiritual, creative emotion, known to everyone from experience.  By making God’s love universally embracing, rather than favoring a chosen race, Christianity acquired universal appeal.

I have heard it argued that all of the wrath, war and judgement of the Old Testament were the reaction of a righteous God to a sinful people.  However, what if there was a lot more at stake?  What if it was this particular idea – that God is loving – that motivated God to be so wrathful and willing to send people off to war?

Some people would reject outright that this idea of a loving God could ever justify the crimes of the OT.  God is too good and loving, they believe, to ever actually co-sign, much like advocate violence and war.  A God of love and a God of war are mutually incompatible.  I would likely have agreed with this perspective some time ago.  However, a while back, I spent a substantial amount of time meditating on what it says about God that we live in a world where animals eat each other.  Not only to they eat each other, but if you have ever seen a carnivore consume its prey, it does it with an almost startling ruthlessness.  Its prey may not even be dead before the hunter starts to rip into its flesh.  Most meat eaters chew their meat while just looking around, unconcerned about much of anything.  From our human perspective, the whole thing is quite unseemly.  After spending a couple of years meditating on what this set-up is telling us about God, I came to the conclusion that it reflects a certain ruthlessness that God has when it comes to re-establishing his relationship with humanity.  The same God that would command his people to war allowed his own son to be put to death.  Every saint testifies that their intimate relationship with God came out of suffering of the most intense sort.  And they all say it was worth it.

Perhaps in the end, it all comes down to what it is that God was fighting for.  There is a great deal of truth to the idea that such measures were needed for the Hebrew people to survive in their rather brutal world.  However, is that actually an important enough for God to dirty himself with all that wrath and war?  A particular people, worship, even recognition as the ruler of the universe all seem too petty to justify the carnage to both Hebrews and their neighbors. But does it change things if what God was actually fighting for was this idea: that He is a loving God?

We should not underestimate the importance of this idea.  If the gods are petty, warring, immoral and power hungry, then the humans who follow them have a particular model of the proper structure of a society, the behavior of rulers from kings to fathers.  Human rights as we understand them could never come from a society ruled by the gods of ancient Sumer.  A God of love recasts all of our relationships both with each other and the divine.  Love is one of the only things really worthy of dying for.  The protection of this idea and the demonstration of what love looks like with this one group of people would have been a massively compelling reason for God to dirty his hands with our barbaric ways. If the Hebrews needed to survive in order for this idea to move forward and out into the whole of the world for the redemption of mankind, then God’s willingness to resort to what were probably necessary extremes seems a bit more understandable.

Anyhow, just some ideas?  What do you think?  Can God be both the God of love and have a hand in the violence of the O.T.?  Is love a good enough reason?  Or are love and war so mutually incompatible that God cannot or would not watch over both?

Anyhow, just some thoughts.