Isaiah 26:12 (CEB)Lord, grant us peace, because all that we have done has been your doing.
On the way home from church the other day I heard a story about the riots in France, over their proposed new gas tax. The scene is horrifying. Swarms of yellow safety jacketed people are sledgehammering buildings, incinerating cars and splaying graffiti all over the Arc de Triomphe.
Graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe! At that moment I was utterly French and appalled at the idea any of my countrymen would deface the Arc.
For me, the Arc represents everything France has historically stood for: liberty, equality, fraternity. One for all and all for one. France has always been the bastion of real democracy, the true light on the hill, whether we Americans want to admit that or not. And now, here I was imagining a scene from one of those Purge movies, the Arc wholly covered in layers of graffiti, Paris burning in the background, the Eiffel tower’s ribs molten metal, twisted and broken.
Then the light changed. As I stepped on the gas pedal, I snapped out of my dystopian reverie and gasped as I realized what had just happened: listening to a news story, I immediately went to the worst possible scenario. I even went beyond the destruction of Paris and imagined the defaced Arc as the first sign of the apocalypse.
I didn’t see footage of the riots until Saturday morning, a couple of days after I first heard the story, and it was like watching a nightmare come true:
Even as we began Advent discussing hope, my first reaction to the riots was not to seek God’s light, not to remember exactly what I said last week—that hope means knowing God is already doing something good, right here right now, but instead to presume darkness would win and we’d destroy each other. That’s not very hopeful.
Our species is stuck. A couple hundred thousand years of evolution, now fortified and enhanced by a dystopian mass communications network, has programmed us to always look on the dark side of life. Our instinct is to presume the worst. We are suspicious not only of strangers, but also of friends, family, and country. Everyone is hiding something. Deals are made to be broken. Facts are superfluous to the truth. Orange is the new black.
It’s no wonder the world is at constant war. If we cannot trust each other about anything, how can there ever be peace? If our every thought is on the inevitability of dystopia, how can we ever imagine, much less create, utopia?
Fortunately, every now and then people come along who see the world differently. I believe these people are inspired by God to show us a different destiny, a future more in line with the flow of the universal consciousness of love (God). We often refer to these people as Prophets. Moses, Isaiah (one of my favorites), and of course, Jesus, whom Christians refer to most often as Son of God (a political rather than spiritual statement), but Muslims call a Prophet (both a political and spiritual statement).
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a Christian refer to Jesus as a prophet. Yet, as we journey to the manger this Advent, I have found it powerful to consider Jesus in this way because, unlike Isaiah and the rest of the First Testament prophets, Jesus proclaims a utopianf uture, which he calls the “kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus even shows us how to create this utopia—here and now—in a simple and efficient way: Love God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and love our neighbors and our enemies as ourselves. That’s it! All we have to do is change everything we are! Easy!
However, Jesus also teaches (and shows) us that creating utopia isn’t easy, even for him. He was vibrating at God’s frequency, in perfect tune with all creation, yet stillsuffered along with the rest of us—which, not coincidentally, is what’s powerful about the Jesus as God and as us metaphor.
We need to practice a little more and constantly focus on retuning ourselves to God if we are ever to get out of this dystopian rut. As the body of Christ in the world, we must also assist each other in overcoming the contemporary programming that all is lost. We must be aware for one another of what we say, think, and do. We must encourage each other to focus on Christ’s conviction that our world ends not in hellfire and brimstone but in the intense love of a God who has promised since the beginning of time to never, ever let us go, because God is with us, Immanuel, now and forevermore.