Scenes from a recent week:
- Wednesday in a big city airport: a woman steps onto a near-empty elevator, dressed in an expensive silk blouse, floral pajama bottoms, and Muk Luks. It’s just before 6 a.m. She jabs one finger against a numbered button – then quickly stabs her finger into every other button on the panel, lets out a low growl, and slams her palm against the wall. She slumps over, back to the wall, hands on her knees, head bowed.
- Friday afternoon in a suburban neighborhood: a van slides to a halt in the middle of a quiet street. A young man jumps out, leaving the door open and the engine running. He hurries up the steps of the nearest home and rings the doorbell. No answer. He seizes the bars on the security door, yanks on them, bangs on them, lets out a yell of frustration. Then he turns, runs back out into the street, jumps into the van, and roars off.
- Sunday morning in a small midtown church: The sermon begins – a guest preacher, telling an anecdote to open his remarks. At the back of the room, a young man stands and yells: “What are you talking about? What does this have to do with anything?” Laymen converge on him, escorting him out to the lobby; his eyes are wild and bright with a chemical shine. “I’m going to have to get my guns,” he says.
It could just be that I bring out the worst in people. I was the only other one on the elevator, the only one in the house, and the guest preacher when these various eruptions took place. Maybe folks were just having a lousy week, or didn’t like how the NFL playoffs were going.
Their respective fits of pique, though, are of a piece with the general peacelessness: a few weeks out from Christmas, “peace on earth” and “joy to the world” look as trite as used bows and old tinsel. Inaugural weekend alone featured rioting, vandalism, hysterical media, and a half million protesters lined up to hear celebrities call for assassination and mock the new president in language that would shock a sailor. Tales abound of airplane snits and veterans’ families being spat on – that sweet “tolerance” so many Americans demand of everyone but themselves.
Is it in the air? The water? An insatiable, volatile segment of our nation’s populace seems genuinely panicked that the election of President Trump spells our collective doom … that a nation so divided means a second Civil War is upon us … that we are each surrounded by great hordes of callous strangers whose one unswerving mission is to stomp fresh whining from the grapes of our collective wrath.
It doesn’t help that this growing hysteria / paranoia / indignation – this great hurry to fury – is being aggressively stoked by those whose social and political agenda holds our culture in a death grip, through classrooms and message boards, movies and television shows, courtrooms and media conniptions. Enough people tell you how bad it all is, you start to wonder what they know that you don’t … and the wondering leads to more than multiplying ulcers and misanthropy.
“Anger, fear, aggression,” Yoda warned, “the dark side of the Force are they.” Asked if that dark side were stronger, he replied: “No, no, no – quicker, easier, more seductive.” Which makes these emotions the most effective tools of those working to accomplish that darker agenda.
The cure for social dysfunction, we’re told, is self-destruction: unlimited abortion and the right to die, to precipitate a too-early end of life; same-sex relationships to inhibit its creation.
These personal self-destructions, in turn, feed our national self-destruction, spurring unrelenting attacks on free speech and religious liberty … sublimation of the culturally uplifting to the crass and corrosive … a blunt dismissal of history and tradition … the coarse mockery of faith and duty and conscience.
And what has all this shaking off of the old cultural verities won us? A howling din and a wild, churning anger … a deepening rage against the dying of the light.
The grand old Disneyland Main Street attraction, “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln” features a warning the then-lawyer shared early in his career at a young men’s gathering in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.
“At what point,” he asked them, “is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, that if it ever reach us, it must spring from amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
One sure shortcut to national suicide lies in the denial of God. It is the dark path preferred by those sad souls hell-bent on our cumulative destruction, and it motivates their tireless determination to slam the door on our only hope, as individuals and a nation. It’s also what makes the efforts of Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies so crucial to the future of America, our children, their children. Religious liberty ensures that hope’s door stays open.
I once asked one of our clients what he thought lay at the root of the cruel, unreasoning hatred and abuse so many people were hurling at him, in his quiet stand for his rights of conscience. “They’re not mad at me,” he said gently. “They’re mad at God. They’re just taking it out on me.”
And on the rest of us. It’s “quicker, easier, and more seductive” than coming to terms with the One whose unrelenting truth so many are so afraid of.
There’s a reason they call it “blind fury” – we are frustrated most by what we refuse to see, and by those whose own anger and agendas make it darker than it has to be. But there are more paths to the light than there are into darkness … our Creator has ensured that. May those of us who know those lonely trails find renewed courage, amid the growing sound and fury, to lift our given candle and light the way.