In the last several days, I have watched yet more police shootings, with compelling video evidence that the use of such force was highly unjustified. I watched a United States senator handily dismantle a Wall Street banker (in a hearing on the Hill) who made hundreds of millions of dollars while his company scammed thousands of customers out of money all while cooking the books. I have learned that a friend who owns a rental property found out his tenant was murdered, and likely targeted for such violence because he was gay.
I have black friends all over the nation who are literally afraid to drive, and I also know many great law enforcement professionals that are afraid to do their jobs. Countless people afraid to drive. Faithful people also, who feel called to protect and serve but are fearful of receiving death threats for the rest of their lives if they make a wrong snap judgment. That’s not freedom.
Online, I gave praise for the senator who grilled a seemingly unaccountable Wall Street exec, and immediately had people dismiss her courage and fortitude because (and I quote) “she’s a baby killer.” I’m no fan of abortion myself, but does a politician’s stance on one issue completely cancel out any good they may do concerning any other issue facing our nation? That’s not reasonable.
Every act of violence against the LGTBQ community draws out troll-commenters online who write the vilest remarks. Some of the online comments after the Orlando massacre were downright evil, with people wishing the shooter “had only taken out a few more.” If a group of people makes us feel uncomfortable, or if we don’t completely understand them, or even if theological belief leads many to count LGTBQ sexuality as sinful, should we celebrate death and violence? That’s not human. Or maybe it is human, deeply, sinfully human. Perhaps it’s better to say that’s not humane.
When our gut reaction to any circumstance is reactionary, when hate and fear and distrust become the bedrock of our daily experience, when the good a person accomplishes in one area is completely dismissed because of disagreement in another area, when violence is celebrated and lauded — not by some wild fringe but increasingly by people in the mainstream — something is fundamentally wrong with all of us. With our communities. With our society. With our souls.
Before Jesus comes onto the scene in Mark, John the Baptizer prepares the way of the Lord, calling people to repentance. Jesus’s first words in Mark’s gospel are, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (1:15, NRSV).
What is the one thing that might usher in the Kingdom of God in our society? Perhaps pastors could emphasize racial unity, or God’s call to love all people as made in the divine image. Perhaps we need to start more youth programs. If we could just have more young people in our churches, then all these bad things wouldn’t happen.
Perhaps we need to restore teacher-led prayer and Bible reading in public schools and bemoan the loss of Christian influence in the public square. Maybe if we can just get enough pastors to endorse the right politician (no pun intended) then we could restore this land to its Judeo-Christian roots — which were so Christian considering slavery, Native American genocide and the like.
We could even get lots of people to pray for God’s hand to work in our nation — pray for God to bless us. Indeed, we even have the word “God” in our pledge and on our money, and lots of our public buildings, so surely God is somehow compelled to bless us!
Or maybe instead of all the above attitudes and postures, we truly do need to get back to the basics.
Repentance. Lots and lots of repentance is what we need. If you look at the Scripture (not only in Mark but the entire New Testament), repentance is the requirement to usher in God’s reign.
Unfortunately, instead of repenting (to God and one another), we are content to live without freedom, to live without reason, and to even forsake our own humanity (which in turn forsakes God since we are made in God’s image). Don’t take this the wrong way, because I believe in divine eternal judgment, but some days I wonder if God even needs hell since we seem content creating it for ourselves.