History may not repeat itself, but it is highly unoriginal.
Human nature, being what it is, has habits of behaviour which will win out over education, industry and politics. It’s only a matter of time. And the time, as we can all plainly see, is upon us. Butwe’re not seeing it.
Truth is always inconvenient. Always. Truth requires us to do something, and being how we are, doing something means moving out of our stockades and learning to inhabit the wilderness. We’d really rather not.
It should not surprise us that Pontius Pilates’s remarked to Jesus, “What is truth?” He speaks for every generation of leaders that have ever been. Truth, they tell us, is what you want it to be.
Except of course it isn’t. And at the right time it will take your legs out from under you.
The western world has, for 500 years, sown the wind. And now the whole of humanity is about to reap the whirlwind. Truth will out and the lies we’ve told ourselves to build our society are about to land back on our heads.
The environmental disaster is now unstoppable. We can, and must, work to ameliorate its effects but it is going to getting a lot worse before it gets any better. People, lots of them, will die. Drought, floods and heat will kill many. The wars resulting from a perception of diminishing resources will kill more. Nuclear weapons will be used.
The sudden rise in populist politics should not have surprised us. The signs, in hindsight, were all there, and have been there a long time, certainly since the late 19th century. The driving force is, to use a theological term, hubris. Human pride.
We really believed we were worth it. We really believed we could do it all, have it all. The answer was, “Yes, now what’s the question?” It turned out we never got round to asking any important ones.
The Church failed to be prophetic. Indeed both Protestantism, and modern Catholicism (which, after all, the Protestant Reformation helped create) are so intimately bound up with modernity that they could never have spoken truth to power, or truth to lies. They were largely the driving force, or at very least the cheering spectators, at the race to destruction. They posed as the conscience of western society whilst forgetting the difference between good and evil.
Once the Kingdom of God was moulded into ideal of utopia all was lost. Decent behaviour replaced holiness, personal responsibility replaced caring for one’s neighbour and human rights replaced any notion of gratutitous generosity. Justice could now jettison righteousess and then grace and mercy could be quietly replaced by merit and achievement. Finally all notion of the virtues could be commodified and conveniently packaged as values.
And yet, and yet, and yet. The Spirit of God still broods on the waters and fills the whole world. All is not lost for all things are in God. And the good news has been lived in persons and communities, and the rumour of God feeds a hope that keeps us joyful.
Wisdom still cries in the streets, she has not deserted us. The Church fragments, as she does twice each millenium, and those who have confused middle class morality for the holiness of God will go their way. They will sing to the gallery of populism. They will be defined by those they exclude.
But the Church that holds to Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God, will be small, in attitude if not in numbers, and, like the Son of Man, that person like us, she will have nowhere to lay her head. She will learn deep things and be an Adullam’s cave for anyone and everyone, the rough and tumble of life and the flotsam and jetsam of humanity washed up on the beach of grace.