I will likely be considered antiquated, maybe maniacal, even apoplectic when I say we in the United States (with derivative outbreaks elsewhere) are under the spell of the demonic.
Of those who worship death’s malicious craving, specifically the sacrificial scalp of dissenters, of those who do not genuflect in its presence, of any and all who stand in the way of imperial designs.
Of those who claim authority to divide the world into makers and takers, to shape all reality in service to the ruthless pursuit of power’s conceit – arrogance being the elixir of indefinite, everlasting rule of the strong over the weak, the privileged over the disdained, the worthy over the maimed.
Not just rule, but a despising and revulsion of the frail, now consigned as burnt offering to an unholy, odious, heinous god; a god who justifies caging children, who threatens fire from (nuclear) heavens.
A god who shrugs and scoffs at the sight of trauma, of those begging for breath during pandemics, of racial and economic pandemonium and of ecological devastation.
A god who laughs at every attempt of impeachment, whose word is less than worthless, whose every step is concealed in deceit, whose smirking face tells lies at every turn, whose law has become a license for infamy.
And all the profiteering minions chant: “It’s the cost of doing business. Nothing personal.”
Nevertheless, “The Word came, saying, … ‘Mortal, say to this people: You are a land that is not cleansed. Your officials are like wolves tearing their prey, shedding blood, destroying lives for dishonest gain. You have practiced extortion, committed robbery, oppressed the poor and needy and extorted the immigrant’” (see Ezekiel 22:1, 27-29).
And yet the rapacious laugh, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” (Psalm 73:11) Which is to say, scream all you want; none hear the cries of the despoiled. Your God has hung a “do not disturb” sign on heaven’s door.
Thereby, you are left to your own grievous destiny. Pray only your death is swift, your screams swallowed.
In truth, “altruism is incompatible with freedom, with capitalism,” and with “the pursuit of happiness,” wrote novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, a favorite of banksters and gangsters alike, in her essay, “The Virtue of Selfishness.”
“I will not trade my freedom for your safety!” “I need a haircut.” These are actual signs at recent protests demanding a reopening of the economy amid a public health crisis.
The Ancient of Days wails, “How long? How long will your priests barter amnesty for flattery? How long will your prophets pander lies, your judges abide fraud, your elected officials sell their services to the highest bidder?” (see Jeremiah 23:26) How long will you hoard what is not yours! (see Habakkuk 2:6)
Those used for target practice, as grist for the mill, as anglers’ bait and fodder for canons cry out, backs against the wall, “How long, O Lord? How long!” (see Job 8:2, 18:2, 19:2; Psalm 4:2, 6:3, 13:1-2, 35:17, 62:3, 74:9-10, 74:22, 79:5, 80:4, 82:2, 89:46, 90:13, 94:3, 119:84; Isaiah 6:11; Jeremiah 4:21, 12:4; Habakkuk 1:2).
Judgment awaits those who “plunder many nations because of human bloodshed and violence to the earth” (Habakkuk 3:6-8).
For “I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Almighty (Malachi 3:5).
Because “In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence. … Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:16-17).
Kindred: Conflicting claims to divine sanction are loose in the land. We face a moment of reckoning of historic significance. Silence is insufficient. Peace is not quiet. Withdrawal is a form of complicity with existing arrangements of power.
This is a spiritual struggle with incarnated impact shaping social, economic and political choices.
We must “test the spirits to see which is from God” (1 John 4:1); and loudly, vigorously announce our conclusions from pulpits and public squares alike.
Therefore, within your assemblies, be persistent in “considering how to incite one another” – to provoke, stimulate, spur, stir, encourage – “to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24), to fulfilling the demands of justice, the prerequisites of peace, all of which are mediated by the imperative of mercy.
Stand, O Mortal, in the watchtower and scan the horizon. “For there is still a vision which will eclipse the ways of the wicked. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come” (see Habakkuk 2:1-3).
Amid this present turmoil, seek out the quiet of your heart’s deepest region. There, Breath is available, and a Sheltering Wing.
There a Guiding Hand is proffered, not to escort you from history’s bloody reign, but through it to that far horizon foretold in our defining invocation, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).
Curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action, and author of, most recently, In the Land of the Willing: Litanies, Prayers, Poems, and Benedictions. He was the founding director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and founding co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, North Carolina.