The Turnaround Deepens

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2017 by jcwill5

Until now Naomi has been focused on survival.

Color Me Black

Multiplied misfortunes, and deepest grief, has negatively and deeply marked her view of life, of God, and of the meaning of circumstances.

Life has been against her.

God has judged her.

And there is little hope for improvement or reversal of fortune.

She came back home widowed with no surviving children, and with a foreign daughter-in-law who was also a widow.

There was nobody to work her ancestral plot of land.

Ruth, at least, has had success gleaning and their near-term survival has been assured.

One of the terrible side-effects of grief is how it turns us inward and consumes us with finding a way to survive.

Even when God is being good to us in many ways, through many people, we can hardly see it and barely acknowledge it.

The Turning Point

But now we come to the true turning point in Naomi’s story.

She begins to think of others again.

She has turned outward again, and is actively seeking a better future again.

Instead of her own plight, she begins to work for the thriving, not thus the surviving, of her daughter-in-law.

She begins to make positive plans and re-enters the stream of life.

Chapter 3 of our story begins with Naomi counseling Ruth.

“Shall I not seek your welfare?” is the question.

Taking Positive Action

In such a spirit, she counsels Ruth to use all the cultural ways to tell their champion, Boaz, that Ruth is available and willing to be his wife.

Although it sounds mercenary to our modern ears, there is a family duty under the Law of Moses that had not yet been performed.

Whenever a man dies married but childless, one of the brothers is to take his widow on as a second wife and father a child in place of his deceased brother.

This brother, as well as all eligible male family members of the extended family, were kinsman-redeemers.

It’s called the law of levirate marriage.

This practice insured that the deceased man’s family name and inherited lands survived and were kept intact to be passed down in his family line.

The alternative was for his name to “perish” and his lands to be lost forever to the descendants of others.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

So Ruth is instructed to seek her welfare and to pretty much beg for Boaz to step up to the plate and, through her, function as the kinsman-redeemer.

She goes after dark at the harvest celebrations and, after he goes to sleep, uncovers his feet and lays herself down by them.

In the cold of the night, he awakens to cover his feet and finds….a lovely young woman who signals, “Take me….I’m yours!”

Interestingly, instead of seeing himself doing Ruth a favor, he expresses deep surprise that she would pick him for such an honor.

Ruth graced Naomi in returning to Israel with her, and by working to obtain food.

Boaz graced Ruth by allowing her to glean his fields, and insuring that her harvest was super-productive and certain instead of meager and spotty.

Naomi graced Ruth by coaching her to take a risk and secure her future and her fortune– even as a foreign woman.

Now Ruth graces Boaz by picking him, an older man, to be her kinsman-redeemer of first choice.

The Elevation Begins

His response, of course, is to gladly accept the offer and to send Ruth back to her mother-in-law loaded with a big gift of freshly harvested grain.

Boaz also sends a message:  there’s one male relative head of me in line, and I need to clear that up before this second marriage can happen.

What happens in chapter four will elevate this homespun story of love on the other side of grief to national significance, even eternal and universal signficance.

But I finding it striking that this elevation began with a widow choosing to live again, to love again, to pursue hope again because she had moved from feeling cursed to feeling blessed by God.

And that’s the turning point we all need!

The Turnaround Begins

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2017 by jcwill5

Like everyone else, I am “grace thirsty”.

There is a starvation inside of my heart from someone to be good to me where I am powerless, vulnerable, and hurting–and deserve no such favor.

It’s inside of your heart, too.

Naomi’s Sorry State

Naomi, by the end of chapter one of Ruth, tells the women of her village she has been victimized by God and that He’s dealt her a bitter hand.

Losing a husband and losing both adult sons was the worst case scenario for a woman in that society–no protection, no means of production, no provision in her old age.

Naomi is therefore staying at the family home in isolation, away from the wagging tongues and alone in her shame.

And in that place, Naomi is stuck and paralyzed in self-pity.

She has no energy to do much about her situation.

Ruth Takes Action

Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, finally asks Naomi to let her take some positive action.

Part of the beauty of the story is it is so random.

Ruth goes out to glean (scavenge the leftover grain from already harvested grain fields).

She “just happens” to select the field of a near relative of Naomi’s late husband and begins a dawn-to-dusk, back-breaking labor in it.

Boaz is clearly a Yahweh-worshipper.

He blesses his reapers in the name of the Lord and is taking an active role in the harvesting of his fields.

Then he notices Ruth and learns she has been hard at work gleaning his one field.

The Law of Moses instructed landowners to leave grain in the corners of their fields, and to not go back over a field a second time to gather any leftovers.

Instead, they were to leave it for the poor, for the widow and the orphan to gather food by means of honest labor.

Boaz Gives Great Grace

Boaz could have left well enough alone and ignored Ruth.

Instead, he calls her over and gives her permission to drink from his wells, and to glean on any of his fields, under his personal protection and care, until both the barley and the wheat harvests were over.

Ruth falls on her face and expresses shock at how generous Boaz was to her–a foreigner with no standing in Jewish society.

She is undone by his kindness.

Boaz tells her he knows all about Ruth’s kindness towards her mother-in-law and blesses her in the name of the Lord.

He then tells his reapers to personally safeguard Ruth.

And he even tells them to purposefully pull out grain and “drop” it behind them so Ruth will have an extra productive result of her gleaning labors.

During the noontime meal, Boaz then has Ruth come inside his house to eat with his paid laborers–sparing her from having to eat what she was gathering and insuring an extra large result at the end of her long day.

In so many ways little and big, Boaz overpays the grace that Ruth has shown Naomi with multiplied favor and lavish help.

Hope Rises

Ruth still has to work a full day of arduous, agricultural labor.

But now it’s secure, favor more productive labor that will add certainty and protection to the lives of the two women who sorely lacked it.

Naomi, upon hearing of Ruth’s day and seeing the extra productivity of her day’s gleaning, asks where Ruth went.

Upon learning it was Boaz, Naomi exclaims, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has not withdrawn His kindness from the living and the dead!”

She tells Ruth that Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer, one of their closest relatives.

Her turnaround has begun and, for now, having a secure, ample food supply is more than enough to remove feelings of abandonment and of being cursed.

For the first time in many months, Naomi is hopeful and at peace.

But little did she realize how much better her story would become a few months’ later!

Which is how it works in our lives, as well.

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2017 by jcwill5

 

I never understood growing up why we called Good Friday good–being by far the worst, horrific, hellish day of Jesus’ life that ended in His torment and death on a Cross.

What’s so good about that?!

Let’s take a fresh look….

It Begins on Thursday at Sunset

He instituted a ceremony of remembrance for His followers so they would never forget His death on their behalf, and the forgiveness and freedom it brought them.

He washed their feet as the lowest slave would in order to teach them true greatness.

He commanded them not just to love their neighbor as they love themselves, but to love each other as He loved them–raising the bar exponentially towards redemptive self-sacrifice.

Love was no longer defined by how we wanted others to treat us, but by how He treated us all when we were at our worst!

Terrible Predictions Quickly Fulfilled

He predicted His betrayal by one of His closest followers, then gave the favored place and richest morsel of food to His betrayer:  Judas Iscariot.

He predicted they would all fall away and run away–leaving Him to face His fate alone.

And when they all insisted they would never do it, He informed their leader, Peter, that Peter would deny Him three times before sunrise.

He disclosed His most intimate instructions to them about how to live life without Him after He left earth (John 14-16), promising to send the Holy Spirit to fill the void.

He prayed the most amazing prayer as our High Priest, opening the door a crack to show us the eternal relationship of love and unity the Triune Godhead enjoyed and predicting His followers would enter into their rare fellowship (John 17).

After Dinner: Intense Emotional Suffering

The whole party, less Judas, left the upper room and traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was overcome with such an intense agony that He sweat drops of blood.

The three disciples He asked to stand watch with Him all fell asleep repeatedly–leaving Him profoundly alone in the hour of His greatest human need.

So intense was the suffering that He asked His Father for another, less painful way, while surrendering to the Father’s will that the present way was the only way to complete our redemption.

Shortly thereafter, He was betrayed with a kiss, abandoned by all His followers to His fate, and endured several different sham trials before kangaroo courts.

It culminated in a round of being punched in the face, having His beard pulled out, and cumulative rage towards His person.

Dawn of Horrific, Physical Suffering

At the crack of dawn, He was led away to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who was drug out of bed to deal with their complaint against Jesus.

What followed was a series of trials before Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again, each of them finding Christ not guilty but none of them letting Him go.

So Pilate, looking for an easy way out, tried to appease the angry crowds by having Jesus scourged (whipped with a whip with embedded pottery pieces in it) within an inch of His life.

His vicious Roman soldiers dressed Christ up in royal robs, placed a crowd of thorns on His head, then beat him with the mock scepter they provided for their little game.

Need I remind us that, when they ripped to robe off of Him, all the dried blood on His hamburger back would have been ripped open–causing incredible pain and much more blood loss.

Then Jesus was brought out as a spectacle but had to watch as a murderer was chosen over Him to set free in honor of the holiday.

Then Pilate ordered Him crucified–the most agonizing, prolonged form of torturing someone to death in the Roman world.

It was like slowly suffocating to death while hanging on a wooden cross, nailed in place through the wrists and ankles.

Each breath was a torture, and Jesus could only speak short sentences like “I thirst” and “It is finished” as He gasped for air.

Instead of leaving Him alone to die, His enemies stopped by to mock, jeer, and heap shame on His head–gloating in the success of their plot to commit judicial murder against Him.

His Spiritual Suffering

Yet the worst thing of all all this “worstness” was how His Father turned His face away and poured out all the accumulated divine wrath against the totality of human sin upon Christ.

Instead of an infinite duration of Hell, Christ bore an infinite intensity of Hell over a period of six hours visited on His physical, emotional, and spiritual Person.

Somebody needed to pay for evil’s crimes, to balance the scales of justice, to remove the impossible barrier of offense and repugnance that our sin brought about.

The spiritual suffering of all of humanity’s sin being placed on an infinitely holy Being is something we cannot fathom.

The spiritual suffering of an eternal community of three in One Person, whose perfect, infinite love was now disrupted by our sin, cannot be measured.

Finally, when every drop of infinite, holy fury against us was exhausted, and every spiritual crime we ever did or will do was atoned, His job was done and He gave up His spirit and died.

Even after death, a soldier pierced His body to make sure He was dead.

Only then did some of His followers act to receive His body and only then was He buried in a rich man’s grave with luxurious, oily spices.

Two Good Reasons

Good Friday is good for two reasons:

It revealed the depths of God’s self-sacrificing, ultimately good love for us.

It delivered us from evil and made it possible for sinful people to be reconciled with an infinitely holy God–freeing us from our sin’s domination and granting us everlasting life.

Every one of us is tempted to think God hates us, rejects us, and is against us.

The Cross says, “For God so loved the world (of people) He gave His only Son….” and “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.

The Cursed Place

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2017 by jcwill5

In honor of Easter week, and for a refreshing change of topic, my next four blogs will center on an uplifting story from ancient times.

It is the story of Ruth.

Actually, it’s the story of Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law.

Seeking a Better Life

During a famine, Naomi, her husband Elimelech, and her two adult sons left the land of Israel to go further inland to the Moab in search of food.

At first, they seemed to do well and her sons took Moabite women as wives.

The prospects for a new, better life outside of Israel and all its troubles seemed favorable.

Then the deaths started.

First her husband, and then her two adult sons, died in short order.

She was left without any adult male family member.

Losing It All

To our modern ears, that’s no big deal.

But in ancient times, it was the worst tragedy to befall a middle-aged woman near the end of her child-bearing years.

Noami was left with no male protectors in a violent world, with no male descendants to provide for her in her old age, and with no possibility of a change in her fortunes.

Her one and only option was to return to the family home in Bethlehem of Judah and beg for her bread.

She told her two widowed daughter-in-laws, Ruth and Orpah, to return to their father’s household and try again to start a new family with a new husband.

Youth and fertility were still in their favor, and their father was near at hand to place them into new homes.

One of them then left, but Ruth swore to accompany Naomi back to the land of Israel and to stick with her no matter what.

Ruth even swore she would be a worshiper of Yahweh and abandon the gods of her forefathers.

Back Home in Disgrace

But when the two women arrived at this small village, it created a buzz of gossip.

“Is this Naomi?!” exclaimed the women of Bethlehem.

Naomi’s name meant “pleasant” in Hebrew, but her words in reply were anything but pleasant.

“The hand of the Lord has gone forth against me!” (Ruth 1:13)

“Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara (which means bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” (vs. 20)

“I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty…” (vs. 21a)

“Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (vs. 21b)

Feelings We’ve All Had

God has personally cursed me.

God has given me a bitter pill to swallow.

God has taken everything good, everyone I love, away from me.

God has deeply hurt me and is therefore against me.

I have been judged and everyone knows it.

This is the voice of depression, the agonized cry of despair.

Pain becomes our only window through which to view all of life, all events, and even our God.

Background of Disobedience

Part of the mystery of why Naomi felt that way was this:

You weren’t supposed to leave the land of Israel and go live in a neighboring pagan and idolatrous land.

You weren’t supposed to give your sons in marriage to pagan, idolatry-raised women.

Her husband’s name, Elimelech, means “My God is King”.

But he abandoned his King’s land, and disobeyed his King’s rule in the Law of Moses.

Naomi only voiced what all the other women were thinking:  this is what happens when you defy the Living God, go your own direction, and seek your fortune away from His presence, His people, and His land.

You’re only getting what you deserve!

And, more than we care to admit, there is an element of consequences from our own choices and being our own worst enemy–then complaining bitterly about it when we pay the price.

Blaming God

But what’s interesting is that Naomi doesn’t say, “I’m to blame”.

Her depth of despair and cry of protest was this:  God has turned against me, the widow who followed her husband and then lost both him and her boys.

She took it extremely personally, and very much blamed God personally.

It’s the most common response to God when a cluster of tragedies descend and destroy our old, cherished life.

He turned against me.

He must hate me.

I’m on His bad list.

There’s no hope for me.

So I’ll turn on Him.

Who–even the strongest believers–hasn’t felt this way at times?

Is it any wonder that those who have endured a barrage of traumas and tragedies, who are carrying within them grief upon grief from losing so much, have all this anger against God within them?

The Unknown Unknown Good

But is this the end of the story for Naomi?

Or for us?

Or could there be something else beyond “being cursed” at work?

Thankfully for Naomi, and for us, the story continues.

Things we cannot see–the unknown unknowns–are in play.

For God, looking beyond all these bad words and negative attitudes coming out of Naomi, had something good in store for her.

And it all centered around that foreign daughter-in-law Naomi brought with her back home–the non-Jewish girl from a pagan background that refused to leave when she had every reason to do so.

It’s called grace.

The Age of Rage

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2017 by jcwill5

We have so much more to be angry about these days.

What’s Going On?

Are human beings any worse than they used to be?

Corruption, scandal, folly, debauchery, etc. have been around as long as people have been around.

Ego-driven politicians have always loved power and used crooked means to obtain it and retain it.

Disagreements and political parties have been with us from shortly after the founding of our Republic.

Name-calling and abuse have been a part of our public discourse right from the very start.

So what newly negative thing is going on?  And why is it escalating?

I have some theories:

Hyper-Awareness of Everything

First, we are now hyper-aware of everything going on around the world.

Several generations ago we would not have known about mudslides in Peru or tribal conflicts in Africa.

We would have had our information dispensed to us very slowly, by word of mouth or by newspapers.

And most of what we’d be reading or hearing would be local stuff, with some state and national stuff, and a tiny amount of international stuff.

Now, everything can affect us and hit us and make us feel like we have to be the one who’s responsible, who must do something.

Now, we are above it all in perspective and, from this godlike vantage point, we make pronouncements and laws all others must follow–or we explode in divine wrath.

With knowledge comes responsibility and we simply can’t take it all in, all the time, without rest.

Hyper-Bombardment of Opinions

Second, we are being hyper-bombarded with opinions.

Everyone’s a self-publisher of their every opinion, thanks to social media.

Media outlets multiplied through cable, and are now exponentially growing on the Internet.

Instead of the three big networks, we have thousands and thousands of diffused, targeted, and small segment outlets of information.

What’s real, what’s not, what’s true, what’s fake is being swallowed up by an avalanche of 24-7 opinion that is forgotten almost as quickly as it is uttered.

But it’s enough to irritate us and keep us in a state of upset and fury.

Now we’re reduced to pressing emotional buttons and firing off tweet storms back at others to counter their emotional opinion-bombs hurled at us.

Hyper Cultural Change and Hyper-Celebrityism

Third, everyone is a potential celebrity and feels pressure to maintain a cultivated public image we fiercely protect.

It wasn’t always like this.

The doings of celebrities would been given scant attention in older days, and average folks would have known next to nothing about them.

Their songs and paintings and plays and movies would take a long time to make it out to the hinterlands.

Cultural change was slow as a result–giving lots of time for processing, adapting, and debate.

Now, everything has a short half-life and what’s hot and what’s not is a whirlwind.

Nobody has any time to process, adapt, discuss, debate and digest the current wave before the next cultural wave crashes down upon them.

We are chasing after an always-moving, hyper-kinetic party bus and it feels like there’s no getting off.

We are overloaded, in other words, and overloaded people begin to crack up and get thin-skinned and irritable.

Hyper-Alienation and Hyper-Offense

Finally, there is hyper-isolation and hyper-offensiveness and hyper-sensitivity.

We are so virtually connected but, in actuality, distanced, isolated, and threatened by actual human contact, vulnerability, commitment, and deep connection.

And this hyper-alienation makes it far too easy to rage at others from inside our self-castles and say things we’d never say to an actual human being in real life.

It is the age of the troll, the flamer, the provocateur, etc.

And it is the age of hyper-sensitivity to insults and offenses, hyper-victimhood and protected classes and favored categories.

Both the offenders and the offended are in a war that can never end, that will defy all solutions, that has no good outcome in the end.

And all this is shrouded in ideologies that are all-encompassing identities that require total war.

An Ugly Image in Our Collective Mirror

If there’s one disturbing thing that Donald Trump’s presidential election has revealed, it’s this:  he is a mirror who is showing us all exactly what we have become, how low we have gone, how far gone we are.

In my next blog I hope to move towards answering the question:  what can be done?  What can you and I do to get off this unholy merry-go-round?

Must We Be Fools?

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2017 by jcwill5

I’ve been reading through the book of Proverbs lately, and it’s not comfortable reading.

Long story short, we are born fools and therefore must gain wisdom as if we are digging for treasure.

Wisdom comes as we make mistakes, observe life’s outcomes, learn from others’ choices, listen and spend time with wise people, and practice the disciplines of wisdom under God.

Wisdom is therefore expensive–hard to come by and easily lost as we relapse into folly.

Portrait of a Fool

Fools are quick-tempered and are easily offended.

Fools are hasty in speech and mouth off at the drop of a hat.

Fools won’t listen and nobody can tell them they are wrong.

Fools meddle in other people’s lives, take up others’ causes and offenses, and call for blows.

Fools cause contention, strife, and great harm to their families and their society.

Fools are undisciplined and lazy, and think life owes them everything for nothing.

Fools are spend-thrifts and rack up debts, and end up in poverty.

Fools make untrustworthy workers, unreliable messengers, and unstable partners.

Fools mock at God, and suffer increasingly severe consequences in life.

They are driven along by impulses and are mastered by their own greed, lust, and unchecked passions.

They are miserable, sick of body and soul, and make everyone else miserable.

A Different Outcome is Possible

Nobody has to work at being a fool– it comes naturally to human nature.

You and I are simply stuffed with folly!

This is why sin, living in defiance of God and/or disregarding God out of pride, is the height of folly.

For fools go by their own best thinking instead of what God has said in His Word.

Therefore folly is voluntary and avoidable.

Therefore foolish living is tragic and terribly unnecessary.

The Path Towards Wisdom

Even if we are born fools, we don’t have to die a fool.

And the first step away from folly is the admission, “Lord, I’ve been a fool–please teach me and help me become wise!”

Humility, admitting we are ignorant and don’t know what’s best for ourselves or others, is the starting point.

Teachability, crying out to learn the lesson and grow from it, is the second step.

Silent observing and choosing to hang out with those further along the path of wisdom, is the next step.

Then adopting the thinking and the life practices that God tells us to do, and walking in the footsteps of the wise, is how we continue on the path towards wisdom.

For nobody arrives; nobody had is all figured out; nobody can say of wisdom, “I’m all done and have this down!”

Wisdom Personified

Interestingly, Jesus tells His listeners that “Something greater than Solomon is here!”

For Solomon was the wisest Old Testament person, but ultimately relapsed and fell into follies as he aged–ending poorly in life.

But if God were to take on human flesh and clothe Himself in a body and walk among us, what we’d have is something altogether different.

Wisdom Himself personified would be living, speaking, and modeling ultimate wisdom right in front of us.

All His words would be supremely wise words, and His life a paragon of wisdom.

All wisdom would thus be concentrated in the Person, and the quest for wisdom would be transformed from that moment into “being like Him”.

Therefore Christian wisdom is focused on knowing Christ and living as He lived in the same power of the Holy Spirit that animated Him.

To have the mind of Christ as a gift would be our heritage, an ever-present source of alien wisdom accessible at anytime anywhere because it is inside of us.

What Excuse Have We?

The world system and all those outside of Christ are divorced from the Holy Spirit–they have neither the God-given desire nor the power to live wisely as God defines wisdom.

But for we believers, who are so advantageously positioned in comparison to our Old Testament predecessors, what excuse have we?

In an age of folly, “the wisdom from above” as James puts it, which is gentle and full of mercy and good fruits, which is quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to anger, is so desperately needed.

Not only is it pressing that we repent of our follies, it is pressing that we humble ourselves and submit ourselves to the absolute rule of our Master, the Lord Jesus.

The great need is that His wisdom might flow and might mark us as His followers.

Instead, we are so tragically caught up in and imitating the follies of our times.

There is a solution!

 

Non-Religious Guilt and Outrage

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2017 by jcwill5

One of the curious things about our current American culture is how unbridled our public anger has become.

It’s like there’s no check or balance against it, as if there’s a tormented, snarling beast crouching within us that erupts in fury at the drop of a hat.

Why are we so seized with intense anger?

Why are we so instantly irritable and combative?

Why are we now perpetually at each other’s throats?

Hostility on Steroids

We Americans have always had our disagreements, our political opposition, our strongly held convictions, etc.

But the hostility level is now so over-the-top that we are incapable of functioning as a mature democracy, divided into warring camps, and drowned in a sea of suspicion, recrimination, and group loathing.

So when I read David Brooks column in the New York Times titled “The Strange Persistence of Guilt”, it was as if somebody flipped on a light and made the unclear to be clear.

You can read his column for yourself here:

Potent, Post-Religious Guilt

His thesis is this:  “Religious frameworks no longer organize public debate. Secular philosophies that grew out of the Enlightenment have fallen apart. We have words and emotional instincts about what feels right and wrong, but no settled criteria to help us think, argue and decide.”

He continues, “American life has secularized and grand political ideologies have fallen away, but moral conflict has only grown. In fact, it’s the people who go to church least — like the members of the alt-right — who seem the most fervent moral crusaders.”

The reason why is, “Technology gives us power and power entails responsibility, and responsibility, McClay notes, leads to guilt: You and I see a picture of a starving child in Sudan and we know inwardly that we’re not doing enough.”

But there is no way to resolve this guilt because, “People have a sense of guilt and sin, but no longer a sense that they live in a loving universe marked by divine mercy, grace and forgiveness. There is sin but no formula for redemption.”

In other words, with religion we had a way to deal with unresolved guilt through forgiveness, making amends, and rituals of restoration, and now we don’t and it’s driving us nuts.

But in a post-religious, post-truth, post-God world, we are carrying around a weight of unresolved guilt over humanitarian crises bombarding us on social media that we know we haven’t done enough to resolve.

The New Cult of Victimhood

And since we cannot live with such unresolved, intense moral guilt, we find that “The only reliable way to feel morally justified in that culture is to assume the role of victim.”

Justifying our own evils and pointing the finger of blame is an attempt to transfer our own unresolved guilt onto others.

And those “others” reject the blame, erupt in fury, and point the finger of blame right back at us.

Each group or class of victims gives itself permission to denounce, call out, and go after the other side as oppressors and moral enemies–allowing no principled discourse of equals, no rational discussion, no balancing of legitimate interests, no compassion and empathy, and therefore no resolution.

Brooks concludes, “Sin is a stain, a weight and a debt. But at least religions offer people a path from self-reflection and confession to atonement and absolution. Mainstream culture has no clear path upward from guilt, either for individuals or groups. So you get a buildup of scapegoating, shaming and Manichaean condemnation.”

May I even be so bold as to take Brooks’ reasoning one step further?

Backing Out of Our Moral Dead End

If we find ourselves in a cul-de-sac of our own choosing, perhaps the logical thing to do is to question our mass choice to make a turn away from God and to return to Him.

Maybe religion isn’t the problem; maybe, when all is said and done, it turns out that we are our own worst problem.

Maybe our fury is telling us it’s time we admitted we are created to be moral beings with an inborn sense of right-and-wrong, of justice and fairness, etc.

Maybe we do, in fact, actually need for Someone far beyond and outside of our selves to intervene and restrain our evils, forgive our guilt, heal our souls’ hurts, and restore us from where we’ve fallen.

Perhaps our moral breakdown is sourced in our current devotion to the idol we substituted for God–the self.

We are endlessly looping in a sea of guilt, blaming, and anger with no way out, driving each other crazy and distorting ourselves into hollowed, rage-filled monsters.

Perhaps the harder way–admitting we are self-enslaved and out of control, admitting we are truly guilty but unable to find forgiveness, admitting we will never be sufficient to fix our broken selves–of coming to God naked in our sins and without excuses or defenses is actually the kindest way.

The truth is we all need to be loved at the bottom of our lives, need someone to die on a Cross in our place, need someone to earn a righteousness of us that satisfies God and sets us free from the treadmill of performance.

We need a Savior.

And He waits for us with open arms.