Thursday, April 16, 2009


The tragedy of Hamlet turns on one simple statement: "The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,/ That ever I was born to set it right! " Torment and pain and tears ensue.

We on the evangelical end of things are sure that the time is out of joint; as Noel Anderson puts it, the Barbarians are on the sofa! As Viola Larson reports it, even young children are being dragged into the debate. What then are we to do? Set it right? And exactly how does that work, Hamlet? The Big Sort becomes an even bigger one; the divides already huge just get bigger. Christ weeps.

Noel can say that if others had done what looks clear to us with 20/20 hindsight should have been done 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in this situation. That may be true, but here we are. Viola may feel for the parents who now have to take the point for their faith in a way that we didn't when our children were in 1st grade, but here we are.

We can weep, object, that the time is out of joint-- but remember Who is the keeper and maker of time and history. God is in this somehow. What would happen if we stopped crying out to heaven about how out of joint our times are, and started obeying God into witnessing in the midst of them?

My brother BW can say that it is hopeless-- that the only thing that can come out of these conflicts is more conflict. But it is important to remember that the spiritual powers that be in Birmingham, Alabama and across the South (Black AND White) said the same thing in 1955:THINGS WILL NEVER CHANGE. That's why they pushed a young preacher to the front of the local racial disturbance-- he was sacrificeable. And he knew it; he told all around him that he wouldn't live to see 40 years old. And he didn't.

But because he, and a quiet bookish worker, didn't move when they were required to move, thousands of people found the courage to walk to work rather than ride the bus-- to pray outside their pastor's bombed-out home rather than riot. Martin Luther King, Jr. basically spent his life talking and walking. Rosa Parks only refused to get up. And because they did, we live in a different country.

So, now is our time. We may not enjoy comfort and status. Following Jesus could push us down the socio-economic ladder rather than propel us up it. Perhaps it is unfair that older generations didn't deal with this before we had to; perhaps no one will respond, and this is a fool's errand to stand for Christ in Love and in Truth. What difference does that make? The time is out of joint-- no tolerance for spite. Only Jesus Christ can set it right-- and whatever He tells me to do, I will do. Call me a fool, I don't care.

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