The world is punch-drunk, like a boxer staggering after two left jabs and a dramatic right.
Our politicians and leaders—at least those who appear to be thinking people--sort of recognize their constituency is reeling, but they too stagger, not like a shaken boxer, but like those overserved at the bar—their own bar.
What to do?
The British voted this week to exit the European Union. The vote cost David Cameron his job as Prime Minister. Donald Trump is of the opinion the divorce within Europe proves he should be President of the United States. Hillary Clinton has said nothing newsworthy yet. Bernie Sanders offered no opinion when asked.
Most of the articles about the British exit (Brexit) from the European Union (the EU) compare the phenomenon to Donald Trump’s campaign for the American presidency, not because they are necessarily similar, but because both are unprecedented. When anomalies occur, the natural tendency is to look backward and see if we have been here before. The only cohesive analysis at this early point in the pondering for meaning is that those who voted to divorce from Europe and those supporting Trump are uneducated, old, and against immigration.
Donald Trump announced the divorce within Europe proves that he should be President of the United States. Hillary Clinton has said nothing newsworthy yet.
These statistical observations are likely accurate, but the implication is that this makes these people dumb—or at least, not as enlightened as the authors of the articles. What is clear, but what the media and pundits and talking heads and politicians are just now beginning to comprehend, is that the masses of the world are unhappy.
Like I said earlier, those we look to for leadership, i.e. those we the voting public have put in place to guide us to stability and superintend our futures, are like drunks falling off bar stools. Of course, I’m speaking generally, not specifically. Still. A group of people with abysmal approval ratings are charged with leading us forth from these turbulent times. Is it any surprise the public is disconcerted? It was only a matter of time.
While the British were divorcing their twenty-seven partners in Europe and cascading the world’s financial markets into tumult, one party of our elected officials who didn’t get their way on a series of votes were sitting on the floor—literally, the carpeted floor—of the House of Representatives like petulant children. Try that at your place of employment when you don't get what you want and let me know how it works out for you.
Let me be clear now: If you recoil and think I’m writing to castigate Democrats, or Remainers, or legislation, or governments, or politicians of any ilk, you must understand that you are missing my point. The point simply is this: The world is not tilted like it used to be and believing that those occupying the seats of power are primed with a workable solution—or are likely capable of formulating a solution to the world’s ills—is nothing short of denial.
What are you going to do?
How are you going to think about this turn of events? What posture are you going to assume? What are you going to say to your kids at the dinner table? Silence is a bad plan. Your older kids are not unaware. Fail to address the matters at hand and they will assume you are clueless or lack courage. Will you leave their ability to think during crises to someone else: a teacher, a peer, or somebody who posts something online?
Are you going to do nothing and wait for the markets to correct? As of yesterday, the optimistic scenario for that to happen is two years. Are you going to assume that the same people sitting on the floor of the House chamber and those who can’t manage to think open-mindedly about background checks, a) really care that your investment portfolio dropped precipitously yesterday, and b) can summon the forethought to chart a course to where no man has gone before?
The media has interviewed all sorts of folks who are gurus. You’ve read them and heard them, and I’m not writing to recount their opinions. But one caught my attention: Alan Greenspan.
Mr. Greenspan has been alive since the beginning of the world—maybe not quite that long, but long enough to have seen and studied more economic and fiscal events than most books contain. Mr. Greenspan said of the British vote and what it portends, "This is the worst period I recall since I've been in public service. There's nothing like it, including the crisis — remember October 19th, 1987, when the Dow went down by a record amount of 23 percent? That I thought was the bottom of all potential problems. This has a corrosive effect that will not go away" (the article is here).
What are you going to say to your kids at the dinner table?
Before I outline what’s on my mind in writing to you, let me wade deep into my home waters. I’m not as old as Mr. Greenspan, but I’ve been around longer than most by now. When turbulence tosses the craft of our Christian wellbeing, we who fancy ourselves followers of Jesus Christ start signing our correspondence, “Come quickly Lord Jesus.” Of course, the line is biblical (I Cor. 16:22), but most translations maintain the Greek word, “Maranatha.” The translated phrase has been uttered by Believers for centuries when life was turned on its head, and make no mistake: We are remiss if we fail to pray likewise. But.
For the last forty or fifty years, when times turn toward anarchy, some of our theological leaders turn their attention to prophecy in search of relief. It’s not wrong to do so, per se, but if no one knows the hour or the day of Christ’s return—not even Jesus Himself—it seems there might be some encouragement more concrete from our heavenly Father than wistfully praying for the second coming of Christ when things turn uneasy (ref. Mk. 13:32). I mean, what if today or tomorrow or Tuesday are not the assigned day? What then?
Times are scary. No doubt. If you read the link to Mr. Greenspan’s thoughts, then you understand the news of the last forty-eight hours are the tip of the metaphorical iceberg, and he seems to be alluding to the iceberg that sank the Titanic.
No one knows what tomorrow holds. Our elected thinkers are worrying about staying in the pockets of their major contributors and keeping their jobs. They are not “working hard in Washington” (or anywhere else) to create a secure future for you even though this is their byline. They used to do this, but no longer; not for quite some time.
Now we are back to where we began: A majority of the people, certainly in Great Britain and it would appear in the United States as well, are unhappy enough with the status quo that they are suing to divorce from business as usual. Historically, movements like this are generally called revolutions. Only Bernie Sanders is using the "R" word though.
If Mr. Greenspan and others of his caliber are anywhere close to accurate, we are in the midst of a global revolution, a resetting of norms, a redefinition of who governs how, a reordering of how society operates, a restructuring of global alliances for protection, exchange, and trade. It is either an uncertainty of epic proportion or an unprecedented opportunity to live differently. Either way, it clearly hints of a revolution.
To live differently? That’s right.
Maybe you are one of the few among us who trusts God without compulsion. If so, you are free to go back to whatever you were doing five minutes ago when you started reading this article.
But if you are one of us who labor mightily to trust, to maintain spiritual focus, to depend on Him—not heritage and not honors and not advance planning, but unrelentingly on God—then I wish to present my perspective on what we do in such times as these.
We are in the midst of a global revolution, a resetting of norms, a redefinition of who governs how, a reordering of how society operates, a restructuring—or not—of global alliances for protection, exchange, and trade.
It is entirely conceivable that worldwide economic disarray could ensue. This is disconcerting, but the powers that be say they’ve planned for this contingency. Maybe. But I’m not prepared to make Pollyannaish assumptions.
The bottom of this slide likely won’t be felt by Monday, but the world’s tumult is escalating faster than our guru’s ability to think and our systems to react. Representative governments are designed to move slowly with lots of checks and balances. General wisdom would declare this smart, and generally speaking, it has served us well. But, what if crisis occurs?
An example: Due to petty and partisan politics, watertight legislation from 1870, media ineptitude, and governmental wrangling it took three trips to Louisiana by the President of the United States and eleven days for relief to arrive in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina—and they were shooting one another in the streets down there.
And another example, more current: All the politicians in the civilized world are working to solve the problem of immigration. After all their best thinking, gazillions of dollars spent, and scores of horrific deaths there are more displaced persons in the world today than ever before, including during WW II—and part of the Brexit vote occurred because there is no end in sight to the problem.
Some London bankers stated post-Brexit vote that they had prepared for this divorce. If this proves true, they were the only people on the planet who saw this divorce coming. Even if they did foresee and plan ahead, not only would this be atypical, the rest of the world missed what was coming and everyone except the bankers in London are in disarray. Of all entities in today’s world, banks are not capable of operating independently of economic instability and mass social unrest. They can’t even survive a mistake of their own making without governmental bailout. Pardon my cynicism, but I’ll believe they were prepared once they lead the way in stabilizing the global markets and regional businesses.
I’m not predicting the end of the world, but I am pondering what posture to assume as one whose true home is not part of this flat world, to reference Thomas Friedman’s term for the interlaced, global economy. It shouldn’t surprise us that even when we bring our best thinking to bear on our problems, we still wind up with a system bound together with baling wire, twine, and tape. To believe otherwise is to live in denial and adhere to humanism, not hope-filled Christianity.
Mankind will not save us. If we were capable of that, God is irrelevant and Jesus Christ came needlessly. Plus, of all the world’s philosophies, humanism strikes me as the most absurd. Its presupposition is that humanity is either improving or will improve over time. Even a cursory view of world history demonstrates the trend line for humanity’s improvement is not pointed up. But realistically speaking, if you toss out God then you either live as a humanist or a fatalist. A realist will be looking somewhere besides the capitol.
Returning to a faith perspective: To encounter uncertainty and hardship in this life and begin praying for the return of Jesus says, a) you were content in a foreign land when everything was tolerable, but after the cataclysm of yesterday, you are insecure today, and b) you are unprepared today and tomorrow and next year should Jesus delay.
Mankind will not save us. If we were capable of that, God is irrelevant and Jesus Christ came needlessly.
Believers in Jesus Christ living in the first century felt certain His second coming was imminent. They lived in tumultuous times, to say the least. Believers living in the midst of the world’s two global wars felt Jesus’ coming would occur at any moment. Those shell shocked by the turbulent 1960's and 1970's embraced the obit of the late, great, planet Earth and looked for Jesus to appear. Followers of Jesus Christ who suffer persecution and martyrdom today, pray for and believe in His return.
Were these--are these--deluded? Certainly not! But if anyone hitches the entirety of their hope on Jesus’ return tomorrow in lieu of determined and thoughtful living today, they miss the mark and are vulnerable to disillusionment. If no one knows, no one knows.
Our faith in God is much more robust than this prayer for rescue and early exit convey. We can pray for Jesus to return while living as if His appearance isn't imminent and still be people of profound faith.
We pray, just as our predecessors did, for Jesus to return quickly: Maranatha! Amen. If Jesus comes today, I’m going to be thrilled. But if He delays, we diligently meet each moment that we remain here with trust in our hearts and confidence in our souls, so that if this moment is not THE moment, we are not shaken nor given to disillusionment.
Gordon MacDonald writes, “Although I’m confident that world destruction or the imminent return of Christ could happen even today, I am also just as ready to perform as though another thousand years lie ahead.”
How should we live?
We live trusting Father for each day’s problems, not shaken by what transpires around us. We walk with Him just like we first did when we believed, in simple dependence. We are rooted in Him, built up in Him, and established in Him. You know this. Yes. Thankfully, you know this. Don’t be taken in by the best thinking of folks who have no faith and live to secure this moment as their hope for living. The world’s philosophies are elemental and shallow for the questions of the day and the depth of capacity within your soul. Don’t be misled and don't settle for something less than your designed capacity.
In Christ is all of God in human form, and you are filled with Him. Therefore, you are filled with all of God and are secured by His Spirit and ingenuity for daily living and eternal reigning. The world thrashes about, but our God is unmoved. So we too must determine to be. As people recreated by salvation through Christ, this is our starting point. (Ref. Col. 2:6-10)
How about a personal example before I close?
I won’t bore you with details you don’t need, but here’s the high-level situation at our house: We are in the midst of a forced renovation. I say forced because we weren’t planning to renovate but have no choice. A forced march is also an accurate image.
Three years ago, we had a water leak under the house in a buried pipe. In the space of a couple weeks during the Christmas holidays, the water swelled the ground sufficiently to lift our house off its piers before I discovered what was happening, shut the water off, pumped 10K gallons out from the crawl space, dried everything out, and repaired the plumbing. Add to this a subsequent hail storm with hail the size of lacrosse balls and every surface of our home, interior and exterior, has some form of damage that requires renovation.
Don’t be taken in by the best thinking of folks who have no faith and live to secure this moment as their hope for living.
Don’t get me started on dealing with insurance companies or I will say bad words. Suffice it to say, we need a lot of money that we don’t have, to fix something we didn’t envision, that the insurance company is reneging to pay for, and that is complex enough that contractors don’t want to engage.
Losing substantial value in the money we have on hand, because of a vote on the other side of the ocean, while being bullied by an insurance company, and rejected by contractors is mighty inconvenient. And did I mention the money is short?
What to do?
I could drink lots of whiskey, but the Bible counsels all things in moderation and moderate whiskey won’t resolve what ails us. Never mind that copious amounts of whiskey won’t either (ref. I Cor. 10:23). I could worry, but Scripture counsels that worry will not add a cubit or day to my life. Neither will it add a dollar, a pound, a euro, or a yen (ref. Lk. 12:22-32). I could look to the hills, or more specifically to The Hill in DC. But as the Good Book queries, will help come from there (ref. Ps. 121:1)? I could bury my head, live in denial, and cling to whatever flotsam might be floating close by. But that solution was tried during the days of Noah and proved severely lacking (ref. Mt. 24:37-39).
Or, I could live in the disposition of Colossians 2:6-10 referenced seven paragraphs above. It is a combination of being shrewd like a snake and innocent like a dove (ref. Mt. 10:16). It is what is meant by having “the eye of the tiger,” to quote Mick. It is synonymous with what the Bible calls not being caught unaware (ref. 2 Cor. 1:8). It is trusting your heavenly Father each day for everything (ref. Mt. 6:34). Regardless.
This way, if global unrest escalates to chaos, if Jesus comes tomorrow, or if the world spins on its axis for another thousand years, you are prepared. Right now, you are prepared.
What Mr. Greenspan is saying between the lines of his metaphor is that the world is aboard the Titanic. An iceberg has been spotted as of a few hours ago. In fact, now that we've seen one iceberg and know what to look for, they are everywhere. Which direction should the captains of our earthly fate turn the rudder of global society?
We feel the tension of Mr. Greenspan’s word picture. It implies that this vote and the global fallout are the tip, the foretaste, the beginning, the mere inception of dis-ease that will be proffered to us unless something extraordinary comes from those who consistently fail to perform, let alone behave nobly.
Be active. Write. Call. Do whatever you do to engage actively in society as a person of light. Be winsome and shrewd and thoughtful, but dispense with thinking that you are entitled for God to bring heaven to Earth.
It was a different set of circumstances, but the lines above remind me of something Winston Churchill said as the world exerted its best thinking on a blitzkrieg of unrest that it wished to appease. He said, “And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”
What to do?
There is not a single person alive who has previously faced the set of circumstances before us. Not one. We need ideas.
Perhaps you have a solution. If so, please write immediately to Mr. Donald Trump, in care of the Grand Old Party (who considers him presumptive), Washington, DC. I'm sure the GOP will deliver your mail. If you believe Mrs. Clinton better suited to receive your solution, you can write to her in care of the (literal) floor of the House of Representatives. If you prefer David Cameron, he will be shortly receiving mail at his retirement cottage. While Mr. Obama only has a few months left in office, feel free to contact him at the White House. However, he is distracted while bemoaning how four liberal Supreme Court justices and four conservative Supreme Court justices continue to deliver equally split votes on his legacy pieces of legislation. The math is dizzying. Mrs. Obama is traveling in Morocco. Ms. Merkel is fed up, put out, and ready to see the Brits go. History indicates we should keep an eye on Ms. Merkel. The administrators of the EU in Brussels are worrying about their budgetary shortfall when Article 50 is enacted. (Article 50 is the "out" for members of the EU.) Never mind that no one knows how to enact Article 50.
I’m being somewhat tongue in cheek to make my point, but in all seriousness, be active. Write. Call. Do whatever you do to engage actively in society as a person of light. Be winsome and shrewd and thoughtful, but dispense with thinking that you are entitled for God to bring heaven to Earth or come get you because it is hot in the kitchen. Forget trying to get a Christian in Washington as if that will usher in the Kingdom of God. Pray for our leaders--for leaders everywhere, as commanded--but don't ever forget that you are just visiting this planet. Your true home is somewhere beyond the blue. Logic and argument will not win the day or right the listing ship. Love will.
Father God intends for you to represent Him in this dark place until He sees fit to take you to heaven. In the meantime, steady as she goes, my friend. Be salt. Be light.
Our heavenly Father did not design us nor equip us to exit, quit, or bail out. He intends for us to advance through whatever, strong in His strength, while emanating light and being salt in societies that need to go thirstily in search of living water.
In his famous speech to the Third Army, George Patton said, “I don't want any messages saying 'I'm holding my position.' We're not holding a thing. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing.”
And let the same be said of us in these days, in this life. The inclination will be to withdraw, to hunker down, to let the storm subside or pass over. No, hunkering is not our destiny or design.
Now! While our families and neighbors and friends need encouragement and perspective, embrace afresh who you are, seize upon whose you are, who you know, and what you know and advance. Advance in your soul. Advance in the lives of those around you with grace, and mercy, and confidence. Steady. Relentless. Determined. You are an ambassador for Christ. You are His representative in this foreign land. When times turn down, He turns up in the most amazing places and ways. Don't be caught with your face in your hands. Lift up your head and advance to His lead and voice.
We have nothing to fear. Fear is the absence of God, and our Father is not absent. Trust Him today. Regardless. If you would like some more definition to this, I recommend Psalm 46 to you.