The lights are going off.
In the past weeks and months I've read a lot of articles on line, and many of the comments attached to them. For the faint-hearted, it is not. There are levels of barely restrained anger and malice that I haven't seen before.
In the midst of all that madness of competing 'rights' and no concern for the associated responsibilities I came across a reminder of an interview that took place a few years ago. At the time there had been an ugly schoolyard massacre in the USA, and people were asking 'Where was God?', 'Why did He allow this to happen?' The answer was along these lines: that if you remove prayer from the schools, if you remove the teaching of the 10 Commandments and the life lessons from the Bible from the schools, in effect expelling God from such schools, then there's nothing to stop these atrocities and even worse ones from happening again. God has gentlemanly manners, He helps when He is invited to and doesn't force Himself on anyone. When He is rejected, His ability to help becomes severely limited because He respects our free will so much.
The sad thing is that this scenario seems to be playing out across the societies we live in.
The very people who want to trample over the rights of another to conscientiously object to doing something they consider morally wrong, only have this freedom of speech because in times past people of good will steeped in the truth that humanity was made in the image and likeness of God (and thus giving each human life true dignity) fought for this freedom for everyone. In a totalitarian regime freedom of speech is one of the first things that goes.
As we have expelled God from more and more areas of our lives, the lights that once kept out the darkness are going off.
We have forgotten that the formal definition of hell is the utter absence of God, and of all the truth, beauty and goodness that is His.
It seems we are going to be seeing more of that on earth.
In the novel 'An Echo of Things to Come' by James Islington there is this description of a dark realm:
'There was a screeching cacophony until it could be borne no longer; there was an empty, swirling silence that left a desolate panic bubbling uncontrollably inside of him. There was searing pain and icy wretchedness. There was misery and anguish and bottomless loss. There was no relief….What you saw was a moment, a memory from a man, one that came at the cost of his sanity….I don't know how to describe it…Nobody does. The best I have heard it explained is that it is an absence. It is what it would be if there was no joy, no life, no light, no hope. If everything, - everything, - that made this world a comfort to us was stripped away, completely and utterly.'
Once upon a time the media sought for truth and balance and excellence. Now the media seeks for click-bait and sensationalism, and editors fact check so rarely and permit copying so often that fake news has become the norm. A light has gone off.
Once upon a time social media postings were from real individuals. Now you don’t know whether the postings originated from a foreign government think tank designed to provoke disunity. A light has gone off.
Once upon a time protecting the innocence of children was a sacred duty. Now when they barely reached the age of reason they are bombarded with the complexities of human sexuality and gender fluidity. A light has gone off.
Once upon a time people wished each other a Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays, they sang Christmas carols about a baby in a manger and put on annual Christmas nativity plays. Now our shopping centres and day care centres won't put up nativity scenes in case they offend someone. A light has gone off.
Once upon a time when people spoke about marriage they spoke of husband and wife. Now it is almost an act of subversion to celebrate the anniversary of a married heterosexual couple, or to speak of Mother's Day and Father's Day. A light has gone off.
Once upon a time the medical profession were revered and trusted because they vowed to always do no harm and always seek to save life. Now governments are charging them with the responsibility to help kill the vulnerable and the sick. A light has gone off.
Once upon a time if a person was elected to government office they were expected to have some loyalty to the party that assisted them. Now you take your seat as the party member one day and declare you are an independent the day after. A light has gone off.
Once upon a time churches and religious statues and Christian leaders were respected. Now it is increasingly okay to let acts of vandalism of religious property go unpunished and to insult the representatives of God. A light has gone off.
Once upon a time a person was innocent until proven guilty by a judge or jury. Now it is trial by media, with the implicit verdict of guilty until proven innocent, and the impossible difficulty of finding unbiased jurors. A light has gone off.
How many lights have to go off?
How deep does the darkness have to get before our hearts cry out for the light?
How full of horrors does the darkness have to become before we humbly go in search of the source of light?
How bad does it have to get before we plead for God to return to our lives, and to our communities?
O God of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, forgive us, help us, rescue us, save us. Amen.