"So, You Want to Change the World?"
The facts are all there. It should only take the tiniest bit of logic to connect Point A to Point B.
Still they don't see it. They don't seem to want to see it.
You give them the facts a second time, but they seem unable to process them. You cite sources and proofs. You explain that this isn't a matter of opinion. This is 2+2 = 4.
They say 2+2 = 5.
It's like walking around in an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Your patience wears out and your anger begins to rise. Maybe if you get louder, harsher, more severe they will finally get it.
So you try shouting, but then anger is heard instead of argument. You get labeled. You get dismissed. You are a radical. A fool.
This is a cycle I'm watching happen over and over, every single day among my friends on social media.
The clear headed scream into a burning apartment building of logic that a fire is spreading. They beg the inhabitants of that building to come out. But even as the flames begin to singe their clothes, the residents laugh at the warning, point out the windows and say, "Look how stupid they are! They think we are going to burn to death."
There's a brilliant scene in the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where a former star named Coriakin is left to rule a group of Dufflepuds. Dufflepuds are maddening little creatures who cannot process truth no matter how it is given to them. They accuse the good of being evil, and they cannot accomplish anything, because they live in a perpetual state of error.
I think about those little boogers more and more these days. Some days I feel like I am one of them. Other days I feel like I am living in the midst of them.
I don’t mean to imply that every political or cultural issue is cut and dry, and I don’t mean to imply that my view of the world is flawless. However, there are some basic, fundamental issues on the table these days with answers that feel like they should be innate. Certain things are wrong, dangerous, and abusive. It’s a given.
But it’s not a given, is it? And this is becoming more and more evident in the times in which we live.
One of the most offensive beliefs of the Christian faith is that human comprehension isn't always just a matter of Homo sapiens sucking in data and running it through their mega-ape brains. There are places in the Bible that talk about spiritual forces deceiving humans, blinding them, making them unable to see what is real.
This seems like such a primitive, superstitious idea that it almost embarrasses me to type it. At first blush, I want to chalk the whole thing up to archaic language, or to metaphor, or to anything other than what it seems to be saying.
But when I look at secular epistemology (how we know what we know), I find a great number of intellectual non-believers who have been discussing the limits of human perception for centuries. It doesn't require a belief in God to realize that the observing, thinking mechanism of our flesh is deficient.
If as a child you ever lay awake at night fearing a strange shadow on your window shade was a villain, or if you've ever drawn a hasty, wrong conclusion about another person's character, you have been recognizing this principle. Humans make mistakes.
What sort of mistakes do they make? Well, let’s play Aristotle here for a minute and stick our errors in some possible categories:
1. THE FIRST SORT OF ERROR: PHYSICAL
The first sort of error is a simple, physical error. We try to compensate for these by verification -- the scientific method (repeatability and measurability), logic, and popular opinion. But when you have creatures limited to five senses and two pounds of brain, walking around in a world that appears limited to four dimensions, among other people with those same limitations, there are simply going to be failures... times when there’s not enough sensory input or cognitive power to produce accuracy. You didn’t realize the cabinet door was open when you stood up and bashed your head into it. That’s a physical error.
2. THE SECOND SORT OF ERROR: EVALUATIVE
The second category of errors we make is evaluative. These are errors of judgment and morality. Evaluative errors are trickier to pin down, because they involve higher order thinking, but let’s make one example for the sake of discussion. Let’s say a white woman doesn’t trust black people because she’s never known any. Environment deficit is creating memory which impacts future conclusions. This is an error of evaluation.
3. THE THIRD SORT OF ERROR: SPIRITUAL
I grew up with cartoons of a fat little angel and a fat little devil sitting on the shoulders of Elmer Fudd. (Or was it Yosemite Sam?) Anyway, whoever it was, the cartoon was funny because all of us know that feeling. Temptation. Conscience. It’s a metaphor for how, "I want to eat that cake but I shouldn't" feels.
Because of this sort of humor, I grew up accustomed to angels and demons being a joke. But when I got a little older, I ran into the opposite of that, a spiritual realm that was glorified by horror films. In these flicks, the spiritual was elevated to something so pervasive and so powerful that it felt like a divinity whose worship was accomplished by hopelessness and terror.
I don’t have room here to work out any sort of responsible exegesis of angels and demons. However, what I would like to suggest is that it would be terrifically myopic, not to mention grossly narcissistic and egotistical, to believe that the only life forms that could possibly exist in the universe would exist in a way that a human being’s five measly senses could perceive them.
Imagine a proud, intelligent blind man haughtily insisting that no such thing as sight could exist because he had never experienced it. I could understand his point, of course. But I think he would be better off making a humble admission that, “If hearing, touch, taste, and smell are possible, what more could be possible besides?”
We are not altogether blind, but we are also not accustomed to using this sixth sense like we are accustomed to using the other five. The sixth sense is like a vestigial organ that seems to be a little more sensitive in some members of our species than others.
Yet even the most sensitive among us tend to perceive the fifth dimension badly at first, just like that blind man in the New Testament who received distorted vision from Jesus before being healed a second time. Walking with God is a process. Perhaps seeing clearly takes a while because He wants us to come back to him over and over again, until we learn dependence on our union with Him.
But if there are benefits to engaging with the fifth dimension, there are dangers there as well. Jesus said that we have an enemy who disguises evil so that it looks like good. That enemy schemes. He sets snares. He blinds and deceives people.
Even as I write that, I want to shake my fingers in the air and make mocking ghost sounds. "Wooooohhooo, spooky!" I know that it can all be dismissed as superstition so easily.
But I have also stood in the ocean and felt the forces of the waves on my legs. And when I walk among humanity, there are pulses that rise and fall among us as well. What I perceive here is blurry, but it still points to something.
Jesus doesn’t leave us alone with these surges. He tells us what to do with them, and He is very clear in His instruction. He says that to be safe against aggression in the unseen realms, we have to put on the armor of God. He says that without this we cannot stand. And how could we stand? We can't even see what exists in that dimension.
Why doesn’t He tell us to just do tons of research and prove people wrong? Why doesn’t he say, “Go ye therefore and prove my existence and my ethics by statistics, and syllogisms, and by carbon dating, and by your scathing British wit?”
Well maybe that's because there are times for shutting the cabinet door so we don't hit our heads on it, and other times for simply admitting that part of this battle we are fighting is not against the powers of flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
To see one realm doesn't exclude any other. This is about an expansion of knowledge, not a reduction.
When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a necklace with a single mustard seed suspended inside glass. The verse cited was, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
What’s the Biblical context of that quote? The disciples were running around trying to do the work of Jesus, but their bibbity-bobbety-boo was broken. They couldn’t cast out darkness out of people like Jesus did, and they were probably hitting some emotions that a lot of modern believers are experiencing now... disappointment, disillusionment, frustration, and “God isn’t fixing this!”
But Jesus said something like, “Hey. So that didn’t work? Well guys, maybe it’s not just a matter of snapping your fingers and shaking your fists at stuff. Maybe your Facebook statuses, and links to data, and meme forwards, and anger, and irritation, and name calling are not going to do squat ... not even the good stuff you do... until you realize there’s an additional dimension to be addressed here. You need my power to shake things up in that realm, not yours. And if you don’t tap into that power, you’re shot. But the good news is, when you put faith in My strength instead of yours, the foundations of the earth are going to shake, rattle, and roll.”
I’m not trying to over spiritualize what’s going on in our culture today. Some of our problems have simple answers. Some of our problems are due to a lack of education, poverty, bad nutrition, bad genetics, and bad environments. Whatever spiritual issues are present there will also need physical follow up in resources of all sorts.
Also, I don't know what effect tapping into God's resources will have on our nation. I'm not promising a revival, or wealth, or a theme park, or anything. Maybe it's time for a different sort of work of God? Sometimes He lets his people suffer for His glory. Maybe He's going to want us to change the world by dying for it.
But if we are going to look squarely at the biological, relational, cultural, and psychological problems among us, it is only wise to look at the spiritual problems as well. If we ignore that realm, there are going to be gaping holes in our effectiveness as change agents.
In our valiant efforts to save the world, if we start seeing the same impotent results those flubbed up disciples did, maybe we need to run back to Jesus and plug into the resources He’s offering to us. Maybe that step is even essential.
If you are fired up about the rampant ignorance in our world, the dangers facing our country, the deception in our leadership.... instead of just flailing into the wind, why not get down in the invisible realm and attack things there?
Stop running naked on to the battlefield. Figure out what it means to put on the armor of God, and do it. Use His coverings. Use His weapons. Use His energy. Lean in. Lean in. Lean in. And trust. Then speak. Then do.
We have no business trying to change the world until we’ve let Him change us.