Pentecost is upon us, the season of fire and purgation. Is this what we are seeing in Minneapolis? The anger is righteous, though the violence is not. The poet Yeats might have envisaged it as ‘mere anarchy loosed upon the world’. Random chaos, in other words.
It’s easy to think of anarchy as random chaos but this anarchy, that we are seeing right now, is rooted in something. It is not random. It is the unforgiven sins of history being visited upon us, yet again. It is also a kind of holy void which God may be filling with the rage itself.
I have been reading the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament recently and it seems to me that God is not averse to the use of extreme violence, something that I have always found puzzling. But perhaps this is only due to my own partial understanding of the picture, when it comes to the Bible in relation to the violence we are seeing in Minneapolis and elsewhere in the US.
What if we think of these events as reflecting something of Pentecost, the feast of fire which emboldened and enlivened the disciples and the Church of today to stand for the truth? The anarchy we are seeing is dangerous because it has spilled over into attacking one of the last remaining institutions that speaks for truth and objectivity. Suddenly what is righteous dissolves into dangerous anarchy. A reporter is arrested, on camera, while reporting these events. There is a complete absence of law enforcement – no police, no national guard. The streets belong to the angry and the oppressed.
We feel something of this dangerous situation wherever there is a failure or absence of wise governance, or of leaders with integrity who can be trusted. It is almost naïve nowadays to talk of trust in relation to politics, perhaps because politicians so despise the people they are paid to serve that their arrogant patronising of them will, they think, go unnoticed. But sooner or later, far too late, people will wake up to the fact that they are being played for fools. The rage of the oppressed (and there is none so potent) and the contempt of the powerful for their own people runs the risk of spilling over into ‘mere anarchy’, not only in Minneapolis but, as the Cummings affair suggests, also in the UK.
It is time to hold the fire of Pentecost in our hearts, so that its energy can spill over into a world crying out for leaders and law enforcers who will enact justice, speak the truth and let the oppressed go free.
How will the Church, post Covid respond to this challenge?