Welcome to the age of anger?
Is this the end of Western civilisation as we know it? Well, from the way Everton are currently playing, it probably is. Actually, this is the contention of Indian essayist and novelist, Pankaj Mishra, who submitted a long article in yesterday’s Guardian entitled “Welcome to the age of anger.” The byline summarises his argument: “Seismic events of 2016 have revealed a world in chaos – and one that old ideas of liberal rationalism can no longer explain.” The problem, as he outlines in considerable detail, is that we are not behaving as our culture says we should; we are not living as “the freely choosing individual in the marketplace. “ There is an irrationality, even an urge to self-destruct. Things don’t look good and what is truly depressing is that Mishra, for all his learning, poses no answer to our current angst. So just keep your head down. To quote my good friend Jeff, who lives in Brookville, New York. “The politicians will play their games and as long as it stays within the wide bounds of doing no harm, I will not count on them helping me, and pray they do not hurt me. UGH!” However, I suspect that every generation has moments when the times seem out of joint, when the old certainties no longer seem to function. Which will come as no surprise to anyone who reads the Bible. The story I was going to refer to here I now sadly discover does not work – for the simple reason it didn’t happen. An urban myth - but hey in this post-truth age, why allow the facts to get in the way of a good story! So the Times asked its readers “What is wrong with the world?” The year given is usually 1908 – but no-one has ever been able to locate the particular edition. G. K. Chesterton, the Roman Catholic author, gave a succinct response “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours.” And of course, he is right. The problem lies within us.
For never underestimate the ability of human nature to mess things up. Even to throw away a commanding lead. If you need convincing, just visit Goodison Park. In fact, as I write this, I now realise that for many football supporters - though as far as we know today, not those who follow Everton – this is only too true. Thanks to the courage of a few individuals, we now realise that even the beautiful game has its dark secrets.
For we now discover this morning from the BBC that there are now 83 potential suspects and 98 clubs involved in the inquiry into child abuse in football, police chiefs say.
As Algerian goalkeeper and French philosopher Albert Camus concludes: “How hard, how bitter it is to become a man.” For that is where we start. To make the truth known, even (especially) when it hurts. As a society we need to look straight and unblinkingly into the mirror. Otherwise as James writes “Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.” (James 1:22). As the apostle Paul is unflinching in his self-knowledge: “My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. “It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.” (Romans 7:20-23. The Message). Modern culture gets this. But what is fails to see that we are flawed creatures made no less in the image of God himself. As the Psalmist reflects: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.” (Psalm 8:3-5) The surprising truth is that although we are messed up, God loves us to the extent of the cross of Jesus. We may be sinners but sinners of incalculable worth. As ever God’s love changes everything. Above all we see this at the cross of Jesus. You and I are worth it. Hence, the gospel as Good News as Jesus himself declares. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’ Or as the Message paraphrases Mark 1:15: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.” A wonderful announcement for all Guardian readers. (You can read Mishra’s article here (if you have the time): https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/08/welcome-age-anger-brexit-trump)