On this home by Horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore —
“Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe
Go up to Gilead, and take balm,
O virgin daughter Egypt!
In vain you have used many medicines;
there is no healing for you.
The nations have heard of your shame,
and the earth is full of your cry;
for warrior has stumbled against warrior;
both have fallen together.
The two texts above fit the occasion well. The first, from a secular author, is a nightmarish poem of a person contemplating imminent doom. The other is a word from a prophet to the people of God who have tried so many “medicines” except for the one most helpful for them: “The nations have heard of your shame, and the earth is full of your cry.” I know of only two ways forward and of only one that can help. There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways.
One way is this: Go in to the streets and chant vain repetitions. Gather a crowd and chant them in unison. Maybe, if your voices are loud enough they will drown out the cries of the widowed and orphaned before they reach the ears of God. Raise awareness. Speak to us as though we are unaware of the evil that has overtaken us. We are all too aware. We are aware that we can’t keep up with the body count on any side—and how many sides are there? Advocate. Advocate that one group’s orphans are in greater pain than the other. Advocate that one group’s grievances are more justified than the other. And above all, blame someone. Blame those who were disbelieved when they warned that this evil was coming. Blame them as being responsible for its arrival. Blame the President for saying out loud that which was simmering in many hearts. Blame the Evangelicals as you did when a Muslim terrorist shot up an Orlando nightclub. Demand they be silent and put your trust in secular reforms. Pass laws making it a crime to commit a crime. Keep busy. Make a lot of noise and with that noise and commotion try to hide our greatest sin—our godlessness and despair. Then next week, when a secular and godless society continues to behave as a secular and godless society, be shocked again. Following this way, things are not going to get better—they will get worse.
Yet, God has not left us without hope. There is another way. If you are starting to desire to flee the wrath to come, and if you are beginning to understand that there is no hope in the hashtag; if it is dawning on you that we cannot chant our way out of this, we cannot advocate our way out of this, and we surely cannot shoot our way out of this; if you are beginning to realize that we are unable to save ourselves from ourselves; if it occurs to you that we are lost unless some One from outside rushes in and delivers us—then return. Return to the Church. Return to the Eucharist. Return to the living God truly present. Return in silence, and learn to love. In the midst of all the noise, chanting, advocacy, and endless words: Stop! Instead, listen with your soul rather than with your ears. In silence, listen for the Spirit that has been desiring to speak with your spirit since the day you were born. You were meant for greater and better than all this. In a world that is drowning in vice he offers to fill you with all virtue. In a world that is morally bankrupt he will offer to make you the bearer of moral treasure. To a world already on fire with wrath—he will make you an instrument of peace. Christ may call you away, even from your family, but he will unite you with so many who are learning to love again. Only listen in silence and surrender. There are two ways. “The way of life is this. First of all, thou shalt love the God that made thee; secondly, Thy neighbor as thyself. And all things whatsoever thou wouldst not have befall thyself, neither do thou unto another.”
There is a balm, but it must come from the pews and pulpits.
Return. Return to the Church. Return to the Eucharist. Return to the living God truly present. Return in silence, and learn to love. Welcome all those who are returning.
A postscript for the UMC is found here.