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The humility of Christ can heal a dark and divided America

Brandon McGinley’s letter from America explores what it is about Jesus Christ that will appeal to a society exhausted by exploitation

It’s a strange and unsettling time in America. Mass shootings have become commonplace, to the point where the natural reaction to the news of another is a resigned, ‘oh, again.’

Each one initiates a new wave of political and often racial recriminations as blame gets lobbed around like a stink bomb that will go off at any moment. But in the end, everyone but the most committed ideologues knows, at some level, that there’s nothing we can do to stop these massacres.

Meanwhile, last month, Jeffrey Epstein, ringleader of an international cabal of elite paedophiles and sex traffickers, was said to have killed himself in a prison where you aren’t supposed to be able to kill yourself.

Regardless of what actually happened, it is undeniable that the powerful in this country and in institutions around the world (including, as we know well, the Church) can act with impunity—up to and including raping children.

On a smaller scale, in speaking with those who interact with the rising generation, it is clear that a kind of internet-mediated and nihilistic eccentricity is widespread.

Teenagers, when they aren’t sharing pornography, share bizarre and often offensive memes whose full meaning they hardly understand, except that they know the images are somehow transgressive.

It’s the rebellion of chaos and meaninglessness against what is perceived (not wrongly!) to be a decadent and hypocritical order.

There is a layer of dread just beneath the surface of American life. Good things feel like they can’t last; bad things feel like harbingers of worse

An expanding urban comfort class flaunts their excess as they nurse their spiritual and psychological emptiness, seemingly intentionally provoking envy and anger in those left behind.

The phrase ‘civil war’ crosses our lips even though no one can really foresee how such a conflict would arise; and yet, for some reason, it doesn’t feel crazy to utter those words.
And I haven’t even mentioned the president or the absurd, two-year-long process by which we elect a new one (or extend his reign).

I always feel uneasy writing these gloomy columns because in so many respects my life feels normal and good.

Last week I took the kids to the local amusement park—one of those classic parks with last-of-their-kind rides and eclectic ornamentation and lights that come alive like a circus of technicolour fireflies as the sun sets. Even though some of the details have changed since my childhood, the place still feels the same; it still feels right and good and lasting, like a place my children’s children will be able to enjoy just as I did.

It’s good to have those places and experiences that we recognise as truly good and worthy—if only so we don’t fall into a dourness that overwhelms the Christian joy we are called to spread, especially to our own children.

But, at the same time, we know that these points of light cannot suffice; neon and fluorescence and even incandescence cannot overcome the darkness of nihilism and, if you’ll permit an even stronger word, demonism on their own.

What our reeling civilisation aches for is what these irruptions of beauty point to, if we have the will to follow them: the light of Christ.

Indeed it is precisely the decadence and hypocrisy, the covetousness and emptiness, the chaos and meaninglessness—all of these signs of decline and despair—that make this moment one of the greatest evangelisation opportunities in centuries.

Everyone knows something is wrong. Everyone knows something—or ­Someone—is missing. But we have the missing piece! We have the Christ whose love banishes the dread that haunts not just our souls but also the spirit of our age.

Let’s think critically, though, about what it is about Jesus Christ that will appeal to a society exhausted by exploitation. It is not Christ as the key to power, Christ the Winner, who will carry the day. Where there is a winner there is a loser, and we have had enough of winners who lord their power and privilege over the losers.

Rather, it is Christ the meek, the humble, the vulnerable who challenges the spirit of our times most directly. It is the Christ who doesn’t count the cost of faithfulness, who is willing to look foolish to the world, even unto death.

This is the Christ we need to bring to our civilisation through the example of our lives, radiating the light of peace that will conquer not so much through conflict as through contrast.

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