It is often said that in Chinese culture it's a curse to say to someone, "May you live in interesting times." While the attribution of this quote to the Chinese is apocryphal, there is a related Chinese expression that communicates a similar idea: "Better to be a dog in times of tranquility than a human in times of chaos." Like it or not my friends, we certainly live in interesting and chaotic times.
I'm sure you've noticed.
What's catching your attention these days that would fall into the "interesting times" category? Here's the short list for me, in no particular order:
- The rise of the pagan. Using "pagan" as a catchall for neopaganism, magic, witchcraft, sorcery, the New Age, the occult, Satanism, astrology, various forms of esotericism, and so on–paganism is on the rise in a huge way. What accounts for this spiritual awakening from the enchantment of materialistic modernity?
- The growing divide in the Church along political and ideological lines. While the Kingdom should be it's own politic and the people of God should be their own race, we are instead often allowing human political divisions to become Christian political divisions.
- All things COVID. The alphabet soup of COVID variants and their narratives and the fear that spreads through the human population as a result, the way our views on vaccines and masks and policies around COVID are dividing families and churches and friends, the ways the world's governments are responding to COVID and what that means for humanity, the spiritual warfare that so thickly surrounds every aspect of this disease, the way churches are responding, etc.
- The polarization of left/right political sides. While I think the diagram of political orientation in which a center, a left, and a right lie on a horizontal plane is ultimately a very poorly conceived tool with which to organize political and economic systems and ideologies, it is nonetheless accurate to say that, to the degree it reflects reality, people are moving further and further away from the center of that spectrum. And it seems like the consequences are moving in the direction of violence and the dehumanization of the other.
- The infiltration of marxian ideologies in all societal institutions and into the Church. Marxism and its ideological children are anti-family, anti-church, anti-freedom, anti-human, anti-Gospel, and anti-Christ, but they are rapidly winning more and more of the population's mindspace and it seems that Christians often have no better response to it than to either get on board, to capitulate, or to criticize and talk about why they think capitalism is a more Christian-worldview-friendly economic system.
- Environmental catastrophe. Whether it be the near 275 million pounds of glyphosate we dump into the United State's farmlands and all the effects on human bodies and the environment this suicidal decision results in, the reports of vast portions of the world's biosphere rapidly dying off, the proliferation of autoimmune disorders, the fact that huge and increasing percentages of the human population lack adequate access to fresh water, the dramatic plummet in men's sperm counts and testosterone levels, or the belief held by more and more people that the human race may go extinct in a few years if we don't reduce carbon in the atmosphere, it seems like the earth is not doing well, both in reality and in our rhetoric.
- Transhumanism. I would describe this one as a utopian vision of human possibility that pairs nicely with satan's desire to destroy all of mankind and to pervert the image of God.
- WWIII on the horizon. Call me crazy, but the prospect of Word War Three occurring in my lifetime seems like a reasonable, level-headed bet. Looking out across the geopolitical landscape I see endless tension points, stacked up like marbles in a game of Kerplunk. Looking at Egypt vs Ethiopia, Pakistan vs India, India vs China, China vs Taiwan, Taiwan looking to the USA, the USA vs China, and so on, I see a system with building pressure that must eventually be released.
I could go on. We haven't even mentioned the forking of reality and the loss of a meeting place there, financial nihilism, racial division, the growing tendency toward totalitarianism that so many of the world's governments and populations are embracing, the metaverse, or cancel-culture–there's not really a stopping place on this list.
As intense as the above list is, I think the thing that might stand out to me most is the fact that it seems really hard to be a human who is doing well and feeling good right now. Is it just me?
I would put it like this: it seems like the great spiritual war we have always lived in is heating up, and that is making daily life hard on my mind, soul, and body–it's making things hard on my heart and the hearts of everyone I know–and so the margin for complacency is tightening and my ability to kind of float through life without constantly checking in with God is diminishing. It feels like things have changed in ways that have consequences for our lives and it feels like Jesus may have some specific and very timely instructions and help for us.
So let's pause for a minute and listen to him–not necessarily for a specific word or instruction (though all the better), but let's take a minute to listen for his presence. Let's do it like this:
- Wherever you are, start by taking five really deep and full and slow breaths, pausing to hold those breaths at their peak for a couple seconds before changing directions.
- On the last out-breath, see how much you can relax your body and release whatever stress is in your jaws or neck or eyes or gut.
- Close your eyes and pray this little prayer, "Lord, Jesus. Please draw near."
- For as long as you'd like, just imagine and enjoy the presence of Jesus right next to you, around you, inside of you, or however he reveals himself.
Doesn't that feel better?
What we need more than anything in this time is union with Christ. Are you freaking out about COVID or are you angry about how other people are freaking out about COVID? What you need is union with Christ. Are you just tired of how heavy and contested everyday life is feeling right now? What you need is union with Christ. Are you concerned Western Civilization is running headlong into its demise? What you need is union with Christ.
The invitation of this project that we're calling Mount Vigil is for you to join us in trying to understand the story inside of which that crazy list of ways-the-times-are-interesting makes sense, and to respond to Jesus as he instructs our hearts in his way in the midst of it all. This is where we're headed. We hope you come along.