For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another…
…When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, factions, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:13-15, 19-21
Here’s my question: If the 2016 presidential election landscape really is the dystopian novel it reads like, then when was the apocalypse?
First, a couple of definitions. “Dystopian” refers to a society where some disaster of epic proportions has resulted in widespread misery, oppression, and lack of freedom. Recent movies such as The Hunger Games and Divergent have explored this theme.
“Apocalypse” is typically defined as a catastrophic event (global war, plague, devastation by an asteroid, alien invasion) featuring terrible violence, overwhelming destruction, and the end of our “way of life” as we know it.
Most dystopian societies in literature are post-apocalyptic civilizations.
THE APOCALYPSE: Obviously, my use of the terms dystopian and apocalyptic are simply vehicles to move this conversation in a certain direction. Yes, some of the debates we’ve witnessed do look unnervingly like a set from The Hunger Games ruling city of Panem, and the cavalier dismissal of basic human rights by some candidates hovers far too close to totalitarian ideals for my comfort, but we can’t have dystopia without first surviving an apocalypse, right?
Or maybe there has already been a sort of apocalypse and it’s gone largely undocumented?
- Maybe – and I’m thinking out loud here as I go along – there’s been a moral/spiritual apocalypse in America, and this 2016 election cycle is the evidence that makes us look back and identify it for what it really is?
- Maybe there’s been a mass hijacking of reasonable thought in this country, and the hoards of people willing to hitch their political wagons to blatant demagoguery are the logical consequence of something far more damaging than a domestic terror attack?
- Maybe we really have sold our souls to self interest, and the false religion of needing to be right – and to such an extent that we have become close to incapable of governing ourselves with fairness, mutual cooperation, and equanimity?
- Maybe the consequent chasm of division has created room for a different kind of politician to emerge? And maybe – in the classic rationale of 19th Century French counterrevolutionary Joseph de Maistre, “Every nation really does get the government it deserves.” I certainly hope not.
There is an epidemic of polarization loose in our culture that is ungodly, unAmerican, and fundamentally uncivilized. It has employed its sinister reach to set friends at odds with one another, it continues to divide good people in good churches, it is currently tearing this nation apart, and it has the potential to ultimately destroy everything we hold dear in the cause of ideological rightness, doctrinal purity, and political power.
In many respects, I believe this is an apocalypse. When we become more interested in being right than in helping one another work toward life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then our precious “rightness” is destined to lead this country that much farther away from our roots as a free people, and into the dangerous orbit of a dystopian future.
The scripture from Galatians quoted above is very clear about the cost of factionalism. And in his teachings Jesus was clear about what really counts when it comes to “kingdom living.”
Kingdom living is not about being right, about ideological correctness, or even pure doctrine; living for Jesus – and consequently into real freedom – is about putting ourselves in the position of servants, loving without judgment, living at peace with those we disagree with, unity of spirit rather than opinion, and inviting all to sit at the table and to share the bread and the wine.
Always thinking, always looking to Jesus – DEREK
(you can read more by clicking the following link: Derek Maul’s books)
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.