Anybody who knows the working of a bridge would know the importance of balance between compression and tension. The longevity and the strength of the bridge lie on its balance. If the balance is compromised then the bridge gets damaged.
We are living in the times of extremes where balance seems illogical and unattainable. Our political discourse is polarized and this polarization reaches down to the society. Politics is done on the extremes of positivity and negativity, faith and fear, right and left. Ideological and Identity based political discourse is in an all-time high with internet and technology funding the data and information swiftly, our generation is very politically aware. Tribalism, Imperialism, Nationalism, Globalism, and Neo-Nationalism have produced many waves and counter waves throughout centuries carrying us through these turbulent times. History has always had the marks of extremity, but never at this level in the ideological playfield. The conservative and liberal forces are in a tug of war where new paradigm shifts are discovered, something which is new to millennials! leading to confusion and cynicism. In these times of extremes where it is difficult to arrive at a common ground and find the balance, how can we as followers of Christ respond to these changes and how can we stay true to our faith is the objective of this piece of writing.
In recent years we are seeing a rising despondency and skepticism to the norms set by the previous century. Elections across the world, especially in Europe and America has seen the rise of right-wing conservatism and also the extreme right nationalism gaining the momentum. I feel the ancient tribalism has taken the new form in neo-nationalism and in these complex tyrannies we are finding our place in today’s world. In the first place, let’s see why do these things happen?
The basic reason for this is as humans we change through time, as we have emotional mood swings, our collective conscious goes through a roller coaster and our opinion, interests, and needs change over time, based on the environment. Second a more practical reason, Every era has its own issues that people respond to, for example in a post world war scenario where the need for humanism and cross-cultural unity was very high the world moved towards an inter-cultural society in terms of knowledge sharing, people sharing in the fields of education, commerce, and technology in a way this has shaped our current global society, as well as the political unrest in the middle east and Africa gave opportunities to the humanistic and resourceful west in offering a helping hand to the refugees of war and the poor third world countries, this made the idea of globalization more robust than in the times of the Roman and also British empire and certainly more complex, today’s era is the child of yesteryears imperial colonialism and industrialization. The third can be the worldview of the theist and atheist, the worldview of conservativism and liberalism constantly battle it out and shape policies of governance, and also not to negate the in indifferences within these two worldviews. Again in the post world war scenario, there was a rise in socialism in the political framework of the west where imperialism was slowly taken over by people rule and states becoming more open and democratic, while the socialist east like Russia and China remained closed and hugely undemocratic. Especially the political instabilities, civil wars and radicalization in the middle east and Africa which lead to interventions of the West and America opened a space for refugees to seek asylum in the developed west and these insurgencies in a way caused some changes in the social fabric of these nations, so a new social, religious, cultural and economic dynamics arose which made conservatives blame the liberal worldview and the liberals blame them back leading to new extremes and all these indifferences slowly gets injected in to the society and the minds of people. The inequalities of the previous century started showing its colors in our times and its leading to a grand polarization which gives space for the rise of neo-nationalism and the populist mindset. This neo-nationalism is the new form of age-old tribalism.
The above outlook gives us an idea of the times we are living in. Jesus in Matthew 16:3 and Luke 12:56 rebukes the people of not knowing the sign of the times. I feel it still holds true. We as disciples of Christ cannot remain in our own spiritual bubble, we have to assess our times according to the word of God. So as a believer in Christ what would be our response in these changing times?
My response would begin by reminding what Jesus said about the last days when the disciples asked him about the signs of end times. One of the things mentioned in the chapter was “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. (Matthew 24:7). For a nation to rise against nation, there is a need of the idea of the “nation” being built strongly across nations. Even though throughout history these signs manifested itself in different ways, but never like the previous century or in our times. I just want to elaborate on this. After the destruction of Babel and the human scattering that followed we went into the age of tribes, certain tribes evolved into big and influential civilizations, then came the empires or kingdoms across various timelines resulting in warfare, these empires continued till last centuries in the form of caliphates and colonization, then came the age of Nations and countries which were formed according to their larger ethnic, cultural, geographical and even religious aspects with the broader idea of constitutional democracy. Many countries received freedom from their colonial rulers establishing themselves as free nations. They laid out their own way of self-governance with their own constitution and democratic values, but still, the marks of colonies and caliphates are visible in many countries. In many countries, the marks of colonization which is considered to be a sign of slavery are being replaced by their own cultural identity leading to the rise of nationalism mostly in these colonized nations of the east. Then with the age of industrialization, globalization for commerce and trade, and the humanistic approach in response to the humanitarian crisis in many parts of the world in the second half of the past century has opened doors for a multicultural and multiracial society in the liberal west. Then the rise of the rights of these immigrants had lead to the emergence of neo-nationalism in the west. This idea of nationalism is much more defined and organized than the one in the previous era, especially during the times of the German nationalism and Hitler, because this idea of nationalism today is coming out of a generation which is much more aware than that of the previous generation, have much more connectivity across the world and addressing much more intricate and complex issues than the previous generation. So the words of the prophecy of Jesus Christ about nation rising against nation either politically, ideologically, culturally or even physically have much more significant in our times than that of the previous generations. So as followers of Christ and as children of God, we should realize that these things must happen. This trend is global and is not limited to a single area which means we should take these events seriously and acknowledge that God is in control during these changing times and he is preparing both the godly and the ungodly toward his plans as the world goes towards turbulent times and times of hope thereafter as mentioned in the Bible. It’s important that we are aware and watchful as Jesus commanded about the sign of the times!!
The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. Psalms 11:4