May You Live in Interesting Times
There is a sort of application of the Observer Effect that applies to the news of the day. Sometimes confused with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which argues that at the subatomic level we can discern either the velocity of a particle or its location, but not both, the Observer Effect argues that observing scientific phenomena can affect what we are observing. It’s almost as if the electrons know we’re looking at them, and adjust their dance. With respect to the news of the day, we often hear this kind of argument: “Social ill x is no greater today than it was twenty years ago. It’s just reported more.” Or, “The recent slew of crime y is expected to create copycat crimes.” It’s like the news knows we are watching. Sometimes, the news is how we respond to the news.
In our day, however, the news is not just the news. The news is business. We are far less likely than our fathers were to tune in to respected journalists who at least sought to keep up an illusion of objectivity. We are far more likely to get our news exclusively from sources clearly identified with this political party or that political party, or worse still, exclusively from talk radio or even comedy television. When news becomes commentary and commentary becomes business, the greatest good is getting you to tune in. We, particularly those Christians who identify as political conservatives, forget that the goal of talk radio isn’t to inform us. We are not consumers of that product that is conservative commentary. We are instead the product being consumed by advertisers. The goal of the host is ultimately to get us to tune in and then to sell our ears to Madison Avenue. As such, no matter who is in office, no matter what is happening, the news is always the same: “The sky is falling.” Calamity is the order of the day, not because we are in a peculiarly calamitous age, but because calamity sells.
There are, of course, plenty of things wrong with the world. We have corruption in high places. We live in an overleveraged, bubble-bursting, upside-down economic house of cards. Government is growing more intrusive, more bloated, more destructive with each passing election cycle. Our inner cities are cesspools of crime, drugs, promiscuity, and the death that comes with all of the above. All of these things, of course, we have a duty as believers to address. We have the solution to all of these ills, and we are called to preach that solution, to disciple the nations. What we should not do, however, is panic. We shouldn’t even be surprised.
Consider the fourteenth century. Dangerous, attractive heresies were finding a foothold in the church. Like today. Faithful men of God were abused, harassed, even killed for their fidelity by men who believed themselves to be doing the work of God. Like today. Church leaders were publicly squabbling, exposing their own hunger for power and prestige, exposing our shame to the watching world. Like today. One-third of the population went to an early grave through the scourge of the Black Plague. Like today, when one-third of all babies, at least in these United States, are cut down by the blackest of scourges, abortion.
There is nothing new under the sun. Our hardships and the wickedness from which they flow are not new things, not things unique to our age. They are the fruit of our fallen humanity. This, this is what comes of sin. How then should we now live?
Like Jesus did—by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Like Jesus does—bringing all things under subjection (1 Cor. 15:27). Like Jesus will do, handing it all back to the Father (v. 24). We must, in short, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we forget about the wickedness all around us. Even less does it mean that we forget about the wickedness inside all of us. It does mean that we do not worry as the Gentiles do. We seek the kingdom precisely because we have the King, and He shall reign forever and ever.
This same Jesus reigned in the fourteenth century. He will still reign in the twenty-fourth century. His reign does not—for now—mean that there will not be death, corruption, heresies, and murders. Neither, however, is His reign—for now—a mere hope that one day He will overcome. Rather, it is under His kingship that His kingship goes forth to war. Things are not now as they should be. But things not being as they should be is precisely as He would have things—for now.
Our calling as we fight faithfully beside our King against the world, our flesh, and the devil is to fight as those who are at peace. We fight with fervor, fidelity, and faith because we are of good cheer, knowing that He has already overcome the world. We live in interesting times indeed—because they are His times. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.