There is a surreal malevolence at work in the world, whose goal is only chaos.
This surreal malevolence cares not for nation, corporation, denomination, family, or tribe. This surreal malevolence uses as its tools anything and everything it can get its corrosive claws on - partisan politics, news outlets, social media - whatever. Even (and especially) those things we would like to think of a good and nice and maybe even fun.
Further, the surreal malevolence does not care who gets elected or is legally able to be married or kneels for their flag (or not) or makes a profit or goes to bed hungry or wins the war. And as long as we are all out of sorts, mad at one another, and anxious, the surreal malevolence is satisfied.
Those who engage in a particular religious worldview know the surreal malevolence as Satan, the Devil, the Tempter, and a dozen other names. He is called Screwtape and Wormwood. She is known as demon or darkness or death. Their name is Legion.
Succumbing to the surreal malevolence is a pandemic, with global proportions. Evidence is ample, recorded on handheld devices and posted to YouTube in a daily deluge. Chaos. Anxiety. Unrest. Lifelong friends now unable to speak. Family members suspicious of one another, openly hostile. Hatred on full, public display. Once orderly systems rife with confusion.
And the surreal malevolence under the surface is relentless, uncaring, unfeeling; laying waste to empathy, respect, humility, integrity, compassion, honesty, common sense, all that once was assumed, now rotting away.
And even so, God whispers, “Do not be afraid.”
Yes indeed, “Fear not.” For there is another force at work in the world. A force more powerful by far. And that force is not only capable of defeating the surreal malevolence, it is quite likely the only thing that can.
To put it into words, that force is known as “true love.”
There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear. And you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. True love - a deep, bold love that is brutal in its honesty and equally brutal in its graciousness. A love that insists on authenticity and vulnerability. A love that is at the same time both pliable and unyielding. A love that is at the same time naked and wearing the full armor of God. A love that is the paradox of the deepest pain and the most ecstatic joy.
True love. Love that gazes into your eyes and makes your heart flutter. Love that brings a smile to your lips. Love that embraces without awkwardness, and also knows when to walk away. Love that will calm the storm, but can rock the boat when necessary. True. Love.
To live our lives fully by the tenets of true love is terrifying. It requires us to do things like turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile and give not only our coat but our shirt as well and lay down our life for someone else. It is inherently risky. Not metaphorically risky, actually physically risky to your comfort, your health, your safety. It is unabashedly selfless. It is not for the faint of heart.
To put it simply, resisting the surreal malevolence at work in the world requires us to announce, advocate for, and embody true love. Everything we do, everything we say, even everything we think about, all must come from one source, to the exclusion of any other.
In so doing, we exhume the seeds of chaos and sow instead seeds of grace and peace. The work will require us to lay aside our apathy, our passivity, and our fear. The tools for this work are compassion, empathy, and justice. The harvest may be a long time coming, but it will be plentiful. If we will be patient and work with diligence, we will feast.
I can feel in my guts when I am beginning to succumb to the surreal malevolence. It raises my blood pressure and gives me heartburn. I’m sure you know your own warning signs, you are aware. Do not collapse. Breathe deeply. Take a drink. Back off. Remember what you need, what you have, what you know.
And then re-enter the moment, re-centered on true love. Re-enter re-centered. And get back to work.