It’s Saturday, November 7, 2020.

And, as The Innocence Mission song goes, “I have not seen this day before.”

I am standing above Waterfront Park in Edmonds, Washington, and the natural world seems to be feeling the same elation that I’m feeling.

I feel such gratitude, knowing that I have so much good company in the world — people who have endured the last few years with me, and spoken up for love, compassion, freedom, and justice. My own safety and security come largely due things beyond my control — advantages that I was born with due to the color of my skin. So I have no right to complain about anything that has been happening to me directly. But I have been heart-sickened by the rising hostility in this country toward more vulnerable populations around me. I am grieving over the betrayals of the Gospel I have seen among professing Christians who have given their support to compulsive liars, misogynists, and racists whose political agendas harm the poor, the sick, immigrants, refugees, and people whose skin is a different color from mine.

These are dark times, and many hardships lie ahead — consequences for the past few years of devastating and disgraceful behavior on the part of those entrusted with leadership in this nation.

But it is good to know that so many Americans recognized the damage being done, rejected the lies and the hatred that were a betrayal of America’s ideals (many of which are inspired by the Gospel). It is good to see so many fighting for a future in which we can seek liberty and justice for all people — no matter their financial status, their language, their color, their gender, their sexual orientation, their country of origin, or their religion.

Every day, America can move toward that Gospel-inspired vision or away from it. We’ve been hurtling in the opposite direction for a while now. By distorting Christianity into Christian Nationalism, Americans have advertised a counterfeit Jesus, and made the Gospel seem toxic to many who need the comfort and hope Jesus offers. It feels good to feel that some have gained enough of a political advantage — by God’s grace — to apply the brakes, slow our rapid descent into fascism and totalitarianism, prepare to turn the wheel, and chart a course for better things.

May God bless those efforts — not for my good, but for the good of my neighbors in need.


I post this as the first video in a new series of more personal posts at my website — LookingCloser.org — in hopes of expanding the range of subjects I explore there. I hope you’ve enjoyed the video at the top of this post — this glimpse of the glory that played out in front of me at the close of this beautiful day.


Four years ago this week, my wife Anne was rushed into five-and-a-half hours of emergency brain surgery and neurosurgeons — let’s be clear, I’m talking about healthcare workers and scientists, some of the good Americans who have been consistently slandered by our outgoing President — saved her life by the grace of God.

This morning, Anne and I opened a bottle of champagne that we were given four years ago, soon after she arrived back home.

Today feels a little like the moment the neurosurgeon came to find me in the hospital lobby and told me that the surgery was successful and that Anne was alive and well. We have suffered many difficult days since then due to lingering effects of the brain tumor and the surgery. And more hard days lie ahead for many years to come. But she is alive and well.

So, yes… it seemed right to open that bottle this morning when we heard the good news.

And as we read more and more reactions to the conclusion of the 2020 election, I kept thinking of this moment in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I know I wasn’t alone in that.

When I watch this scene, I feel as if I’m fast-forwarding to a glimpse of what has been true from the beginning, is true today, and will be true forever.
 
No, I don’t see it as a depiction of one political party’s victory. The scene rings true not as a representation of Democrats fighting Republicans, but because it reminds me that my people are those who stand up against injustice. But, more importantly, it reminds me that we do not ultimately win the war. It is God who brings about the destruction of evil — the evil that resides in every human heart. I am grateful that I need not fear being swept away in that destruction. All whom God created are offered grace and reconciliation — this is what Christ came to show us — while all of the monstrous distortions invented by evil through human hands will be swallowed up.
 
This is a reminder of the joy still set before us at, as Tolkien calls it, “the end of all things.”
 
God’s enemies will fall. He has already defeated them.
 
Again, let me be clear: By “enemies,” I don’t mean our neighbors, or our political opponents. The Scriptures assure us: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
 
No, the real enemies are the forces at work in all of us…
 
…whenever we boast;
 
…whenever we make idols of men or nations or the past;
 
…whenever we try to stifle the embarrassing and shameful stories of the past wrongs we have done as individuals, communities, or nations;
 
…whenever we slander;
 
…whenever we take up arms against one another when God has made clear that it is better to suffer and die unjustly than to use violence;
 
…whenever we concoct or cling to conspiracy theories because the truth costs us;
 
…whenever we try to build walls between us and those who are different than us;
 
…whenever we establish systems that create or reinforce poverty;
 
…whenever we try to crush evil with laws that allow us to keep our distance from suffering, rather than loving those who suffer, up close, with our hands and our hearts;
 
…whenever we turn away from those who are wounded by the side of the road and calling for help and respect, and coldly remark “All lives matter”;
 
…whenever we reject Jesus’ example of embracing those whose choices and behaviors are abhorrent to us and instead act as if Christianity is about laws to which people must adhere to earn God’s grace and our favor;
 
…whenever we scoff at others because our candidate won.
 
May God purge us of our pride, our fear, our prejudice.
May he start by bringing down the dark tower in my angry, wounded, guilty heart.

 

Remember this: In The Lord of the Rings, this scene is not the end of horrors or grief. (Well, in Tolkien’s version of the story it isn’t, anyway.) At this point, the Shire is still in ruins. Many are dead, dying, and suffering. And much of the greatness of Middle-Earth is about to sail away, never to be heard from again.
 
In the same way, the hardest work begins today.

Grace and peace,

Jeffrey Overstreet

P.S.

Now I’m going to take part in that longstanding American tradition that celebrates all things good and true. I’m going to shop the the Barnes & Noble 50% Criterion Collection sale.

And by the way… if you want to hear some inspiring ideas, here are some great ones.

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