Charles Dickens, in the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities, was describing all of humanity in its strength and weakness.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
These iconic words could probably describe anyone, anywhere, and at any time in history. But, given the events of the last year across our world, including the political unrest, the COVID-19 pandemic, the closing of our schools, and the racial tensions stirred on from police malpractice, it may be one of the most prophetic descriptions of our times.
As I write this post in my apartment in downtown Minneapolis, I can hear sirens and see dozens of people walking around in protest. There are chants as people walk through the streets, plenty of signs, and small groups of people in conversation on street corners right outside my rooftop terrace overlooking the Government Center where the Derek Chauvin trial is being held. However, it is a different scene about 8 miles from Downtown Minneapolis in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
After the police shooting and subsequent death of Daunte Wright, the western suburb of this Twin Cities community has erupted in protest and violence again. The events of the last 36 hours were sparked by the shooting of Wright, a 20-year-old black man who was pulled over in a traffic stop, resisted arrest, and was allegedly accidentally shot and died as officers tried to revive him at the scene.
What is going on in our nation right now is not a single-issue problem and it does not have a single-issue answer. What is going on in our nation is not the fault of Washington, our educational setting, the media, or racism. It is not simply a natural problem or solution. What is going on is a deeply spiritual problem and requires a deeply spiritual solution.
One of the dangers of any society is to generalize individual experiences as as and normalize pain. That people are simply products of the conditions happening around or to them. We are not products of our conditions or society or culture - we are children of a sovereign Creator. And we have the power within us to rise above circumstance.
In reality, we get what we focus on. The best or the worst of times.
On one hand, there is the present reality today in Minneapolis of police misconduct, civilian mistrust, anger, fear, resulting violence and looting, and the pain of racial tension in America coming to surface once again. No matter which side of the argument you may find yourself on, it feels like we have had continued tension and no progress.
Some would argue if Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, George Floyd, and now Daunte Wright, would have complied with an officer, they would still be alive. While others would argue that if police were not fixated on race, these suspects would not have been in jeopardizing situations.
On the other hand, between these police shootings, the killing of people by non-officer others hasn’t stopped. Where is the outcry of protest and response of the ongoing murders of young black men and children in Chicago and other metropolitan centers? For instance, there were more than 40 juvenile deaths from gun violence in the first few months of 2020, and, 2021 has surpassed those numbers becoming the deadliest gun violence deaths in four years in the city.
It is duality at its best and worst.
The good and the evil that exists in all of us is lurking clearly in it’s beauty and ugliness. We all see it every day in our lives in America. The best of times and the worst of times. The Light and the Darkness. The hope and the despair.
Let me offer two solutions:
First, the responsibility lies within every home in America.
Healthy homes create healthy children who in turn create healthy societies. It is not the fault of Washington, police, education, the media, or racism.
Maybe you witnessed with me a few years ago during the riots in Baltimore when Toya Graham, the mother who walked into the scene where her son was violently protesting. She was caught on national television grabbing her son from the scene, walking him back to her car, and taking him home. How would the narrative change if we saw this repeated right now across our country? She became the 2015 mother of the year for her actions.
But, more than street rescues, we need proactive parenting that will change the way our children shape the world to come.
Second, the responsibility lies within the church in America.
This may not be a very popular inclusion for the solution of everything we are going through in our country right now. But the backbone of this nation is the faith of this nation. And the faith of the church is for the fears of this world. The temperature in our country is best taken by looking at the health of the church.
Take a look at the proof:
Looking at the biblical worldview of each generation, we can see the decline of faith in our country and this correlation with the condition of our country.
Silent Generation (grandparents) - 65% Biblical Worldview
Gen X (parents) - 31% Biblical Worldview
Millennial’s (young adults) - 19% Biblical Worldview
Gen Z (teenagers) - 4% Biblical Worldview
(Barna, PEW, 2018-2019)
The rapid decline of a Biblical Worldview in the generation’s has been played out in a rapid decline of morality in our society. This took place in about 60 years. To put that into perspective, the solution to many of our problems may take that long to recover. Unless we see a sweeping religious Awakening in America.
This Tale of Two Cities is going to require a recovery of the ages. But I believe if we can awaken a new family discipline, and, awaken fresh wind in the church, we will see a miraculous recovery take place in our nation - a tale worth telling to our children to come.
After four decades of Youth Leadership, Jeff Grenell founded ythology to inspire, educate, and resource youth leaders to prepare the NextGen to lead in the Church and the world. Some of the services yhthology offers include, events, leadership development, resources, anti sex-trafficking, and humanitarian efforts. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffgrenell
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