The Geography of a Mob: A Poem

We painted Ru de la Santé
By guillotine.
Scheunenvietel glittered with violence.

We turned the soil of Choeung Ek
to plant bones
Mississippi trees bore strange fruit

We turned Kigali sanctuary
to Tutsi cemetery.
American streets are safer than her wombs.

We are the riotous, genocidal lynchers.
Map lines cross and change, blood-thirsty people
stay the same.

We shouted–crucify him
when it was we
who belonged there

We made God bleed.
Forgive us,
we know not what we do.

Wendell Berry wrote, “history is so largely unforgivable”.

We like to pretend that we are the heroes of the story. We like to think, were we written in the history books, we would have been the resistors, the wise, the just. Surely, as the crowd condemned the innocent Christ to death, we would not have joined them.

I think we overestimate ourselves. We forget how we are so easily offended, so quick to anger, so fearful, so easily deceived, so largely self-oriented. We would do well to remember human history. Perhaps what the world of varied nations and cultures has most in common is our general inability to do right by our human efforts.

I suppose this could leave us in a generalized nihilism. What good is it to pursue anything if all our efforts end like the bloody streets of French and Soviet revolutions, Krystallnacht looting and destruction, holocausts, Cambodian killing fields, Rwandan genocides, lynch mobs, and millions dead through abortion? This would be true if we are left to human effort alone, if we were given only our constantly flawed, and crooked ideas of justice and goodness.

But when Christ bled over human sin, he knew of the long, sordid history that began in a garden, with our first parents choosing themselves as judges of good and evil, denying their Creator, wanting to be gods. He knew of the future he was bleeding for, the continued replay of that same story with the rise and fall of every generation. It’s insanity to think that God allowed himself to die at the hands of perverse human justice, and in so doing he offers rescue, divine pardon, peace with him, to those who have only ever been his enemies.

The tumultuous world of human systems will always be fraught with horrific injustice, often done in the name of goodness, and we will only find disorientation if we try to stand upon them. Thankfully, we have an alternative, we can know peace, stability, truth, freedom, and justice, not through systems but through a person. What profound simplicity: we must only turn to Christ, cling to him, trust him, and know him. The world is a tempest of human failings, Christ is our Mighty Fortress able to hold us as we withstand the depravity around us, what’s more–perhaps greater–he is the solution to the depravity that exists within our own hearts. Without him we are the lynch mob, the apathetic Pilate, the ones calling for blood, the ideologue that justifies the murder of the innocent; but with him we are children of God.

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