The Stars Shine When the Light Fails
The sun is going to disappear, on Monday. At my house, right in the middle of the moon-shadow's path, I have been told that the world will darken as if it's night, for almost two minutes. The birds will go quiet. The stars will come out.
* * *
Being a follower of Christ has been hard recently, and it seems to keep getting worse. I don't mean hard in the way I was taught it would be, growing up. I'm not feeling persecuted, I'm not being discriminated against or oppressed. No one is trying to take away my rights or break up my family. That's not why it's been hard.
It's been hard, because I'm embarrassed. The voices that are supposed to represent Christians--those who have their place on the news and in public dialog--have repeatedly supported people and issues that I find appalling. They have adopted stances that cause harm to those I love. They have accepted behavior which I believe in all ways to be both anti-Christian and anti-Biblical. They have overlooked harmful, destructive and even cruel behavior in leaders, and supported those same leaders, because of the "bigger picture" and an attempt to accomplish goals of "moral laws" which they say will make my country a better place.
I have become ashamed to call myself "a Christian". Not because my beliefs, or my attempt to follow the life and teachings of Jesus are shameful. Because those who are speaking loudest are making shameful choices.
The bright light of Christ's love--his imperative to welcome the stranger, support the orphan, speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, love others as God loves us, expend ourselves on behalf of the needy, associate ourselves with society's outcasts, love God rather than money and treat every person on earth as we would our brothers and sisters--has been eclipsed by the voices and actions of those who should be shining brightest.
It is a dark time indeed.
* * *
I used to wonder how a country could let a despot come to power.
I used to wonder how the Nazis in Germany could possibly convince people (in their own country and around the world) that their ideologies were reasonable, rational, or even human.
I used to wonder, most of all, how the church--in Germany, in America, and around the world--could allow the Nazis to kill millions of people. I wondered how Americans could let the government lock over 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent into concentration camps. I wondered how the church could possibly let it all happen.
I don't wonder that, any more.
It happens when the light of Christ is eclipsed by the shadow of those who say they're following him, yet are not.
* * *
I'm reading a book about monsters. Vampire-like creatures who come out only in the dark, forcing the pockets of survivors to live their lives, day and night, in the brightest light they can create. For these people, the stars have become a legend. Ninety years of artificially-lit nights has created an entire generation who can only imagine what a star might be like. Protected by the glaring lights of an artificial sun, they are unable to see the brilliant pinprick of stars against a dark sky. They have lost the shimmering beauty of the milky way.
* * *
We are living in a dark time. Many of us wish it were different. We wish we could go back to a time which felt more peaceful, more loving, more safe. We want to have a leader we feel we can trust, again. We want to go back to feeling pride in who we are and where we live and what religion we claim.
But what we don't understand is that that time was not as we believed. Though some of us may have experienced it as beautiful and peaceful and "bright", we don't realize that the light was artificial. We pushed away the dark of the night, refusing to see that it still waited outside the brilliant circle of illumination we built for ourselves. The monsters hadn't gone away, we just protected our little enclave from them, by pretending the night didn't exist.
The artificial lights are failing. We are beginning to see the darkness others knew was there, all along.
* * *
As the darkness of the night grows with the failure of each of our manufactured lights, we turn to the daylight, in hopes that we can still see part of the time what we used to be able to see all the time. But the voices that struggled so hard to maintain the artificiality of a world where everything was bright and sunny and safe, in the midst of the failure of that world, continue to push and push and push. The voices that created artificial light now shadow even the sun.
* * *
I don't want to claim the title "Christian" any more. I don't want to claim it, because the voices that should be most clearly shining the light of Beauty are eclipsing it instead. Those which should be bringing the light are making it darker. It feels heavy, and overwhelming, and hopeless.
But when the artificial light that shone through the night goes out, and when the shadow eclipses the sun, and darkness falls, that is when it happens.
* * *
The stars are starting to shine.
In the midst of the overwhelming dark night, in the middle of the day when darkness blots out the sun, we begin to see.
We see the stars, which were there all along. Those lights which are of the same stuff as the sun, just a little dimmer. These are the voices which are shining, in my world. These are the followers of Christ whose lives show the Creator's beauty, rather than obscuring it. They are there. They are real. And they are brilliant, and beautiful, and countless.
They feed the hungry, make room for the stranger at their table. They love unconditionally. They bake cakes for anyone who wants to get married. They are quiet when it's not their turn to speak, or when they know their experiences don't give them the right to speak. They care for the sick, whether they can pay or not, they feed the hungry, whether they have jobs or struggle with addiction or not. They serve those of other faith practices when terror is practiced against them. They link arms with other faith leaders and walk in quiet strength in the face of Nazis. They speak clearly and gently and firmly of truth and love and faith. They write. They preach. They love. Their lights make us able to recognize and name the darkness.
They make me proud to call myself Christian.
If it has taken the darkness of an eclipse for us to notice their light, then I'm grateful for the darkness.