Before I start let me explain that I do not blog politics because I do not believe that the root cause of the human problem is political. This view was not the case when I was young….
I was a wide awake adolescent. As a boy, I was aware of the “evils” of the world and the suffering of the masses. As an adolescent, though my parent’s divorce, this pain became part of my personal identity. My circumstances became enmeshed with the circumstances of the world at large. I think this process of becoming intimate with sorrow and injustice is a good thing. The truth is a global perspective is God’s perspective.
Remember Armageddon Times
When I graduated from High School, my best friends both wrote in my yearbook this phrase, “Remember Armageddon Time”!! This was a reference to an event that so characterized my mind during these years.
One of my favorite songs of all time is “Bob Dylan’s Dream”. Here is why.
In 1979, I bought a single from the English punk band the Clash called Armageddon Time. The lyrics go, "A lotta people won’t get no justice tonight. A lotta people won’t get no supper tonight. So remember to kick it over. In this generation, Armageddon times" My few friends and I sat and listened to this song over and over. The rain began to fall and I began to cry uncontrollably. We played the song over and over all night long and I wept. My friends just sat and watched me as I cried out, "Oh God oh God oh God"…I looked at my friends and I yelled at them. "What are we going to do" and I wept. As the night wore on, I actually grabbed a knife and began to threaten myself as a cry of desperation. "I will become a display of pain and suffering if I have to to get people to wake up". I believed I was wide awake but the world was asleep to all the pain in all its quarters and all its grotesque forms and all its subtleties. Again, if you want to understand hardcore youth culture, it is a response to the reality of a Global view of the world and the contrast between the saccharine world of American suburb and the reality of our global responsibilities. Admittedly, some youth culture is a response to the artificial exterior of the American suburban culture and the reality of its underbelly. Either was, I seemed to have both in spades. So my friends told each other, "Remember Armageddon Times" which really meant, "Don’t forget the poor and the suffering" (Gal. 2:10).
My buddies and I had a saying, “Beauty is akin to truth” (from Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”). To this day, I still love bands like “System of a Down” that to me even in all their angst are beautiful in a fallen sort of way. They touch truth at least the truth of the human problem. Though they can not put their aesthetic knowledge into the proper dogma, I still have faith that maybe their aesthetic sense will find its proper expression in the Gospel of Grace.
An Early View of the Gospel
By the time of the story of that night, I had begun to go to church. I had read the Sermon on the Mount and was sold on the teachings of Jesus. Though I was 16, I never attended a youth group or, if I did, I never went back. Instead, I went to the adult services. I attended, by myself and sometimes with my girlfriends at the time, our local Presbyterian church. I separated the world into two worlds: those who care and those who don’t. At school, there were very few who cared. My rebellion was against the mission of most youth and we all know what that is: sex and drugs and rock and roll. I was very fortunate and I believe blessed to see this path as antithetical to caring.
As for the church and Christianity, it seemed to me that Jesus cared but the church didn’t. So my version of Christianity was lived out alone. Though I attended church, I do not remember ever meeting anyone or making any church friends. My earliest political philosophies were worked out in our AP courses in high school. There were two groups: the Ayn Rand "Virtue of Selfishness" crowd and the bleeding hearts. In those days, Christians were bleeding hearts. As I went to college, my political philosophies got a bit more involved and revolutionary. Ronald Reagan had become president and, well, I lived in a co-op.
In the mid-80’s, I got heavily involved in the South African Divestment movement. The divestment movement was run by people who saw the world either in racial terms (what I call Black Politics) or in terms of class (Marxists). Most students were a combination of both. The idea of the divestment movement was very simple. If the South African system was to fall, it must be forced to change through economic hardship. Every dollar spent in South Africa was seen as supporting the regime. Desmond Tutu and Allen Boesak were calling for western companies to divest from South Africa and the colleges were called on to lead the way of boycotting (divesting) from companies that did business in South Africa. Stanford refused. I spent most of my waking hours involved in these political activities. I had already graduated in terms of units, so I really didn’t need to go to classes. I remember meeting a few times, one on one, with the president of Stanford regarding the issue of divestment and the political activities that were going on every day on campus. I was overwhelmed by the administration’s entrenched attitude. In Marxism, it is assumed that classes create ideologies that support their position of power. Ideology is a by-product of class. My experiences in the divestment movement solidified this "layered-cake" worldview. Such a worldview, which basically says, "no one can be converted" is very depressing and makes a person who is trying to wake people up quite depressed. This experience and one other led me to get quite disillusioned.
During my last year at Stanford, I got arrested along with about 60 other students and faculty members for a sit-in in the University Bursars office. The students decided to defend themselves with the help of some pro-bono lawyers. The trial went on and on and, finally, when we realized we had no actual case (we were there to make a statement) we all changed our pleas to "no contest". Our sentence was a big 2-days. We were all shipped out to some rural jail barrack in central California. Those nights were quite eye opening to this naïve college student. As I slept in the barracks, a young man was completely tripping out on PCP. He ran all over the place screaming at the top of his lungs, "I need a cool clean shot of heroin". In my mind, I coupled this young man’s “performance art” which was far more radical than anything I could dare to muster, my experience of entrenched power, and the hopeless worldview of Marxism and I became officially hopeless. Nothing ever changes. PERIOD. And so in this state of mind, I graduated from the pristine halls and gardens of Stanford University.