A Poor Train Of Thought

“Time is a train, makes the future the past, leaves you standing in the station,
with your face pressed up against the glass.”

-Zoo Station,U2

Though it confuses me, I enjoy traveling in Europe.  Europe is a continent without “elbow room”, a common language, automobiles, and apparently deodorant.  Europe is almost the polar opposite of America.

This is mostly because America was founded as the antidote to Europe.  America was designed as a place where people could do as they wanted, when they wanted, and answer to as few people as possible.  When you mix open space with generous portions of beef, then add a dash of large caliber handguns, you get our recipe for freedom.

In America we get into as many cars as possible, in Europe as many people as possible get on a train.

In America, mostly poor people ride trains and the result is not unlike a prison cafeteria, what with all the food stink and semi-random “shiv”-ing.  In Europe, trains are filled with people from nearly every country imaginable plus their luggage, their language, and their lunch.  The wealthy AND the degenerate  ride the train while conducting business, leisure, and the occasional full make-out session (the French never get a room) and the train is like a cafeteria on the international space station; Americans and Germans come and go while the Russians wait patiently for someone to tell them they can come home.

It’s not rare to board a train full of Italian speakers and later exit a train full of French language Swiss or German speaking Frenchmen.  During scheduled stops the culture around you can change so subtly that if you aren’t paying close attention you’ve lost your wallet to some mischievous gypsies.

The train can also make cultural change seem to happen quite abruptly.  In England I once boarded a train in York and at the next stop got off to get some Burger King.  I told the “chap” behind the counter that I wanted two number two combos and upon producing the food he looked at me and said, “Seevuhn Fuftee Eht sir!”

I asked him to repeat himself and he very slowly ennunciated “Seeeevuuuun Fuuuufffftee Eht” while pointing at the register which read 7.58 Euros.  I realized that while I got off the train expecting to speak English in Edinburgh, I had unwittingly forgotten that I would be hearing Scottish Anglish in return.

By the way, when a Scot says “Aye, right!” they apparently mean “Absolutely NOT!”

All of this cultural confusion can make it extremely difficult to understand someone, and when you can’t understand someone it becomes difficult to experience pleasant interaction with them.  This is why most people are sorely vexed by people from foreign cultures.  The changes that foreign immigration brings to the people “in the motherland” seem to appear as abruptly as a train pulling into the station of another country.

What compounds the external problem of not understanding others is the internal problem of not at all understanding yourself, which of course brings me to the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik.  Anders is the self professed mastermind and instrument of the July 22nd terror assault on the the people of his homeland.

Very rarely do we get insight into the mind of a person who commits atrocities of this nature, usually because they are so deranged as to be incomprehensible, or because they’re killed in the process of their atrocities.  Not only did Breivik surrender alive and promptly begin describing the motivation behind his behavior, he published a 1,500 page manifesto containing a diary of his actions… in English.

Anders fancies himself a Holy Warrior for God:
“I explained to God that unless he wanted…  Islamic takeover of Europe to completely annihilate European Christendom… he must ensure that the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail.”

He’s also a ladies man:
“…hot girl on the restaurant today checking me out. Refined individuals like myself is a rare commodity here…I do get a lot of attention … It’s the way I dress and look.”

His diary is an inside peek at the heart of a self-centered man with high ideals and standards that no human can live up to and therefore must be punished for.  Because others do not meet his requirements, he must behave as an exterminator.  It’s all very pious when you see it from his perspective,  “If I don’t do something to protect God’s religion, the insects: the liberals, the politically correct, and the Muslim will destroy our language and religion and customs, our culture.

The problem with Mr. Breivik’s thinking is that he himself doesn’t live up to his own standards.  He isn’t holy.  Securing weapons and explosives meant dealing with the “corrupt government” he wanted to punish.  In the weeks leading up to his attacks, he ate at “foreign” restaurants and spent lavishly on prostitutes.

He wasn’t a warrior either.  He pretended to be a police officer and attracted a crowd of unarmed teenagers to fire on.  When the real warriors arrived, he surrendered despite being flush with ammunition.  Anders wasn’t brave or righteous, he was a man living in a fantasy world where he was a hero for a God he didn’t even obey.

Imagine what would happen if people in America believed it was our job to defend God instead of obey him?

You understand that’s what Mr. Brevik wants right?  He wants you to join him in the extermination of those who oppose the high standards that “God” has set for humanity.  That’s why he wrote his treatise in English.

In truth, humanity does not live up to God’s standards and his standards are not even that high.  The Ten Commandments aren’t lofty ideals, they’re basic common sense.  We refuse to obey them.   We can’t obey them without Jesus sacrifice and the power of The Holy Spirit.

God’s patience and forbearance with our sin isn’t happening so that we can take up his position as judges in abstentia, it’s being done so that we will come to personal repentance, and then call others to personal repentance.  The end result of much personal repentence is cultural change.

We don’t defend God, we obey him.

When we obey God, culture isn’t protected, it’s created.  When we live in obedience to God lives are changed, ours first.  Others follow because they see the mercy and grace of God transforming our lives.

 

The world has changed.

Our train has left the station and the old cultures are failing.

What will replace them?

Will it be self-righteous attempts at clinging to an old order?

What about attempts to install systems of judgement that no one can attain?

Is God confused by the sudden blending of people and cultures?

Has he stopped paying attention and lost his wallet?

Did he get off the train expecting something different?

Is he desirous of our assistance?

Is it possible that God is behind the global culture shift that we are experiencing?

Is he bringing us into closer contact so that personal repentance  passes from person to person at viral speeds?

If so then he desires our obedience.

 

Obedience doesn’t start with understanding others, then demanding their repentance.  It starts with understanding our own sin and repenting.  Oddly enough,  that’s what God’s been slowly enunciating since the very beginning of the trip.

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