I am fascinated by the techniques of manipulation and am often very quick to notice manipulation when it’s being used. Following the death of George Floyd, I quickly realized there was a movement that had been working behind the scenes and preparing for this very moment. I noticed who was organizing the peaceful protest across the nation in every large city on the same day and I saw that the majority of the people who came were peaceful and seeking healing. In each gathering, though, there was a small group at the center of the demonstrations with slightly different messages and language on their signs. Then I witnessed complete chaos during the night as caravans of people wrecked communities. At first, the black community was confused and scared. The main leaders in our community and the family of George Floyd were begging for peace and an end to the unrest. On social media, black people were quick to separate the protesters away from the looters and rioters. Footage began to come out showing large groups of white people wearing all black and holding “Black Lives Matter'' signs initiating all the damage as black people watched in shock. Piles of bricks began to conveniently appear as these people dressed in black handed them out to protesters and brought about the chaos. The black community leaders quickly realized they weren’t in control. Agitators in journalism quickly began to conflate the two groups and declare that this is what happens when you drive black people to hopelessness. I started to pray, to seek God as I saw the hand of manipulation at play. I was simply told to remind people of the truth of who they are. I tried to expose the wickedness I saw at play on social media and one comment in response really stuck with me as I baited the agitators out of the darkness. It said:
“While I think you are right that some of these events have been instigated by outside actors, the fact that they continue suggests they didn't need much more than a push to get started even if every single one was instigated by Antifa.”
People behave in accordance to who they believe they are
It hit me then that is what the agitators were banking on. They knew that if they got people to believe they are hopeless victims and then gave the push they could get the type of mindset needed for control. And it has worked! I get on social media and see posts even by respected individuals within the black community sharing about the ongoing horrors of slavery and sharing the agitators posts rooted in hopelessness. There seem to be constant injections of reminders of victimhood and every speck of racism from the past into our minds. The reminders of the past are not being used as a source of hope for how far we have come, but as confirmation of stereotypes being cultivated and nurtured in the minds of people. They are being used as justification for speaking and doing evil things to other people and their property. Love and peace have left the building. The constant reminders of the worst of the past has led people to believe they have never been loved in this country. Whole groups of people now identify with the pain, hurt, and hopelessness spoken over them and being fed to them on a daily basis. At this point, it doesn’t even matter if what they believe is true or not because it has become their identity. Hope was stolen and now the walls are being built.
Building the Walls
Walls have many purposes, some good and some destructive. When stereotypes about groups of people are accepted by a majority within a group there follows a pull to create barriers. These barriers take many forms as people view the world through the lens of skin color and gender. Soon you start to hear things like ‘don’t buy items owned by people who are of one race’ on a particular day. Or people build structures of leadership that actively exclude participation from one race or gender of people. There are pushes to have whole dormitories on college campuses segregated. There are groups seeking to found entire communities and towns only for specific races of people. Meanwhile the agitators are trying to declare autonomous zones of anarchy in various cities.
On the flip side, there is a famine of compassion as the pain of an entire community is minimalized and disregarded. However the pain got there, whether by means of manipulation or from a direct injustice, it is there. When a group of people adopt a narrative as part of their identity it truly becomes a form of truth to the people in that group. When something reaches the identity stage, facts and data are disregarded and love is the only key that will unlock this stronghold of the heart. As the hurt and hurting build walls to separate them from what they feel is the source of their pain and villainized groups seek various forms of self preservation, there is a desperate need for a truly righteous judge. Both approaches only lead to more separation and hostility between groups. I am saying all of this to set the scene for what we are up against. These types of destructive walls are only built when the identity crisis begins to enter the deepest parts of the heart.
Raise the Gates
Churches can no longer use their walls to create an oasis of separation, but need to leave the building and get back to the roots of who we are. We must keep our shared past in our minds and our promised future in our hearts. As a result of the mercy we received in the past and the glory and mercy of God before us we are called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. We are not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, that by testing we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect and be living demonstrations. (Derived from Romans 12:1-2) His perfect will is for reconciliation, healing, peace, and for all ethnic groups to be one in love as the perfect bond of unity.
Just like in the first century, when these words were penned, people are hurting and feeling oppressed. In the century prior to Christ’s birth there were many uprisings as the Jews dreamed of the Messiah, coming on a great white horse ready for war to avenge the injustice and oppression they were under from Rome. Christ didn’t come anything like they expected; instead He came powerless by the world's standard. When He came, His focus was on an entirely different kingdom. This was the subject of nearly all of His conversations. This other kingdom was His frame of reference in every conversation and in every situation. Whenever His disciples showed fear from being stoned to death, drowning, or being beaten by a demon- possessed man, Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith in the kingdom He spoke of and then demonstrated its supremacy.
One of Jesus' final prayer for the people of earth was that we would be one as He and the Father is one. The Apostle Paul spoke on this oneness we are called to on a number of occasions:
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Why did Jesus and His apostles stress oneness so much? I believe the answer can be found in the case study we can call ‘The Year 2020’. In the world, there is a natural draw to view everything through the lens of ‘us vs them’. There also seems to be an attack on the people that claim Christ, a demand for them to take a side. As the body of Christ, we already have a side and it is not of this world, but is of the kingdom Jesus brought us into. Long before Jesus’ first coming, there was a man named Joshua who was leading all of Israel. One day he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in hand. Joshua went up and asked the man “Are you for us or for our enemies?” the man replied:
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” (Joshua 5:14)
God is not on either side, but directs us to a higher kingdom. When the perspective changes so the question changes. Instead of “which side are you on” it becomes “Are you going to follow the King or not?” So we need to direct people to the higher kingdom which is the Kingdom of God. All of mankind was created to live as royalty within this kingdom. It is God’s will that all people know this and as citizens/ambassadors of this kingdom, it is our job to do the will of the commander of the army of the Lord.
To bear with one another means we will have to follow the truth and be truth while our brothers and sisters identify with a lie. To bear with one another, we will have to be willing to stand firm in the face of powers actively working to manipulate our brothers and sisters in order to keep them mentally oppressed and obsessed over worldly power structures. To bring about the healing the world needs and yearns for we must become unoffendable. Like Jesus, we who have been anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power to do good are His hands and feet, deputized to bring healing to all who are oppressed by the schemes of the devil, for God is with us.(derived from Acts 10:38) For Christ Himself stated “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b) This means that to the mentally oppressed, we encourage them to view themselves through a kingdom lens and not the lens of what culture expects of them. This means that to the self-exalted members of the culture, we encourage them to view themselves through a kingdom lens and not by what culture says about them. This is the job of the peacemaker to which we have all been called.
In the next post we will discuss the role of the Peace of God and the peacemaker