The terrible tragedy in Connecticut on Friday has weighed on all of our minds this weekend. All of our hopes and prayers go out to the families and friends of those affected, and we hope that everyone in the community gets the help and support they need in the difficult weeks and months ahead.
In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder’s push against the state’s unions is accelerating with the passage of new right-to-work laws and renewed efforts to install an emergency manager in deep-blue Detroit. Meanwhile, the pensions crisis continued unabated, with teacher’s pensions in deep trouble and dire warnings emanating from New Jersey. On the education front, Florida continues its experiments with reduced tuition for STEM students and college presidents reported sky-high salaries. Elsewhere, Obama and Boehner appear set to take on one of the sources of blue-model funding, while the same blue model is driving banks out of NYC.
In Asia, North Korea launched yet another long-range rocket, China prepared for intense disputes over island territory, and Japan’s Shinzo Abe prevailed in the country’s recent election. Elsewhere, Burma’s government continued its oppression of Muslims, Pakistani elites neglected to pay their taxes, India was racked by a black market for land, and Obama’s Afghanistan strategy appears to be failing. At the same time, China continued its aggressive posture towards its neighbors, sending fighter planes through Japanese airspace.
In the Middle East, the scales continue to tilt towards the rebels in the Syrian civil war, as even Russia begins to accept that Assad may be headed for a fall. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood scored a major victory as the Islamist-drafted constitution passed through the first round of a national referendum, and the new government appears likely to receive significant foreign aid from America. Yet Egypt’s real problems—endemic poverty and corruption—are likely to go unsolved. Elsewhere, Turkey is moving closer to the Kurds in Iraq, even as the American energy boom undercuts much of OPEC’s influence.
Finally, with Christmas only one week away and Advent now upon us, we have posted an essay in honor of the holiday:
The history at the heart of the Christian message isn’t an anodyne message of painless progress. As C.S. Lewis reminded his readers, Aslan is not a ‘tame lion’: God’s purposes in history can’t be neatly encapsulated into a reassuring novel of incremental, safe progress. God is not the God of Whig History, prepping the smooth road of human ascent and always to be found in the camp of the safely gradual liberal reformers and the moderate, thoughtful incrementalists.
If we look around us, we can easily see that the consequences of God’s entrance into the world are much more disruptive and revolutionary than that. The science that cures diseases and eases pain creates nuclear weapons. “Progress” isn’t just a comforting story of gradual increases in people’s standards of living; it is the story of overwhelming social and personal change, of billions of people leaving their traditional ways of life in the country, migrating halfway around the world and overthrowing the foundations of an old world before they really know what to expect from the new. The spread of Christianity itself isn’t simply the story of innocent missionaries walking from place to place, spreading the good news. It is bound up in the rise and domination of cruel and exploitative empires and ferocious wars. The “rise of human freedom,” very much part of this Christian history of change, isn’t simply the story of liberation. It is about vicious political and ethnic struggles, some of them genocidal, that continue into our times.
God’s entry into the world, the Advent we contemplate this season, is a storm, an earthquake, a meteor falling from the sky. God wants—which is to say that reality demands—that humanity move on. To make room for God in this world, we have to grow. If we don’t move and grow, we’ll be overwhelmed and crushed: deeply wailing, deeply wailing, we shall see what God is doing in the world.