Visionless in a Visual Age

I have a thought or two about the whole Kyle Rittenhouse trial and verdict.

But let me first say that I am glad that the calling of a pastor does not include the requirement of being a cultural commentator. I am too slow of thought to have something scriptural and meaningful say before social media moves on to the next top story. Thankfully, the work of a pastor is the exact opposite of simply commenting on the latest news. We must pour over truth from before time began rather than upon headlines that are vaporous and fleeting.

Nevertheless, the Scriptures do have much wisdom to give us as we observe current events, so I will venture to do so from time to time, which brings me to the Rittenhouse events. If you are unfamiliar with the original events and the national attention-grabbing trial, then you would be better served by searching for another summary than by any summary that I could give. But while the actual event in Kenosha last year, the trial, and the verdict are significant, I would like to focus upon a point that the Rittenhouse trial is only a glaring example of.

You see, the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse was (and still is) incredibly divisive, despite the fact that it centered around a shooting that was captured by three videos (one from a citizen, one from a drone, and another from the FBI). In other words, this was not a trial based purely upon witness testimony (as many are); instead, there is a threefold visual capturing of those infamous moments. But despite being able to watch the events with our own eyes, opinions are still bitterly divided.

And this is what has got me thinking. How can everyone look at the same evidence and come away with such opposite opinions? One would think that living in an age where everyone carries the ability to capture high-definition video in their pockets would erase such polarizing trials. Yet it is no new fact of history for two people to watch the same event and draw vastly different conclusions; video and the Internet have simply made it possible for millions of people to do so. I am convinced, however, that our problem never has been what we could see but rather how we see. To explain, allow me to first turn our attention to verse from the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 29:18 is a leadership favorite. Most people still think of the KJV, which reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Many take this verse to be referring to visionary leadership, but that is very much not the point. As the second half of the proverb makes clear, the vision being spoken of does not come from man but from God, since law is a synonym for the Scriptures. Indeed, the ESV translates the verse as, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

Thus, Proverbs 29:18 is warning that, when people have no vision of God’s Word and Law, they perish by giving themselves over to debauchery. In the Bible, such living without restraint is never a good thing but always leads to sorrow and death. The Israelites, after all, cast off their restraint whenever they formed and worshiped the golden calf, and “the LORD sent a plague on the people” for it (Exodus 32:35).

This is certainly what is happening today before our eyes. Our society has ‘liberated’ itself from God’s vision, adopting a secular and pagan (but I repeat myself) vision of reality; therefore, it should be no surprise that the world seems to have cast off all restraint. Animal life is now considered more valuable than the life of infants in their mother’s womb. Biological realities, such as male and female, are now viewed as malleable and subject to any individual’s whims. Justice is repeatedly demanded, even as criminals are repeatedly released back onto the streets with little more than a slap on the wrists.

The problem is a lack of vision. No vision of the true value of human life. No vision of the value of men and women, in both our likenesses and distinctions. No vision of what justice is. Darwin, Freud, and Marx may have paved the way for Secularism to usurp Christianity as the dominant religion of the West, but it clearly provides no stable vision but only casts off restraint.

And this, I believe, is why even in an age of visual testimony, we can still see the same thing (like the Rittenhouse videos) and come away with completely opposite reactions. The problem is not in what we see but in how we see. And here we must conclude that there is obviously more impacting our vision than simply sight. We interpret the same events so differently because we have competing visions of reality.

Indeed, the fracture in the West is ever-expanding between two incompatible worldviews and visions of reality. One is, at least, predicated upon the notions of Christianity, while the other actively sets itself against Christianity. These are two mutually exclusive theologies. Both Christ and the secular god of progress demand exclusive worship.[1] They are as fundamentally opposed to one another as worshiping Baal was to the worship of the LORD in the Old Testament.

I suppose what I am getting at is that the polarization that we all feel is not a result of simple misinformation, as if we all could get together in the same room to talk and would discover that we have all been misunderstanding one another all along. The truth, however, is that there is a real war of theologies being waged behind all of the headlines, and as with all wars, one side must eventually concede and declare the other victor. Secularists disagree on exactly what such a victory would look like for them. Marx certainly gave the clearest vision of a secular paradise in the form of Communism, but that vision was already played out around the Tower of Babel, the original temple to the god of progress.

In Christianity, however, we know that the war for the cosmos will one day be put to rest at the return of Christ, when the serpent who deceives the nations will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity. We look forward to that Day as our blessed hope, and until it comes, we must continue to stand firm in these evil days. Although few will hear or see, we must continue to proclaim that unity at the feet of Christ is true and diverse unity, while the unity around anything else is a dehumanizing, soul-damning fraud.

In short, we must continue to be ambassadors for the true Vision in the midst of our visionless world.

[1] Or, at least, the god of progress forbids the worship of Christ. Lies, you see, are generally quite tolerant to other lies. It is the truth that poses a problem.


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