We Christians are like the troops of a faraway, forgotten garrison. We do not train or appear on parade or carry out the exercises that would keep us fit and prepared to meet the trouble which will inevitably come one day. It is a long since we have taken their weapons out of the armoury and spent time on the range, squinting down sights at distant targets. Do we check their stores? Do we man the walls? Do we scan the horizon? Do we go out and patrol the neighbourhood? Do we listen for the rumours? And why? Because we Christians believe we have no enemies. Perhaps we think that the world has grown up, left strife behind, reached a kind of worldwide consensus called ‘modern world’ or ‘globalism’ and there is therefore nothing to defend, because everybody already subscribes to all this. No one wants to destroy this society, because it includes everyone, no one is excluded or feels so. Everyone feels included, we believe. Perhaps.
Not every is as confident as we. Some are panicked. Some are ready enough to lash out and destroy whatever they can because they fear that our culture has no place for them. Some are discovering that the modern world, that promised increasing prosperity and opportunity for everyone, isn’t going to deliver on that promise. The global economy has no place for them. Some see the door closing, and realise that they are shut out. Western infrastructure and technical and medical advances have for a few decades encouraged and supported such vast populations that there is no going back to a peasant economy. These populations are trapped in vast urban proletarian cauldrons. Hard to find your dignity amid such rapid dissolution of familial and cultural bonds. Who can imagine their desperation? Much though our broadcasters would like to conceal it, we have seen the destruction of Christianity in the Middle East in our time. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have been butchered, burned and driven out with all cameras running. We don’t have to imagine the future. We can see it approaching, if we look.
We may not like to believe we have enemies, but we have enemies nonetheless. But the greatest mischief comes from those who are in denial about these threats, and are in power and are using their power to prevent us from protecting ourselves. So how shall we become an effective garrison of troops prepared to defend what needs to be defended?
What shall we do? We must do what Christians did in the first centuries, by which so impressed our pagan ancestors that they converted and adopted this faith, and so commenced the great political development take-off. We must take Christian worship out, wherever our people can see it, so it becomes public again. We must take it out through our streets, on our feast and festivals and get used to the weight of public hostility and learn to control our own fear. We drill, we train and we patrol. We occupy the territory and fill it with our song and thanksgiving. That’s how the blessing comes.