Perhaps the clearest voice for me as I’ve tried to understand Our Current Moment has been Andy Crouch. He doesn’t work alone, of course. With the team at Praxis, he has articulated a handful of thoughtful articles that have brought a sense of clarity institutionally and Christianly. And when he hasn’t been writing, he has been directing people to other good, thoughtful writing.
Crouch recently spoke at the Q 2020 Virtual Summit. He posted a tidied-up version of his talk to his website. It’s definitely worth a read. He starts be reiterating the analogy of our time as blizzard, winter, and ice age. From there, he touches on 1816, “the year without a summer.” He connects to the work of Scott Gottlieb, who has been a voice of reason these last few weeks, particularly as he refers to the possibility of an “80% economy” moving forward. And then, as he acknowledges a worst-case scenario, he brings the biblical story to bear. And it is wonderful:
And this is where it is great to be part of the story and people of God—because the people of God faced and experienced the absolute worst-case scenario, which was exile: to have your nation conquered, your leaders deported, your culture assimilated, eradicated, eliminated. And this happened to Israel twice in the Old Testament period. Assyria took the Northern Kingdom; and then Babylon, Judah and the Southern Kingdom. Psalm 137 preserves for us the lament of a people who said, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? By the waters of Babylon we laid down our harps, when we remembered Zion.”
The amazing gift of exile is that you discover a very unexpected answer to the lament of Psalm 137. Which is that you can sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land, even as you have to make unthinkable adjustments. The rabbis had to ask, after the Temple was defiled and destroyed: We can no longer gather in the Temple and know that the presence of God is there. We can no longer be present by the thousands, all the clans and families of Israel together in worship. What is the minimum number, how few Jews do there have to be to be able to trust that God is present? They came up with the number called the minyan: ten. If just ten Jews could gather to pray, God would be there.
He writes then of numbers, particularly the smaller ones, that show as significant in the stories of Jesus in the Gospel. My favorite:
The rabbis said ten, but Jesus says, “When two or three of you are gathered in my name, I will be present in the midst of them.”
He ends the piece by throwing the down gauntlet on culture and transformation, something that is close to his heart (and close to the heart of many who try to understand and work well with the institutions that shape our lives). Like so many other pieces, it is both a sobering and an encouraging read. It is definitely worth your time to read well.