I don’t believe we are now in the end times; but we are certainly living in strange times. In his 2015 article, “Terrorism, Violence, and the Culture of Madness,” the Canadian cultural critic Henry Giroux stresses that “malevolent modes of rationality” are starting to be imposed on everyone.
So far Donald Trump has alienated large numbers of Hispanic, Asian, and college-educated voters. He calls for temporarily banning Muslims from America. He is not much of a bridge-builder and supports building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. He advocates the deportation of 12 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S., people have come to represent a substantial segment of the American labor market. (Trump prefers to hire undocumented Polish workers in his enterprises.) Nevertheless, his support among likely U.S. voters has surged, and he is now running about even with Hillary Clinton. Although they themselves are the descendants of immigrants, Trump supporters strongly believe that “immigrants threaten American customs and values.”
Whether holy or not, Trump has a lot of spirit and he knows how to fire up his supporters. His campaign appeals to their hatred, anger, bigotry, and racism.
Some foreign Trump supporters are OK, however. According to the Associated Press, the presumed Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency has picked up some strong foreign support from India, where, this Pentecost week end, fundamentalist Hindus are trying to get their gods on his side. These people put their faith and hope in Donald Trump.
Already on Wednesday, May 11th, about a dozen members of the right-wing Indian Hindu group “Sena” lit a ritual fire and began chanting mantras asking Shiva and a variety of other Hindu gods to help Trump win the U.S. presidential election. “The whole world is screaming against Islamic terrorism, and even India is not safe from it,” said Vishnu Gupta, founder of the Hindu Sena nationalist group. “Only Donald Trump can save humanity….he is our hope for humanity.”
In other parts of the world, Christians are gathering this week end to celebrate Pentecost and the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost (the fiftieth day) is the Greek name for Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, for centuries an important Jewish feast. According to Jewish tradition, Pentecost commemorates God’s giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, 49 days after the Exodus. According to a later Jewish tradition King David was born and died on Pentecost. In the Apostle Peter’s first sermon, recorded in Acts 2:14-39, Peter linked the life, death, and Ascension of Jesus to King David’s death, burial, and hope of immortality.
For Jewish people, Pentecost came fifty days after Passover. For Christians, fifty days after God raised Jesus from the dead. We find the earliest Christian celebration of Pentecost described in the second chapter of Acts of Apostles. About one hundred and twenty followers of Jesus (Acts 1:15) were present, including the Twelve, Jesus’ mother, various other women disciples, and Jesus’ brothers (Acts 1:14).
We used to call Pentecost the birthday of the church. Some still do. The church, the community of faith in Jesus Christ, began right after the Resurrection. Mary of Magdala was the first church-woman, the apostle who really got things going, when she witnessed Jesus alive and raised from the dead. She was the first to proclaim the Goodnews. (In the light of Mary of Magdala’s inaugural ministry, all discussions about whether or not women can be ordained becomes meaningless chatter.)
Pentecost proclaims that, with Jesus raised from the dead, a new age had begun: life in God’s spirit, characterized by love, unity, compassion, and understanding. Pentecost contrasts with the arrogant and narcissistic way of life portrayed in the Tower of Babel Genesis story.
The Babel story is found in the first nine verses of Genesis 11. It narrates how, after the great flood, humanity became proud, self-centered, and arrogant. People tried to take God’s place in the world by building a tower that would reach into God’s heavens. God punished their arrogant self-centeredness. The result was confused speech, disharmony, and people scattered around the world in tribal conflict. Hatred, anger, bigotry, and racism enter human history. Not God’s way.
Pentecost is the undoing of Babel. At Pentecost people from every nation under heaven were brought together. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Pentecost built no arrogant tower and no walls. It broke the barriers of race, religion, and nationality. Peter announced that this event was the beginning of a new life in the Spirit that would be available to all believers from that point on, Jews and Gentiles alike (Acts 2:39).
May we all grow in God’s Spirit.