"Wind Is Changing"
Ghân-buri-Ghân squatted down and touched the earth with his horny brow in token of farewell. Then he got up as if to depart. But suddenly he stood looking up like some startled woodland animal snuffling a strange air. A light came in his eyes.
“Wind is changing!” he cried, and with that, in a twinkling as it seemed, he and his fellows had vanished into the glooms, never to be seen by any Riders of Rohan again.
“The Return of the King”, JRR Tolkein
Friends, I can’t lie to you – 2020 has been as dark a time as any I have lived through, and I’m 60. Danger and destruction, division and death – all the kinds of horrors and sorrows we thought our science made us immune to and our modern sensibilities had put us beyond – and yet here we are, covered in seeming shadows, and beset by an army of darkness.
There have been moments in these past months when my faith in our ability to return to the light has faltered. My Google search history contains things like “emigration requirements New Zealand” and “expatriate living Ecuador”.
In times of darkness, who better to turn to than J.R.R. Tolkein? Tolkein, orphaned at the age of 12, served in one world war and survived a second; he knew better than anyone the nature of a world tearing itself apart. It’s difficult to read The Lord of The Rings without seeing echoes of the global conflicts which so shaped his life. Yet, ultimately, his narrative was one of hope, of light triumphing over dark, sacrifice triumphing over selfishness, love triumphing over fear. I’ve often relied on Tolkein’s works to inform my perception of the world, and now, like our friend Ghân-buri-Ghân, I can sense something in the air. The wind IS changing. And while the battle for our time yet hangs in the balance, there is hope, real hope in my heart, and that is what I would share with you today.
The past three and a half years have shown us many things, but one of the most revealing is that there is a large portion of our population who remain lodged in a past where they gladly paid the price for privilege by being racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, xenophobic, and generally selfish enough to be accurately referred to as “evil”. This includes millions who fashion themselves “Christians”, even though their words and deeds would be disavowed by Yeshua of Nazareth, the Jewish Socialist Rabbi, in a New York minute.
What has been genuinely dangerous is the manner in which the oligarchs at the top of the Domination System (the modern Nâzgul, if you will) have been able to bend those Bible-and-flag waving masses to the will of the obscenely wealthy few, supporting policies which actually harm themselves in order to benefit their masters. Even now, they willingly throw themselves upon the pyre of Covid-19 in orcish obedience to their master’s will, while gutturally whooping “Freedom” as a war cry.
But the wind is changing.
When both the former SecDef, a retired Marine General famously quoted as having said, “Be polite. Be Professional. And have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”, and the current Senate leader, whose moral gymnastics in upholding the current administration’s policies would impress even Simone Biles, both endorse the wearing of masks, there seems to be a glimmer of hope.
When the State of Mississippi passes legislation removing the last Confederate battle flag from the last flag of the 50 states of the Union, I see the clouds breaking up.
When White Americans join their Black brothers and sisters in the streets to demand the dismantling of the systemic racism that has made Black lives shorter, Black families poorer, and left Black children dead at the hands of the very “public servants” who are alleged to be sworn to “protect and serve,” I can feel a stirring of pride in my chest for being American once again.
Now, all that is to say that we have hope. But hope for victory is not victory. We have many battles left to fight. And we will suffer losses – heartbreaking losses. Yet, if we do not allow fear, anger, disdain, or apathy to turn us aside, we can find the peace and freedom beyond victory as surely as the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth did following their victory over Sauron.
And friends, I want to remind you how important you are. In the story of The Lord of the Rings, it was a simple hobbit of the Shire whose bravery and faithfulness made the difference in the end. You don’t need to be rich or famous to make a difference. You don’t need to be the best educated or the most talented. Like Frodo (and Sam), maybe the most important thing is that even when it is dark, even when things look bad, we don’t give up, and we don’t give in. Because what we are called to do now, in this moment, is that important. In the immortal words of Samwise Gamgee, “There is some good in this world, and it is worth fighting for.”
It is vitally important that we take care of ourselves and each other. We need to keep listening to the medical professionals, and doing things like always wearing masks in public, social distancing, and using proper hygiene. We need to keep listening to our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, and do the work that must be done to dismantle systemic racism. We must hold our public servants at all levels, from the local police force to the President of the United States, accountable for their actions, and demand results that support the lives of every American, not just the families of the rich and powerful few. We need to listen to our scientists, and make the changes to our industries and lifestyles to make sure our grandchildren have a sustainable planet. And maybe most importantly of all, we need to drive out the darkness that has so profoundly corrupted so many of our countrymen, and use a morality of compassion as lived and taught by our brother and Wayshower, Jesus, to guide us in all our interactions with one another.
Beloveds, I know that this night has been dark, and the path has been hard. But if we persevere, together, we have a real chance to make this a nation and a world that works for all. The wind is changing.
Though here at journey’s end I lie
In darkness buried deep,
Beyond all towers strong and high,
Beyond all mountains steep,
Above all shadows rides the Sun,
And Stars forever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
Nor bid the Stars farewell.