The Holy Declaration of Independence
If you ever feel lost in a crowd, then you understand what Meg was feeling in the climax of A Wrinkle in Time, Meg struggles to find life as a person out of the crowd. The crowd is a planet called Camazotz. The lines are marvelous. On this strange planet, she struggles to both live out her calling as an individual and as a person in relationship to her brother. Here are some of my favorite lines.
The houses in the outskirts were all exactly alike, small square boxes painted gray. Each had a small rectangular plot of lawn in front, with a straight line of dull-looking flowers edging the path to the door. Meg had a feeling that if she could count the flowers, there would be exactly the same number for each house. In front of all the houses, children were playing. Some were skipping rope, some were bouncing balls. Meg felt vaguely that something was wrong with their play… This was so. As the skipping rope hit the pavement, so did the ball. As the rope curved over the head of the jumping child, the child with the ball caught the ball. Down came the ropes. Down came the balls. Over and over again. Up. Down. All in rhythm. All identical. Like the houses. Like the paths. Like the flowers.
The brain of the town, the central coTnsciousness of the planet, was in the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building, and the brain, devoid of personality, was called IT. And IT monitored all the planet for any distinctiveness among the people. Meg resisted the uniformity of Camazotz. Later in the book, Meg faced IT to rescue her brother from the control of the oversized brain who spoke to her through her brother. She decided to confront IT. For encouragement, she recited The Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident!” she shouted, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
As she cried out the words, she felt a mind moving in on her own, felt IT seizing, squeezing her brain. Then she realized that Charles Wallace was speaking, or being spoken through by IT.
“But that’s exactly what we have on Camazots. Complete equality. Everybody exactly alike.”
For a moment her brain reeled with confusion. Then came a moment of blazing truth. “No!” she cried triumphantly. “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!”
Meg struggled with how to defeat IT. Besides her distinctiveness, she decided that what separated her from IT was her ability to love. Love against the IT was her weapon.She wondered if loving IT would make a difference.
If she could give love to IT perhaps it would shrivel up and die, for she was sure that IT could not withstand love. But she, in all her weakness and foolishness and baseness and nothingness, was incapable of loving IT. Perhaps it was not too much to ask of her, but she could not do it. But she could love Charles Wallace (her brother).
Meg couldn’t love the whole IT, the crowd, or the planet of uniformed people, but she could love her brother, and she did. In loving her brother, she brought him out of the conformity of Camazotz, and without total uniformity, the system was required to change. The world transformed by default.
Jesus’ model was similar to Meg’s. Like Meg, Jesus found little use in loving the IT, the crowd, the collective, the fused system, the herd, or empire. Jesus did share his love with individuals, one by one, few by few, and even group by group, addressing crowds but not conforming to them, all in order to liberate persons and transform a planet through the process. Jesus didn’t accept the identity robbing power of crowds, and after they got to know him for who he was, they rejected him as the unwavering “I” as Barbara Brown Taylor relates,
Jesus died because he would not stop being who he was and who he was was very upsetting. He turned everything upside down. He allied himself with the wrong people and insulted the right ones. He disobeyed the law. He challenged the authorities who warned him to stop. The government officials warned him to stop. The religious leaders warned him to stop. And when he would not stop, they had him killed, because he would not stop being who he was.
At any point along the way, he could have avoided the cross… He could have stopped being who he was, but he did not. When the soldiers showed up in the garden to arrest him, he did not disappear into the dark. He stepped into the light of their torches and asked them whom they were looking for. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered him, and he said, “I am he.”
Jesus declared his independence from the conforming nature of the mob and once he declared his liberty and encouraged others to do the same, there was no stopping him. Even today, only those overly familiar with Jesus can ignore him or make him into an endorser and champion for our crowds dressing him up in the costumes we’ve adorned for ourselves. To face one who stands out while we take our place in line and chase the latest fad stirs us in unsettling ways when we are comfortable being settled. If we can attend to his presence, to who he is and how he is, we can’t help but feel afraid for he is like no other.
Far more frightening than a preacher by the river shouting hellfire and damnation is one who on a cross says, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” Far more frightening than a teacher who knows all the answers before you can even ask the questions is a teacher who questions the answers you’ve centered your world upon. Far more frightening than a politician who seeks your money is one who says your greatest treasure has little lasting value. Far more frightening than a king who comes to take over a city on a warhorse leading soldiers in a parade is one who comes on a donkey preceded by children. Far more frightening than a general who calls for weapons is one who commands they be put away. More frightening than a warrior who cannot be killed is one who can die so easily – then will not stay dead!
We may try to cage him in a creed, an ideology, a worship format, a Sunday time slot, in history long ago, in a stone covered grave, or on a throne high above us in a heavenly realm, but he keeps coming to us repeatedly, daring us to do far more than believe, challenging us to become.
Jesus declared his independence as he chose love, and no one, not even the devil himself or The Roman Emperor or the entire Empire could take his freedom away.
To read more on coming out of the crowd, click the book cover to your right.
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