Saturday, 25 March 2017

Eve of Destruction



The eastern world it is explodin',
violence flarin', bullets loadin',
you're old enough to kill but not for votin',
you don't believe in war, what's that gun you're totin',
and even the Jordan river has bodies floatin',
but you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.

Don't you understand, what I'm trying to say?
Can't you see the fear that I'm feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there's no running away,
There'll be no one to save with the world in a grave,
take a look around you, boy, it's bound to scare you, boy,
but you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.

Yeah, my blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin',
I'm sittin' here, just contemplatin',
I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation,
handful of Senators don't pass legislation,
and marches alone can't bring integration,
when human respect is disintegratin',
this whole crazy world is just too frustratin',
and you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China!
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama!
Ah, you may leave here, for four days in space,
but when your return, it's the same old place,
the poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace,
you can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace,
hate your next-door-neighbour, but don't forget to say grace,
and you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,
ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.


I was listening to this song the evening of last Wednesday after having been in London on the day of the terrorist attack. This song felt so appropriate, after hearing of the hatred that motivated a man to kill innocent men and women and then watching the backlash from racist and anti-immigrant voices seeking to impose their hateful agendas onto the tragedy.

I don't particularly sympathize with the Sixties peace movement, but this song has always inspired me. It's the way Barry McGuire captures the sense of the awfulness and terror that sinful humanity presents. I don't agree with unilateral disarmament, but I am sure all Christians would recognize the horror in the potential of nuclear warfare. The construction of nuclear weapons arises from the fears and aggressions brought in by mankind's depravity. As the Epistle of James tells us, wars arise because of our sinful desires (James 4:1). McGuire captures the sense of the futility of human endevour in a wicked world with the line about leaving for 'four days in space.' There were great technological achievements in the Sixties, but this did not change the hearts of men and women.

I like the way that McGuire challenges both east and west. He points out all the hatred in Communist China, then compares it to the racial hatred in America. Despite the victories of the civil rights movement, racism is alive and well in America and in many other parts of the western world. The events of this week also remind us of the horrifying destructive hatred unleashed through Islamic terrorism. This has also generated a backlash that can be seen in the populist nationalist politicians that have gained much influence in Europe.

Barry McGuire became an Evangelical Christian through the Jesus Movement of the hippie era. He discovered a hope beyond the terror he sang about in this song. Many Christians have used this kind of apocalyptic theme in eschatological material, pointing to an apocalyptic destruction of this world. That is not my eschatology. I believe that Jesus Christ achieved a real victory over Satan on the cross and His heavenly enthronement entails the ultimate submission of all things to Him. Through the Church we can experience the fullness of His reconciling life now and this Church preaches a message of peace and hope to the world. I believe that ultimately the Gospel has the power to overcome the fear and the hatred of this world and to make it Christ's Kingdom.

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