On the day after the Boston Marathon, my friend told me about a conversation he heard on ESPN talk radio about the bombings. As host Mike Greenberg spoke with guests about the horror of the incident, he related a personal anecdote from the 1968 riots in Chicago.
He said he was young, still a kid. He walked out of a game onto the streets outside the old Chicago Stadium to find chaos. Cars were overturned. Fires were burning. And he remembers the frightening thought that occurred to him at that moment: "No one is in charge."
When the two bombs exploded near the finish line on Boylston Street, he imagined that people were thinking the same thing. He was probably right.
In most circumstances, it never occurs to us to ask who is in charge - though we operate on the assumption that someone is. But in moments of chaos, whether social or personal, we wonder. And at such times, the thought that no one is in charge disturbs us deeply.
The events of one week in April 2013 — the Boston bombings, the attempts to kill President Obama and Senator Wicker using the toxic compound ricin, and the horrific explosion in West, Texas — might lead people to wonder whether anyone is in charge. Of course it doesn't take a terrorist bombing to make us wonder — a car accident can do the same.
When it comes to the big picture (the big, big picture), is anyone is charge? When we see a baby-faced ruler with nuclear weapons threatening to obliterate us, we certainly hope so. We watch as the Middle East boils over, as a dictator grinds his own people into the ground, and as workers die by the dozens in Bangladeshi sweat shops, and we ask, "Who's in charge?"
People were asking the same question long before our time: "Is anyone in charge here — and, if so, who?" The biblical writers had an answer. "The Creator and Restorer — he is in charge." The first chapters of the book of Genesis describe how this strong God imposed order on the cosmic chaos. The creation account tells the story of how a "formless and empty" earth, unstructured and chaotic, was brought into order.
The familiar story of Adam and Eve tells how nascent humanity willfully stepped out of the order God had created, and in so doing threw themselves and the rest of creation into disorder and turmoil. The rest of the Bible is about God's long-term plan to restore order — call it "shalom" — to his creation.
It often appears to us that no one is in charge on planet earth, but perhaps that is because everyone - all seven billion of us - wants to be in charge. We are six billion demigods, each demanding his own way and the results — as one chaotic week in April has made clear — have not been pretty.
Page 2 of 2 - In their own tumultuous world, the first Christians astonished their contemporaries by claiming that Jesus of Nazareth — the Jewish rabbi who had been executed as a dissident — was in fact the one who was truly in charge, and identified him with the Creator and Restorer. They claimed that his resurrection furnished proof of the fact. And though their enemies mocked, hounded, and even killed them because of that claim, they would not back down. They insisted that "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified ... Lord."
The imperial power that ruled in those days was angered by the assertion, and insisted that the Christians — and everyone else — acknowledge that Caesar was in charge. But the Christians knew better. In the midst of their world — every bit as chaotic as ours — they were convinced that Jesus was in charge, and this is how they put it: "Jesus is Lord."