I Don’t Want To See It At My Windowsill

I don’t want to choose black or blue
I don’t want to see what they’ve done to you
I don’t want to live in my father’s house no more

You only realize the importance of some things in tough times. Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible is one of my favorite albums of all time, but I’ve never realized the impact it has had on me until this week. Though it’s been out for almost ten years, this week has made me feel the full power of the lyrics for the first time.

Win Butler’s lyrics cut down to the marrow of the world and expose it for what it all too often is. Many of these songs, and mainly the song “Windowsill”, have been stuck in my head since the Dallas police shootings. Some of the lyrics seem to fit perfectly with what is going on in the world, in my city, and in my heart.

Because the tide is high
And it’s rising still
And I don’t want to see it at my windowsill

My life has been lived in the era of global terrorism and mass shootings.I don’t know what America or the world was like before these attacks. I’ve experienced terrorism through a TV and computer screen. I’ve watched terrible things happen in far away places.

In November I was in Orlando during the Paris terror attacks. In June I was in Dallas during the Orlando attack. They were both devastating and yet seemed so far away.

Then it all came right outside my windowsill. I was at a concert only a few minutes from the Dallas Police shooting. No, I didn’t experience any of it. I was not part of the parade, I never even heard gunshots. I’m not trying to make it seem like I actually experienced terrorism. But it all felt so much more real when it happened to my friends and neighbors.

In March I wrote about proximity and how we grieve differently the closer a tragedy is to us. I may have been premature because an attack came much closer to me than Belgium.

I’ve heard my whole life that things are getting worse in this country. That the danger of a terror attack is high. That it could happen in my city. But it never seems like it will until it actually does.

It starts to feel real when the entire country knows the name of your mayor and police chief.

It starts to feel real when the President of the United States shows up.

It starts to feel real when a member of your church is one of the victims.

I know that evil is real and it’s all around us and that ISIS can kill 200 people in one attack in Baghdad and it’s desperately sad but it still just doesn’t feel as real as hearing from friends who just this week talked to an officer who was killed.

These feelings are not right, but they are real. I’ll probably go my whole life without meeting someone who lost a loved one in that attack in Baghdad. I personally know several people who lost a loved one in the attack in Dallas. Attacks in far away places don’t make you reevaluate things like attacks at home.

Nothing feels real until it’s outside your windowsill.

MTV, what have you done to me?
Save my soul, set me free
Set me free, what have you done to me?
I can’t breathe, I can’t see
World War III, when are you coming for me?
Been kicking up sparks to set the flames free
The windows are locked now, so what’ll it be?
A house on fire or the rising sea?
Why is the night so still?
Why did I take the pill?
Because I don’t want to see it at my windowsill

This attack was devastating and it’s been all consuming for those of us in Dallas. But eventually we will want distraction. We will want something else to do to get our minds off of the evil in the world. We’ll start doing stupid things again, oblivious to the incredibly difficult work that others are doing. We’ll forget that the world is full of evil that at any moment may show up on our doorstep.

World War III is such an abstract concept, such an impossibility in our minds that it’s become a cliché to even talk about. I have no idea when World War III will happen, maybe never. But I am certain what most of us will be doing when it comes.

We’ll be wasting our time. Whether that’s watching TV, arguing on Facebook, or using whatever future technology is created to waste our time (probably Pokemon go).

We have a short attention span when it comes to tragedy and serious things. Maybe it’s our coping mechanism as a species. If we can’t figure something out then we shouldn’t think about it too long.

I love to have fun, I spend probably too much of my time watching sports, goofing off, and doing other mindless things. Having tragedy come to my windowsill has made me reevaluate things.

I believe the only way to overcome evil is through Jesus Christ. He already overcame evil when he bore all of our sins on the cross. He has given us a new heart, a heart that desires to do good. It is still at war with our flesh that desires evil, but we know in the end He wins. Our time on earth is temporary and fleeting. We share it with many many people who don’t know the Gospel. It’s our job, my job, to make sure everyone hears the truth about Christ.

Not much chance for survival
If the Neon Bible is true

The title song on Neon Bible reflects on the Gospel of TV preachers and those who preach a flashy, substance-less message. Butler often discusses religion, specifically Christianity. He’s absolutely right about the Neon Bible. There is no chance for survival if the Neon Bible and Neon Gospel are preached. We must return to the true Gospel of redemption from sin through Christ alone. We must return to the true Gospel of love for all. We must return to the true Gospel that all are created in God’s image.

If we don’t, evil will get much closer than our windowsill, it will consume our own hearts.

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