Many of you may have already seen this brief video that went viral. If you have not, watch it.
The title is unpromising. That won’t catch on, you think. But the short film What’s Going On in Venezuela in a Nutshell, posted to YouTube last Friday, has had more than 1.3m views – and brought the plight of student protesters in Venezuela to international notice.(1)
The number of views is now over 2.5 million. The creator of the video, Andreina Nash, is a student at the University of Florida here in my hometown. She learned how to use Adobe Premier Pro in one day and the next day she skipped all of her classes and made the video. It went viral.(2)
A video like this one presents a great opportunity to discuss and better understand the dynamics surrounding any number of similar political and social crises commonly found in news media these days. There could be extended commentary on Venezuela’s history, the late President Chavez, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or a myriad of facets of the country’s past and present crisis. My comments will be limited and focused on a more fundamental issue. Nash states near the beginning of her video:
Millions of young students took matters into their own hands by passively protesting the social and economic crisis caused by the illegitimate government Venezuela has today.
Surely the oppressive government is a central issue. But we must ask ourselves – from where did the oppressive, “illegitimate” government originate?
Anyone who witnesses a video like this, or any number of news stories across our own country, must at some point in his mind think slavery. There may be a difference in degree in any given nation, but slavery and oppression are a reality across the globe. So then, we need to view “what’s going on in Venezuela” with an understanding of the root of such oppression. Augustine states clearly in The City of God,
The prime cause, then, of slavery is sin, which brings man under the dominion of his fellow(3)
The presence of slavery and oppression is a manifestation of the presence of sin. There are only two possible masters in this life.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16, ESV)
We have only two only two choices. We can be slaves to Satan or adopted sons of Christ.
Ultimately, freedom is impossible over time when a society does not operate according to the Word of God. Put another way, slavery is inescapable in a society that does not acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over every area. Lordship is unavoidable. The question is to whom will we submit?
My sole focus here is not Venezuela. In our own country we have moved from a greater degree of freedom to a greater degree of slavery. Whereas a few generations ago our national shackles were barely noticeable, they are beginning now to get heavy and rub blisters. The discomfort is growing. “Land of the free” has become the land of the rising police state, surveillance and warrantless searches. How does this happen in a nation that many believe was once characterized as “Christian”? How does such a shift occur?
It is simple. God calls his people to govern themselves according to his Word. He also outlines roles and jurisdictions for his divinely ordained covenant institutions of the family, church and state. As Christian people abdicate their individual responsibility of self-government, and the three institutions abdicate their responsibilities over time, a transfer is induced. The transfer is one of responsibility and power. This is because the responsibilities are not relinquished without at the same time calling for them to be picked up by other individuals and institutions. Prime candidates for the other individuals are power-hungry men and women. The primary candidate for the institution is the state.
We all know the phrase, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Power flows to people and institutions that are willing to take responsibility. If a nation’s individuals, families and churches abdicate their responsibilities, then those hungry for power and influence accept it from within the institution of the state. Power flows out from one group of individuals and institutions and power flows into another – the state. The former begin to ask for care and security from the latter. This increases the power of the state. Over time, the once-empowered individuals, families and churches find themselves powerless. And, being out of touch with God’s covenantal framework, they don’t understand that they operate not only as individuals but also from within a corporate reality. Because of their lack of understanding they begin to blame the empowered institution of the state for their plight. At the same time, having abdicated responsibility and turned over their power, they are limited to peaceful demonstrations in protest in hopes of communicating a message but not evoking the wrath of their self-appointed god.
But whereas this increases awareness, it does not solve the primary issue. Nations of individuals that do not govern themselves according to the Word of God cannot expect to live in the freedom that only submission to him provides.
“it is our right as human beings to have freedom of speech, to have freedom in general”
“…peace will prevail”
Peace will never prevail outside of the Lordship of Christ. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1, ESV) To the extent we live according to the will of our Creator, is to the extent we will experience the blessing of peace that only he gives. That is not to say that others around us do not benefit from this. Again, this is corporate or covenant reality. But, that is a subject for another day.
The point here is that we should expect neither peace nor freedom where men are not representing Christ’s rule on earth.
In the video Nash comments on the control of TV stations and radio by the oppressive government. She also comments on the “government shutdown” of Twitter, which was the social media of choice for getting the word out. This does not surprise anyone. That said, there is good news in all of this. The word is out. One student, armed with amateur filmmaking, skills in the space of one day created a compelling film that reached millions of people within days.
The Internet is undermining bureaucratic and elitist institutions worldwide. When you think Internet vs. these institutions, think the printing press vs. the Catholic Church during the time of the Reformation. The nation-state in general is being undermined.
The question is, when the word does get out, who has the answer as to the cause of statist oppression? Who has a foundation on which to build a successful society? It is those who have the gospel – the whole gospel.
Since sin is the primary cause, the remedy is evangelism and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is taking the whole gospel in those evangelistic efforts such that converts know how their eternal salvation relates to their temporal living. This includes the life in the civil realm.
Christians that learn to “observe all that He has commanded” will make decisions differently. With the power of the Holy Spirit, they will govern themselves according to God’s Word. As they do this, such submission is manifested among the institutions in their society. The only alternative to Christ’s rule through Godly representatives is Satan’s rule through ungodly representatives. “Choose this day whom you will serve.”
- Augustine, City of God, Book 19, Chap. 15 (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2010) ,626.(↩)