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Swimming against the Current

Editor's note: J.B. Shurk’s inspiring article reminds us that the flame of hope never dies and exhorts us to keep our own flame lit as we see darkness descend all around us. We are living at a time when the freedoms we have taken for granted are being extinguished one by one, one little light at a time. A vindictive culture of social justice instills a fear of being labelled racist or xenophobic or homophobic or colonialist or any of a multitude of “oppressor” epithets if we dare to express an “offensive” dissenting opinion. This fear renders us compliant in swimming with the increasingly totalitarian current. Shurk reminds us that we can be the fish that swims against the current. Courage is contagious, and others will follow. Shurk writes from a Christian perspective, but one doesn’t have to be a Christian to appreciate his metaphors. Every one of us must keep the light of liberty alive in our hearts and work to rekindle it in society at large.


By J.B. Shurk

I've been watching the crowdfunded series The Chosen, and it is a remarkable project that I hope many will see. Dallas Jenkins, the show's creator, has managed to tell the story of Jesus Christ and His disciples in a way that is consistent with the Gospel and historical record, while extending narrative elements that cleverly connect to modern audiences. The result is a humorous, provocative, refreshing, and emotionally poignant description of Christ's teachings and time on Earth. The viewer is given a glimpse of Jesus through the eyes of those closest to Him, and from those points of view, the stories you may already know become even more compelling to see. Even if you are not a practicing Christian, there is much to enjoy and learn from the series.

In fact, one of my favorite parts of each episode is the opening credits. While vocalist Ruby Amanfu soulfully entreats the listener to "walk on the water," minimalist depictions of two-dimensional, colorless fish are seen swimming across the screen. Yet as Amanfu's voice grows persuasively, small details on the screen begin to change. One fish becomes a heavenly, aqua blue while turning around and swimming alone against the current. Slowly, as the music picks up in beat and volume, another once-gray fish turns to follow the first and takes on the aqua pastel color, too. Then another and another turn to follow until thirteen vibrant fish (Jesus and His disciples) can be seen swimming in the opposite direction from the rest of the hive-mind-behaving colorless school.

The metaphorical depiction is beautiful in its simplicity. It is only natural to go with the flow and see the world as everyone else does, and it is strange to witness even one fish turn around and swim decidedly against the current. It is so strange, in fact, that soon enough, someone, somewhere will see this aberration and wonder what is going on. What does that one fish know that all the others do not? Why does He choose to swim not just in a different direction, but in the opposite direction from everyone else? Is He crazy or wise? Is He lost or visionary? Is He misguided or brave? The questions are too tantalizing for at least one fish not to find out. Yet now that two fish swim apart, a third's curiosity cannot help but also be piqued. And the fact that they continue on their journey instead of turning around leads to a fourth follower, and so on. One by one our fish learn to see the world with such a new perspective that they can never turn back to their old ways again.

It is always the courageous few who push back against the direction of the times and end up changing the world. And often the greatest change occurs when people least expect it.

Is that not an enlightening message for our own day? Sometimes people will write me in such despair. They look around at the state of our country and feel like giving up. We've strayed too far away from our nation's founding principles and its constitutional protections. Mail-in-ballot fraud-on-demand has transformed elections from contests revealing the "will of the people" into exercises revealing the "effectiveness of political operatives." The Marxists' "long walk through the institutions" is nearly complete, and some kind of totalitarian, communist sludge ruling over us seems to be our certain destiny. Life is bad; the battle is lost; what could any good American hope to do? And a little voice in my head always says, "Watch what happens next."

Nobody likes disaster. Corrupt politicians have whittled away our basic rights. Corrupt central banks have drained the value of our money. Corrupt "journalists" long ago threw in the towel of objectivity to play the role of celebratory stenographers for the Deep State regime. It seems as if not a day goes by when we are not slapped in the face with some novel, moral monstrosity overtaking our culture and becoming an obligatory requirement for the "woke" religion's mindlessly devoted. The economy, society, education, politics — the whole kit and caboodle stink to high heaven from rot. And though it may not be a popular opinion, I look around at all this misery and think, "Yep, now's about the time for world-shattering change."

That's the thing about those colorless fish in The Chosen's opening credits. Only in the bleakness of their despair does an agent of change stand out. Only because the whole school of fish is swimming in the same direction does a single rebel demand attention. In other words, it is only when those seeking to conquer us in mind and spirit have nearly succeeded that everything can finally be turned around.

I like to talk about liberty as a kind of light that attracts good people to its flame. I've always preferred this metaphor because it resonates with my sense of history. The story of the human race is one in which freedom has come and gone. It is achieved through hard-fought victory, only to be lost again through loss of vigilance and faith. So often when humans are most free, when the light from their efforts fills the sky, it is precisely when governments or other villains start extinguishing those lights one by one. Nobody notices when a little free speech is squelched or endless rule-making makes free-market commerce impossible. While liberty's collective light burns brightly, enemies of liberty take the opportunity to furtively snuff every unguarded candle out. It is only after substantial time when "political correctness" or encroaching Marxism or the State's never-ending micromanaging of private lives reaches such extremes that people begin looking around and realize that it's become quite dark out.

Then a funny thing happens. With the sky so dark, a single light in the distance can now be seen all on its own. In fact, even though it is only one lit candle far away, a multitude of strangers can actually see it clearly for the first time. It is only when we have lost almost everything that we finally understand what's important. And so long as someone, somewhere out in the darkness still carries a torch and can say, "Follow me; I'll show you the way," then no loss is final and no burden too great.

For so many, of course, Jesus is that light. And that is something else I particularly enjoy about The Chosen: it reminds the viewer that although He came in peace, His intentions were to radically change our fallen world. At the end of the second season, there is a scene in which Jesus asks Matthew, who has been helping Him draft His Sermon on the Mount, for an honest opinion. Matthew responds that in its current form, there does not seem to be enough "good news." And without missing a beat, Jesus turns and says, "I'm not here to be sentimental and soothing. I'm here to start a revolution...a revolution, not revolt."

Of course, He did start a revolution, one that transformed the world and brought us to this moment today.

Just because the light around us has gotten awfully dim does not mean that it has been put completely out. Find it where you can, and shine it brightly for others, and we will all find our way together.


This article was originally posted on website and can be accessed here.


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