A Mystic Leader’s Crash Course: Darkness

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A Mystic Leader’s Crash Course: Part 1: Darkness

The church in the west acts as it does because it does not see the world as it is. How can 21st century leaders move people to enlist in the quest to save the universe? Let’s begin by lining up four images to help us describe the world.

What is required for the church to change?
The first of four images needed by 21st century leaders to describe the world we live in is Darkness. At a Harvard Business School address in 2002, Lou Gerstner of IBM stated:

” The transformation of an enterprise begins with a sense of crisis or urgency. No institution will go through fundamental changes unless it believes it is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive.” (source: Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat).

The church in the west acts as it does because it does not see clearly the darkness. Darkness is not about describing the present or any other moment in human history. Darkness is about pointing out human kind’s perpetual companion. Darkness is about the fact that human kind tends towards a darkness of ancient proportions. Even with the restraint of law or the release of grace, human kinds show a propensity towards great evil.

The church feels no urgency, no compulsion to change because it doesn’t care that the world is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive.

Ways in which culture helps us describe the darkness
During the second half of last century it was fashionable to talk about the secular future of the world. Many suspected that enlightened rationality would squeeze out the last vestiges of religion and superstition in the west, and eventually religion and faith would vanish from the face of the earth.

In the 20th century it was common to hear someone say, “more evil has been done in the name of religion than anything else.” Besides being false at face value, this way of seeing the world missed an obvious fact: the evil will impose their will in the name of anything and everything even religion if need be. Religion isn’t really the issue here. Evil is.

In describing the world, Christ following leaders must clearly described this fact: if religion were to disappear from the face of the earth, evil would remain because both the world and the human heart are dark places.

Without religion as the “fall guy” who and what would the secularist blame for the evil in the world? Republicans and the culture wars? Hollywood and the left wing?

Interstingly enough TV and film provide some help here. A few shows have tended to take a morally serious look at evil and the ethical dilemnas evil creates whether in a real historical sense (The Passion, The End of the Spear) or in a mythological sense (The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia) or in a dramatic action series (24).

Yes, we must call out the image of God that is part of man’s creation design. But we musn’t trivialize or reduce the malignant spirit of darkness embedded within the human heart and spread throughout human culture that eats away at the created order. The church will never rise to be that which she is called to be without clearly seeing how darkness has fallen upon the earth and devours her children.

Again, film helps here. Few things shake me to the core as the sight of children suffering. “Born Into Brothels” (2005) a documentary telling the story of the children of prostitutes in Calcutta and “Cidade de Deus” (aka City of God 2002) a Brazilian film based on the experiences of children growing up in an infamously violent housing project in Rio de Janeiro are two stories told on film that show us how too many children live.

How darkness may provide a clue to the meaning of everything
Ironically, Darkness may provide both those outside faith and those within faith the clearest view on absolute truth. Allow me to whisper to you something I have come to know and know deeply. I, and no one other than I, am responsible for my own evil. That is one thing I have come to Know. Let me whisper to you something else of which I have become convinced: If you will listen in on your own life, you’ll become convinced of the same thing about yourself.

The church will not rise with an appropriate primal scream unless she see’s the earth’s children all trapped in the dragon’s lair of evil, unable to breath until the gospel comes, and unless she experiences a gut wrenching deliverance from this power herself.

Personal note. From one mystic warrior to another: it’s a dangerous world but I know you are of the tribe that must enlist in the quest to save the universe. You are the ones who learn to feel your way forward in heroic attempts to reach those trapped in the dragon’s lair. Be careful. It’s dark out here.

What do you think?

into the mystic…

Alex McManus



65 responses to “A Mystic Leader’s Crash Course: Darkness”

  1. Gary Avatar


    Don’t take this as a slam, cause it is not. I deal with the same thing. But…Jesus was known for being about kingdom work. That was His reputation. His life was consumed by talking about the kingdom. He was a rabbi.

    That is the spiritual answer.

    The cultural answer is that the Jews of that day were consumed with talk of the kingdom. It was as much part of their culture as the NFL is in ours. Them knowing that Jesus knew a thing or two about the kingdom and asking Him about it was as common and socialable as someone who knows a thing or two about the NFL being asked his or her opinion about the up coming superbowl.

    I don’t think that we should read too much into people coming to Jesus starting the conversations about the kingdom. We are not told to sit in a dark room and shine and wait for someone to come up and say, “hey, dude…you’re shinning. What is the kingdom of God all about?” That is not our commision. Our commision is to go and tell. We let our light shine by how we live AND what we say. Placing more value on one over the other is not right.

  2. scott Avatar

    I understand what you are saying. You and I both know that reality is Christ and vice versa. But a significant portion of the population (i.e. those who don’t believe in Christ) don’t. Therefore, my point is simple. If we can’t even express to ourselves, as Christians, the tangible process of holistic life-change without drowning it in spiriual jargon, then how in the world will we be able to express it to those who really need it to be expressed (i.e. those who are unchurched, and without hope in Christ)? I am trying to demonstrate that stopping darkness (what i am defining is the drive or motivation to intentionally harm one’s self, or another self; be it physical, spiritual, or mental) is more than a “Christian” idea. It is a human idea. If it is a Christian idea, then it is so only becaue it is a human idea. Therefore, how can we intentionally change the motivations, environments, and behaviors of those who desire, and demonstrate tangibly that desire, harm to come to others. I’ll make a bold statement. It’s too important to merely “leave it up to Christ.” We’ve got to collectively engage the idea, and more importantly the practice. Christ is behind it. Christ desire’s it’s end. Is it possible that he’s waiting on us?

  3. Stephen Avatar

    Alex, I like the fish illustration. And not only does darkness cover the face of the earth, it is alive, has a life of it’s own, it has an agenda and it must be opposed.

    Tommy W – How does patiently loving a Hitler and waiting for him to get it show love to his millions of victims? Is it possible to love Hitler AND stop him?

    Scottt – I’d say the answer is definately YES.

  4. Tommy Watson Avatar


    The fish illustration sounds good but I’m not sure I buy it. Darkness once covered the face of the earth. But the witness of God is prevalent inside of a sinful world. The fish illust. suggests defeatism doesn’t it? We’re living for Christ as a conqueror among more believers that have ever lived at one time. Sure, I see darkness all around but I also see real Light everywhere. That’s what keeps me going. I was merely ilustrating darkness on a personal level because it’s easier to comprehend. I fear to believe otherwise is to take away from the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter illustrated clearly that we cannot live apart from the Spirit. So, I refuse to entertain a theology that makes sin look bigger than my God. I may not have related the message adequately. And I also admit to wading through my ignorance to grasp these issues. I may be wrong…

    On the issue of releasing more light. I believe the answer is in Luke 9. I know it’s not simple but I have discovered that we can only release more light by dying to self. I have not mastered this so take it or leave it.

    When I said love them I never mentioned patience or suggested passiveness. Hey, I grew up with tough love. It hurts. But more than that, real love steps back and trusts God for the outcome. I believe Fox’s martyrs lived out real love. And…yes they did step back without fighting….and died! And this great humility ignited a fire that has blazed through humanity. Jesus didn’t initiate a physical uprising but He did unleash a spiritual uprising, the one that counts. Having said all that I am in the final stages of praying through reenlisting in the Army National Guard. I am studying through Joshua and Judges. Israelite victory came only by military engagement. But it wasn’t the military might that prevailed. It was the prayer and obedience. This comes only by loving God.
    Stephen, I face men every week who raped little boys and they are free to prey on others as we speak. Do you think I never have thoughts of evil toward them? But God has placed me strategically to pray life into these men and be the light, probably the only light that is willing to shine before them. And I’m not giving myself any credibility. Believe me it’s VERY difficult to love but I have no choice lest I grieve my King! Sometimes love has to just love without taking up rifles and handgrenades.

  5. Travis Avatar

    Tommy W,

    A few months ago I would have agreed with your statment about the fish illustration. But my perspective has changed with new surroundings. I live in an area surrounded by nude bars, liguor stores, and crime. I feel like I am swimming in a sea of darkness. For myself, this is not admitting defeat, it is being where God has called me. We have been sent “into the world”(John 17:19). I have been sent into a place in this world where God’s fire is dimly lit at best.Swimming in this dark sea is my calling.

  6. Nicolas Nelson Avatar

    I think Alex is alluding to the sort of systemic evil or “darkness” that Bob Linthicum describes in City of God, City of Satan. Evil is not merely an individual problem, it is a communal or corporate problem.

    The war between light and darkness rages in your heart and mine, that’s familiar territory to us; but political, academic, religious and economic structures (and any other social structures) can also be evil in a manner wholly separate from the roles individuals play in those structures.

    One example is America’s legal system. Generally speaking, it is a just system, built upon the fair rule of law: to the extent this is true, we can call the entire system “good” and even “godly” despite the character of any single person employed in that system. But the subset of the American legal system known as “Jim Crow laws” was evil in and of itself, regardless of the character of the individuals who lived under that system.

    Here’s Linthicum’s punchline: in the same way that all humans are fundamentally broken, even those who seem less broken than others, so all human culture and social structures are fundamentally “dark”, having been created by flawed human beings and having been twisted (subtly or flagrantly) by the Enemy.

    That’s the world we live in: as we become culturally savvy we begin to see all culture more objectively, more critically. (the pitfall of politically correct multiculturalism is to emphasize the warts of the dominant culture while pretending no other culture is flawed) Even in the most just, most generous, most loving, most honorable system possible, there is darkness.

    It ALL needs to be redeemed, not just you and me individually or us as a segregate bunch.

  7. Nicolas Nelson Avatar

    …oh by the way, precious few of humanity’s teeming billions lives in anything approaching a best-possible-human-system.

  8. Tommy Watson Avatar

    Thanks for that comment. Bad thing about blogs is that they don’t portray expression or tones. My original argument about “walking in darkness” was meant to be a deterrent to those who might see this expression and use it as a crutch so as not to become Holy. The expression was used too loosely for my satisfaction according to my understanding of scripture. I was stating all this as a reminder that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus! Now, I agree with you in your calling. I planted a mission in Las Vegas for 3.5 years so I can absolutely concur with your passion to walk in the “darkness”. But that has nothing to do with what I meant about “darkness”. Sure, it is in our faces everyday. But for the child of God..I’m saying there is no darkness. If so then what good is salvation. John 8:12 speaks directly to this point, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” I’m merely stating that as God’s people we don’t have to walk around in the defeatism that pervades a broken society because we have the truth and the life. This life gives us permission to cry with those who are in sin without giving in to sin. This is our fuel for lighting up the world. The longer I follow Christ the more pain or sin I see in the world. The best part is that this pain or sin allows me to know Christ that much more. Are we not commissioned to see the world through the eyes of Jesus, what can be rather than what is?

  9. Tommy Watson Avatar


    With that summary of systematic darkness I wholeheartedly agree!

  10. Alex Avatar

    As I read through the discussion on the topic, I realize that we have tapped into the amazing power of learning from each other. This has been an excellent forum for refining our thinking.

    Part of going to battle well is to know your enemy. Thinking about and being able to describe the darkness is about knowing the enemy. Paul could write, ” we wrestle not…” because he understood and could describe the darkness. Peter could write, “The devil is like…” because he knew and could describe the darkness. Knowing and being able to describe the darkness is an aggressive posture for those of us engaged in the battle to save the universe.

    Thank you all for your passionate contributions.

  11. Nicolas Nelson Avatar

    Sorry just one more comment (I feel like the guy who grabs one more hors d’oeuvre after the host says “okay, everyone out”):

    In light of your next post about Light, and some of the comments here, I have to point out that the scientific metaphor of light/darkness is just that: a metaphor, not a perfect correlation. In other words, it is not enough to “just turn on the light” to dispel the sort of darkness the Bible describes.

    Sure, “The Light” defeats and dispels and drives out “The Dark”, but not in an instant and mechanistic way. There is a real struggle here, and real reasons why we can fail in that struggle even when we are “shining” as brightly as we know how.

    “Darkness” has names: sin, sarx, death, hell, the Enemy, demonic principalities and powers, etc. These we must understand, at least well enough to master them.

    But understanding alone is also not enough.

    We will need Light.

  12. Alex Avatar

    Nic, take all the hors d’ouevres you want. your contributions are always of interest and weight.

  13. Tommy Watson Avatar


    Just a gracious thank you for all your efforts in search of the Mystic. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Tribe. Keep the posts coming!

  14. Tommy Holmes Avatar
    Tommy Holmes

    Alex, I was at the round table meeting in Providence you spoke at back in October. We met at an Indian place. I was the annoying guy with all the stupid questions at the end of the meeting who kept using your brothers terms. Anyway, just wanted to let you know, I was really impacted by what you were talking about there. I took my notes, got them in order and presented them to the leaders of the fellowship I was a part of at college. They basically got it, and it has helped develop their perspective on leadership. They were impacted by the concept of ACTING first and adding structure later, letting a movement begin and worrying about planning once they see where it goes. It was revolutionary stuff for us. It gets us pumped about Jesus and being willing get a little nuts. Preciate it.

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