With a title like this, we first think of Dicken’s novel by the same name. The cities are London and Paris during the French Revolution and follows the complications of intertwined lives between them during turbulent times. But I’m not thinking about London and Paris in the 18th century.
I’m thinking about a much older book and two other cities – Augustine’s classic, The City of God. In his work, the two cities are both literal and representative: Rome and Jerusalem. Rome, the literal city, had just fallen to its enemies. The once unconquerable city fell to barbarians, and as the dust settled, someone needed to be blamed. Rome blamed Jerusalem. The Romans blamed the new, but influential, religion, Christianity, for causing the fall of their city. Too many people converted away from the old pagan ways, and the Roman deities were exacting their revenge. Christians were to blame.
Augustine wrote The City of God to detail the corruption that lived at the heart of Rome and the Roman religion, and to defend Christianity from the slanderous and dangerous claims of the Romans. Along the way he detailed the Romans’ evil perpetrated against the Christians out of slanderous fear, the demonic practices of the Roman pagan religions, and builds a robust theology of what it means to live in this world and belong the City of God.
Rome was not the glorious and pristine place it made itself out to be. It was full of moral evil, debauchery, and demonic activity. It was powerful, but it was not good. And in its decadence, it lost its power. Christianity, Augustine argued, saved as much of Rome as wanted to be saved. Christianity was the true civilizing force in the cultural shift at the fall of Rome. If Rome had prevailed and Christianity was suppressed, Western Civilization would have been put on a much different path.
Why all this talk about two cities, especially Rome and Jerusalem at a time of civilizational crisis? We are at a similar crossroads where we are being asked to pick one of two very different ways of life. Christianity is still one of those two ways, one of those two cities. Christianity and the moral system that comes with it has been shown to be necessary for a stable Republic. Christianity is also the subject of slanderous half-truths by those who want to see it disappear into the background. The other way of life, the other city, is the rising tide of socialism/Marxism/secular progressivism seen most clearly in the riots led by BLM and Antifa.
The differences between these two cities has been on display for everyone to see in 2020, no weekend more than September 24th when two prayer rallies were held in Washington D.C. I have watched the spread of BLM and Antifa closely since Memorial Day weekend, 2020, and I watched several of the speakers for both prayer rallies. Not only are the two cities different from each other, there is no overlap between the two.
BLM and Antifa have been directly responsible for billions of dollars of damage in the streets of at least a dozen U.S. cities, rioting over dubious claims of police abuse, assaulting civilians and killing police officers. One Princeton study linked BLM to 91% of the riots this year. BLM has not put forward a spokesperson to present a cogent case for their political, economic, and social agenda so they can be heard and questioned. It is not that they lack such an agenda, they just do not believe in calm discourse in the public square. Despite the attempts of Progressives and Christian Progressives to downplay the Marxist and destructive ideology associated with BLM and Antifa, it is obvious for every normal person to see.
BLM, Antifa, and their supporters are openly in favor of violence to achieve their ends. The only major institutions left in the American culture that stand in their way are the due process of the American Federal Government (voting, judges, etc.), and Christianity.
On the other hand, when I watched the speakers at the prayer rallies, not only was there no violence, no police officers were shot, no stores were looted, and no neighborhoods were brought down in flame. In fact, a large group (by one estimate, 55,000) of people sang and prayed. Most of the prayers I heard included several of the same themes: prayer for all our political leaders, for SCOTUS, for the election, for the moral health of our nation, and shockingly, for repentance. Whose repentance? The people praying.
No BLM riot, no Antifa night of violence, has included repentance for their behavior.
In a twist not unlike what Augustine dealt with, the immoral and violent blame all the evil on the Christians. Who will believe them? Well, many will. In fact, if you look at your social media feeds, the Christians you follow who consider themselves progressive are more likely to have mocked the prayer rallies than they have been to criticize the riots.
Now is not a time for mushy thinking or unwarranted charitable views of clearly destructive ideologies. Now is the time for truth spoken clearly and unashamedly and spoken in love.