No Longer Defenseless

Asian Giant Hornets.

We all heard of them in the US during the pandemic. They were coming to the US, and they had a deadly nickname: murder hornets.

The reason they are called murder hornets need a little explanation. Now, these hornets are huge, even up to 2 inches long. And they like to get into honeybees’ nests and take their young. But back in Japan, that’s not so easy.

First, the hornet scout sniffs out the honeybee nest and makes its approach. But the honeybees don’t attack. In fact, they retreat back into the nest. This invites the big hornet into the nest to make his next steps. Once inside the nest, invariably, the hornet attacks one of the honeybees, who lets out a pheromone signal. At that point, a giant swarm of honeybees converge on and cover the hornet, buzzing with all their little honeybee abilities. They generate heat doing this, so much so that the temperature of the bees and the hornet begins to rise. But, the honeybees can tolerate about 4 degrees higher temperature than the hornet. With the honeybees maxing out their temperature limits, and with no escape now that it’s inside the nest, the hornet dies from overheating. The scout never even makes it back to the nest to inform the other hornets, and the honeybees are safe from any other attack.

Amazing. How do the honeybees know that trick? Well, it’s because they evolved alongside the hornets. They’ve had a lot of trial and error that’s found them the solution.

But, the honeybees in Europe and the Americas don’t have that experience. They grew up without giant hornets showing up at their door looking to takeover. So, when the scout hornet shows up, they actually try to fight it. And, well, it’s not pretty. Fighting one on one, one hornet can kill 1,000 honeybees. That’s right, 1,000. It’s easy pickings. The bees get massacred, and the hornets make off with the young bees. The honeybees in Europe and the Americas are completely defenseless.

So, wouldn’t it be great if there was a bee that go from Japan and teach the bees in other parts of the world how to handle the hornet?

In my first times arriving in the small village of Chontal in Ecuador some 10 years or so ago, I noticed a problem amidst all the beauty: the internet was coming. Computer technology was on its way. I thought, we all grew up with it in the States, we know something about to deal with it. But the people here have no idea. This is going to be easy pickings for the technology companies. A cultural, spiritual, and social massacre. The people here are completely defenseless.

And that’s why I started to initiate ways to take on the technology as a community, and make it useful and keep it in its place. That’s why I advocated for a committee on technology in the pueblo, to engage the tech companies as a community instead of every household for itself. It’s why I went myself to the internet company, to demand that they operate fairly with the church and the community. It’s why I worked with technology with the young to show them how it can be used in service of relationships. It’s why I helped people to manage their internet routers, and set the church as a model in how to share the internet resources, with generous and fair boundaries, that could make internet accessible to everyone if we all collaborated as a community. It’s why I looked to have community efforts to subsidize internet for households that were poorest.

I don’t know how much of an effect it’s all had. I don’t know how much it was listened to. But what an opportunity the community had to have a person from a culture that grew up alongside the technology, to help them handle it.

I found out a few months ago that my childhood best friend died a few years ago because of opioid abuse. I don’t know all the details, I just hold the sadness in my heart. And I don’t have first-hand experience with opioids, but from enough observation among acquaintances and people in the streets, once someone touches opioids, it becomes a powerful force for destruction. Addictions and long-standing habits that erode mental and physical health, these have been around since the very beginning of humanity. They are well matured, battle-tested, powerful and wily and crafty. We are just Johnny-come-lately’s in human history – and they have easy pickings with us. They massacre us if they get a hold of us alone. We really are completely defenseless.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were someone who grew up alongside all those things? Someone who could come and show us the trick to handling them from their first advance, to keep the attacks from happening in the first place?

Jesus spent 30 years preparing for his mission. From his very first movements of thinking and reasoning, he was always aware of his Father’s presence and communication, and he grew and grew alongside temptations of every kind. So much so, he knows how to handle them all. And if that isn’t enough, he has a divine side. He was around when God made the universe. He’s been around for everything in human history, since the temptation in the garden of Eden.

And this is the gift: Jesus is given to us. He’s given to us for us to follow him because he knows the way. There are strong forces that move through our humanity that can cause destruction, and, on our own, we are easy pickings. But with Jesus and the community we can become with and in him, the hornet can be handled.

We are no longer defenseless.

“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33)

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