Pastoral Perspectives

Wind of Change

“I follow the Moskva/ down to Gorky Park/ listening to the wind of change.”

Klaus Meine wrote these lyrics to the rock ballad Wind of Change in 1989 after returning from the Soviet Union. He was the lead vocalist and songwriter of the German metal band Scorpions, and they had just played at the Moscow Music Peace Festival, alongside American and Soviet bands. That Western rock/metal acts were permitted to play in capital of the Soviet Union for the first time since the start of the Cold War was a significant development, no doubt a consequence of Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost (“openness”). What Meine felt in Moscow as he sailed down the Moskva river to Gorky Park were the winds of change.

    While political ideologies may be idle talk for many in our context, Meine experienced first-hand how destructive they could be. As a West German, he had grown up in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. In 1961, the East German (GDR) communist government erected the Berlin Wall and closed the border between the two Berlins to prevent East Germans from defecting into West Berlin. The Wall cut across neighbourhoods, streets, and even houses, and overnight, family members and loved ones were separated; many working across borders lost their jobs; and the West Berliners found themselves walled in within Soviet territory. To the world, the Berlin Wall was the physical symbol of the Cold War – the embodiment of a “sudden and dramatic separation of one continent into two camps.” It also symbolized the division of one humanity by political ideologies and their ideologues, and the suspicion and fear of “the other” produced by such a division.

    As Meine sailed down the Moskva with the Scorpions alongside other American and Soviet bands, he felt a touch of transcendence: he saw people from opposing factions in the Cold War fraternizing freely. Later, he said of the experience, “Everyone was there: the Red Army, journalists, musicians from Germany, from America, from Russia – the whole world on one boat. It was like a vision; everyone was talking the same language. It was a very positive vibe. That night was the basic inspiration for Wind of Change.” As large crowds of young Russians later cheered them on as they played at the 100,000-seater Lenin Stadium, he was hopeful that the hostilities of the Cold War would soon come to an end.

    What he felt in Moscow he put into Wind of Change, and the song became a world-wide hit upon its release in 1991. It immediately connected with the Germans following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. Germans soon adopted it as the unofficial anthem to this momentous event. With its message of hopeful change and human solidarity, it also resonated deeply with listeners beyond Germany who had to live through the tensions of a divisive period in history (Gorbachev himself loved the song and it was performed for him at his 80th birthday gala). After selling 14 million copies worldwide, Wind of Change was chosen as the “Song of the Century” in 2005 by viewers of the German television network, ZDF – a testament to its notes of transcendence.

“The world closing in/ did you ever think/ that we could be so close like brothers.”

From a Christian perspective, Meine’s song captured the innate human desire for universal solidarity. In creating humanity in his own image, God imbues our being with a desire for communion, not merely with him but also with each other. We remember that God does not exist in solitude but in the fullness of deep inseparable love within the Godhead; he is a “tri-unity”, the Father and Son being in perfect communion with each other in the loving bond of the Spirit. Likewise, humanity has been created for relationships. The fact that the most primordial and fundamental human relationship is that between the different sexes – the man and the woman – tells us that humans are meant for communion across differences.

     However, ever since the Fall, humanity’s incurvatus in se (inward curving of the heart), has marked “the other” out for violence. Whatever nature desire in the human for communion across differences is overwhelmed by the sinful desires of power, greed, lust, and fear. This is most evident in the 20th century: with two horrific world wars, the Holocaust, the Cold War, genocides of Armenia, Cambodia, and Rwanda, the apartheid of South Africa, regional intramural violence, and not to mention the local race riots of 1964. Yet, that desire for communion, so innate and so fragile within fallen humanity, is never completely obliterated by sin. It bursts through in moments of transcendence – for Meine it happened in Moscow – and engenders in people a hope for a better future: a future without divisions and conflict. No wonder then, that Wind of Change would resonate with many in the final decade of a bloody century.

    While this hope has manifested itself in the formation of intergovernmental organizations for peace and cooperation like the UN, the persistent global conflicts show us that its fulfilment remains elusive. This hope finds fulfilment only in Christ, in his church. Incorporated into one body of Christ by one baptism, and partaking of one bread in one Spirit, the people of God are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of their Creator such that “there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” (Col. 3.11) Within the body of Christ, all differences in gender, age, ethnicity, language, and class status are set aside in the bond of the Spirit, compelled by the self-giving love of Christ at the cross. The more heterogenous a local body and the more readily Christians interact with brethren unlike themselves, the more faithfully this hope is held.

     If a love for “the other” is the orientation produced by the Spirit, then it cannot be confined within the walls of the church. Christ has died for all without discrimination and the church is to love likewise. In a world where powers and principalities exalt discrimination against “the other”, Christians must be continually be open to “the other”, embracing and cooperating across racial, religious, and socio-economic fault lines, building bridges and not walls. This is pertinent in our multi-ethnic and religious context. Despite our society’s diversity, a recent survey by data and consulting firm Kantar ranked Singapore second worst out of 14 countries for workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices. What can Christians do to make a difference in our workplaces? Senior Fellow at IPS Mathew Mathews has found that conservative Protestant clergymen are reluctant to participate in interfaith-dialogues or cooperate with other religious groups in humanitarian projects out of suspicion and/or fear of compromise. Is such a stance necessary?

    The final wind of change will come when Christ returns to bring about the consummation of his kingdom and all will be subjected to the perfect rule of God. Then will our hope be completely fulfilled, will peace pervade across difference, and will our swords and rifles be beaten into ploughshares. Until then, let the church be led by the Spirit in the work for peace and unity of humanity, so that – in the words of Meine – the balalaika may sing what the guitar wants to say.

Mr Png Eng Keat

September 22, 2019