Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hope: Fresh as the Morning, Sure as the Sunrise

Hope returns when I think of this one thing: The Lord's unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. (Lamentations 3:21-23, TEV)

Fun fact: I get to talk with local spiritual leaders on a regular basis (that's in addition to my daily conversations with Rebekah!). In fact, I've conducted in depth interviews with well over 300 ministers in the Tampa area. My meetings never fail to be encouraging and insightful.

Every meeting is different, but I do have a handful of "go-to" questions I like to use. The conversation typically branches out and each story becomes completely unique, but there are some things I tend to ask without fail. One question is this: "Are you optimistic about the future?"

Usually, people will try to get me to modify the query. "Do you mean regarding me personally... at this church... the economy... or politically... or for America as a nation... or are you talking about the world...?

But I try not to help out. I just want them to respond.

Some say things like, "Yes, because I know the end of the story, and the end of the story is that God wins..."

Sometimes I get "It's only going to get worse from here on in - isn't that exciting? Jesus is returning and the worse things get the sooner that's going to be..."

One minister even responded, "Not at all! This country is going down the tubes - Christians should stand together to fight against the Democrats!"

Then I'll get more thoughtful answers such as, "God gave us all these gifts and abilities for a reason; I'm confident the future is going to be great."

While a significant majority of ministers in this area subscribe to an "absolute free will" philosophy/theology, there's a huge amount of fatalism in their thinking that is obvious if you just scratch the surface a little!

  • "We're running down this road to destruction and that's just the way it is."
  • "The train's left the station and there's nothing we can do about it."
  • "Things are going to get ugly real fast and real soon - praise God (!)."

Which is really, really amusing considering my conversations with leaders from certain denominations that the end-times ministers tend to accuse of being fatalistic.

Presbyterians, for example, talk a lot about the "providence" of God. But providence requires a response of obedience from people - which actually moves the concept firmly into the free-will arena that the anti-providence folk pretty-much abandoned when they allowed themselves to be caught up in eschatological science-fiction disguised as Bible teaching!

Have I rambled enough? I certainly think so!

That said, the idea that human progress will absolutely pull us out of the mire is not well-grounded in history. Remember the 19th Century, the emergence of rationalism, humanism, and the idea that humanity has the intellect and the ability and that we have evolved/are evolving to such an extent that we will soon overcome all obstacles? Well, it didn't work out so well, did it?

Which leaves me with one of my favorite quotes from poet, teacher, philosopher Cornell West: "The categories of optimism and pessimism no longer exist for me. I am a prisoner to hope."

Hope returns when I think of this one thing: The Lord's unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. (Lamentations 3:21-23, TEV)

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