20 June, 2010

Hope: Where We All Fail

(Link to first post in this series)

I keep struggling to understand the mystery of Postmodernism. My kids see the world in a radically different way than do I. Radically. Where I keep trying to perceive a coherent tapestry in the confusing threads of pain and joy entangling me, my kids observe, "We're screwed." They think in biological, gritty terms of despair like that, when I never could. I keep seeing hope and they keep seeing reality. It's disconcerting.

I think I've found a clue, though, where we're both wrong.

I saw it first in my younger friends. Paul said God left us with Faith, Hope, and Love. My friends are capable of believing unbelievable things and you can count on them for love. They just can't hope. They can hope for little things; jobs, friends, families. Ask them, though, whether God's goodness can redeem and they'll kind of freeze. Whether they parrot or reject the party line, it seems the comfort of real hope will elude them.

Postmodernism is cobbled together from a thousand little bricks of despair.

Modernists, aka the good guys, look nothing like that. Modernists rest unfailingly in richest hope. Modernists know God is going to make sure everthing works out for the good. Modernists know we're learning more about everything every day, and we're growing stronger, smarter, spirity-er.

Modernists, I'm coming to see, fail by resting on unfounded hope.

We really looked at the Western World's steady progress from benighted medievalism to rationalism to the capstones of democracy and freedom, and ascribe that progress to divine intervention. God was on our side. We're rich and brilliant, aren't we? God must be blessing us. We hooked our faith to the wagon of progress and urged the horses to give it all they had.

When the West ascended to lofty heights we saw the hand of God. We even called it "Manifest Destiny." It was obvious to anyone with eyes in their head that God was going to get us to wherever we needed to be.

Us Modernists have kids, though, who don't think so much of the emperor's new clothes. All that hope in which us Modernists invested smells to them like so many fish tales. We all know what happened to our economy when the Housing Bubble burst, but Modernism inflated a Hope Bubble that couldn't last. Our hope was leveraged out of proportion both to the reality of God's promises and to the realities we live with on the ground.

The answer to both Modernism's hyper-inflation of hope and Postmodernism's recessionary deflation of hope is a correct valuation of what God has promised and what He's delivered. The false overpromises of Modernism won't work any more, but the hopeless fears of Postmodernism won't work either. There's a valid comfort in God's promises rightly valued, and we need that comfort to survive. Even after the bubble a house is really worth the land its on, the materials of which it's constructed, and the neighborhood into which it's joined. The only value the housing collapse stole is the speculative worth it might have had upon resale.

Even so, the Christian life has measurable worth. The relationship it gives to God and people, the growth we experience in the Spirit, and the strength the unified love of His people embodies are true and lasting riches. The false promises of a recipe to make America great, end divorce, and free the subjected people of the world are gone, but the value of knowing God hasn't shaken at all.

Jesus eased the lives of many for the three years of His ministry, but not of all. Health and wealth did not radiate from Jesus in 30 AD into all the corners of Africa, South America, and Asia. He touched the Jewish lives He touched and was content to be limited in that way.

The church today has the same powers and limitations. We can make a difference in our community, and if we do we'll have done what our King could do.

I'll be back to look at this from another perspective.

No comments: