"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hope and Fantasy

Even by their own admission, conservatives, both in religion and politics, offer no hope for a just social future. What they offer, and suggest we should trim our expectations within, are endless doses of more of what we have today. Let our eyes be turned to another world if we want true satisfaction. This world can offer nothing but further refinements and variations on what we see before us at this instant. In the words of Ecclesiastes: "I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and what vanity it all is, what chasing of the wind! What is twisted cannot be straightened, what is not there cannot be counted."

Yet there is a voice in us that cannot be silenced. Much as we might acknowledge the "tragic wisdom" of conservatism, and as heavy as it is with signs of ultimacy, we cannot accept it as ultimate and remain living creatures of a living God. "If Paul calls death the 'last enemy', then the opposite is also true: that the risen Christ, and with him the resurrection hope, must be declared to be the enemy of death and of a world that puts up with death. Faith takes up this contradiction and thus becomes itself a contradiction to the world of death. That is why faith, where it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It doesn not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present." Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope.

Those who tell us we must accept violence and war, "traditional" Christians as they may be, stumble into telling us that the world as it is cannot be changed fundamentally, that there is nothing to hang our hope from this unfulfilled present on. In fact, they are at home in a world whose violence does not affect them, or so they believe. This "acceptance" is actually assigned to the victims of our violence who must quell their hopes as the Iraqis have been forced to do. If they are surrounded by barbarians on all sides, do we not all share complicity in their fate?

The recent speech by Barack Obama encapsulates the hidden hopelessness that animates this "traditionalism": "The problem is not that the philosophy of this administration is not working the way it's supposed to work; the problem is that it is working the way it's supposed to work. They don't believe -- they don't believe that government has a role in solving national problems because they think government is the problem. They think that we're better off if we just dismantle government; if, in the form of tax breaks, we make sure that everybody's responsible for buying your own health care and your own retirement security and your own child care and your own schools, your own private security forces, your own roads, your own levees."

They don't believe in the common good, the notion that we must hope not only for our individual futures, but that there is a social dimension to our hope which we cannot detach anymore than we can detach our skins. This relates directly to the war in Iraq since so much of the criticism of the war is not based on compassion for the Iraqi people - one of the rarest sentiments available in media today - but on the loss of the sense of obligation to others. If we can't be immediately successful in bringing the blessings of flat-tax "democracy" to Iraq, then we quit. Whatever is not instantly successful in creating economic wealth for individuals and corporations is a failure that should be abandoned. We have universal obligations, but an administration such as this can't even conceive of the true nature of such obligations, much less carry them out effectively. The world they would create has individual hope, but no social hope. Were their policy to succeed, that would be the real tragedy because it would imply that they are right to destroy our hope in a just social order. Our opposition to these policies and to the war must lay on a deeper basis. We must base our opposition not on hopelessness, but on hope. "That we do not reconcile ourselves, that there is no pleasant harmony between us and reality, is due to our unquenchable hope." Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope. Let us pray that hope never dies in the heart of the Iraqi people.

1 comment:

R U S S said...