Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Minor Musing On Hollow Political Hope

Eric Miller writes about a past that's similar to mine and elegantly asks a question that I've also asked:
It’s no surprise at all, then, that as Hal Lindsey in the 1970s and 1980s was convincing millions of Americans that the end of the age was coming, many of those same Americans were lining up at the polls and at abortion rallies to “save the culture.” They were Christians. But they were American Christians. Which identity is more decisive? It is never easy to tell.
Miller goes on to point out that answering the question is both difficult and necessary:
This book is American in many ways, but perhaps most distinctively in its hopefulness. At the same time, it reflects an effort to be fundamentally and thoroughly Christian. This pairing of identities is, I’m suggesting, fraught. Christians know that not just any hope will do, whether American or any other kind. Hope is required of us but so is intelligence; our theology, in fact, insists that these belong together, that the absence of hope dims the intellect, that the absence of mind diminishes the virtue. Christian hoping must emerge from our deepest understanding of reality, our truest apprehension of being and time. And it must call into question and subordinate all other visions and intuitions of what is, and what is to come.
The last two sentences of the preceding quotation answer Miller's earlier query. Aligning themselves with the conservative political movement, many American Christians have allowed a conservative vision of Americanism to dominate their thinking. This alignment has produced a hollow hope that places hope above other virtues and leads many to forget that of the important virtues, hope is not the greatest:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
When I was a young'un, pastors used to tell us that living what we believed involved substituting our names for the work "love" in verses 4-7. I forget that advice far too often, but I don't hear it given out very much either. Instead, I hear that to be a Christian is to vote for a political party

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