Sunday, July 2, 2023

When despair has become fad. . .

While sitting in my car listening to a local talk radio station, I heard over and over and over again about how bad things are.  This was a conservative talking head.  Later while flipping channels, I heard the same litany of how bad things are from a liberal talking head.  Probably they are both correct.  My issue is not the veracity of their judgment but the seeming delight with which they make it.  It has become trend, fad, even chic to despair of the way things are.  We have fine tuned and polished the art of complaint and the feeling of despair to great success.  The world feels the weight of it all.  People are despairing.  The distress of the mind, heart, and soul among our populace is urgent and universal.  Polls and surveys tell us what people are feeling about the tenor of the times and the state of their own lives and it is not good.

The answer to despair, hope, was never to be found in the world around us or in the news.  Even good news does not last and good feelings are equally as transitory.  The joys of this world do not heap themselves one upon the other until despair is squeezed out.  Instead, the satisfactions of this day are always tinged with labor, duty, responsibility, and obligation.  Even amid the things that give blessed context to our lives -- the family -- we cannot admit that the joys of this are without a burden.  Worst of it all, our best laid plans to manufacture joy or to sustain it are assumed into the mess that is life and has always been life in the aftermath of Eden.

The increase in despair and its articulation with almost agitated delight in all forms of the media was always there and will be.  Sure, it is amplified by the press of instant communication complete with photos but it was always there.  The news was never good and there was a crisis behind every human interest story.  Now it is not a story but a meme or a video that ends the newscast as if to tell us that there really is some good somewhere in the world despite what the voices have been saying for the last half and hour.  No, the answer to the ordinary of despair was never found in self or in the world but was always the domain of faith.

The gift of hope is not found in a balanced perspective on life -- equal time for good news as well as the bad.  No, the gift of hope has to be revealed, made known from outside ourselves and our world of sorrow, pain, despair, and death.  That is what the public voice of Christianity offered when despair was all the world had to say.  Temporal hope does not lie in passing the torch to better people who will usher in a better age but in the voice of God in our midst -- the God who has never abandoned His people to their despair and death.  The young are only able to carry the torch of truth and hope into the unfolding tomorrows if they actually know that truth and been acquainted with hope.  When Scripture says to raise up a child in the way he should go, that is not primarily a moral vision but a vision of the future planted in the hope of God's mercy and the promise of new and everlasting life.  Yes, a moral compass is part of it but not the whole of it and even the moral compass cannot promise hope if it points only to the causes of our despair.  Eternal hope was and is the promise and gift faith gives to a people who would be left only to despair without God's intervention in our story.

This is most profoundly found in the promise of going home, returning to the bosom of our fathers, and being swept up from all that decays by the eternal that nothing can diminish or destroy.  When faith began to be banished from the public square, from movies and media, and from the youth raised in it from the beginning, despair was left to flourish and fill the vacuum left when hope's voice became quiet.  If, for this reason only, we are called to be verbal and vocal in speaking hope to the world wherever we are.  This hope has the face of a Savior who loved us enough to suffer and die for a people who did not know to love Him and this hope has the face of a Redeemer who rose in triumph not for revenge against His enemies but for the rescue of any and all who will hear His voice and be saved.  If you want to hear hope in the world, get yourself into an orthodox Christian church and listen to the readings from Scripture, immerse yourself in the words of the liturgy, give your rapt attention to the preaching of this eternal Word, sing with all your energy the faithful words of hymns penned by those who wrestled with hope like we do, and feast upon the foretaste of the eternal right now and right here.

It does not matter whether it is Fox or CNN, Facebook or Twitter, the breaking news always breaks bad.  But it does not where you read in Scripture, you encounter Christ whose mercy is without limit and who grace is more than sufficient for today's trouble and to deliver you to days without trouble.  Despair has become normal and it reigns only because the voice of faith does not answer.

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