Walter Breuggeman in Reality, Grief, Hope provides a scripture-based process for coming to terms with the signs of the times.” In an earlier post, I dealt with the reality process of becoming clear about what has happened. In this case, it was the 2016 presidential election. I tried in that post to be as clear as I could by setting aside as much as I could my own ideological framework and accepting what had happened. As I have reflected further, I realize that the outcome of the election was not what was important. If the democrat or some other progressive had won, I might have missed the underlying message. Trump’s win simply highlighted something I probably would have otherwise missed.
What I have lost and what I need to grieve is the notion that any political or social arrangement would somehow make “everything OK.” Psalm 33 seeks to disabuse us of the notion that everything will be OK if we can just have the right arrangement in the world:
The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save. Psalm 33:17
As humans living in the world it is natural for us to hope that what we do and how we manage things will make everything OK. The Psalmist is telling us just the opposite. Relying on the things and powers of this world will not save us. In fact, focusing on them can easily make us lose sight of what is really important. The verses that follow make that crystal clear:
Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Psalm 33:18-19
We do, of course, live “in the world.” But Christians are called by their faith to not be “of the world.” We live in human community and our decisions, actions, and speech make a difference in that community. But it seems that the values that come to dominate that society are inimical to its very nature and make it difficult, perhaps even impossible, for a community to provide the resources, nourishment, attention and care to all those in the community, especially those who have been excluded for whatever reason.
I wish that it were possible for a well constructed political program and process to provide such a community. I now see this by itself is, while perhaps a necessary ingredient in a humane society, is not a sufficient cause of such a society. Such a society requires the conversion of the members of the society to a set of values and beliefs which are radically opposed to those which seem so prevalent today. This is a much more difficult, even impossible task, but it is the only one worth pursuing.
Still I wish it were otherwise. I wish that contributing to the right political causes, working for the right politicians, voting for the right candidates would make everything OK…without requiring me to change in such fundamental ways. I wish that it was simple but it is not. Yet, I wish it were and I grieve that loss of an ordered, settled, undisturbing approach which is only in the end a delusion that comforts me without changing me.