Monday, October 06, 2008

The Last Best Hope?

As we enter the home stretch in this year’s election season (which is a strange phrase because “seasons” don’t often describe a period of eighteen months or more!), cable news junkies like me start to grow tired of lots of things. The negative ads are getting boring, as are the talking points. The vast majority of people have all more or less settled on a candidate, so our eyes start to glaze over when we hear the candidates’ standard lines, kind of like when your grandfather starts telling the same story you’ve heard a million times.

One of these standard lines that we hear from all sides is becoming more and more distressing to me. The latest person to use it has been Sarah Palin, although she’s certainly not the first and won’t be the last. It’s a line that comes from people of all parties, but perhaps it sounds so unsettling coming from her because she wears her faith on her sleeve.

The line goes something like this: “America is the last best hope for good in the world”. It’s a line that generates tons of applause because it recalls eighteenth century rhetoric about America being the “new Israel” or the “modern promised land”. It makes the voters feel good because it lets us believe that we are somehow fundamentally better people than all those other countries out there, and because of that superiority we will be able to fix the world’s problems through the exercise of our natural righteousness. This line particularly resonates with those who feel America is somehow a “Christian nation”.

As a follower of Jesus I take great exception to the idea that America, or any other human kingdom, for that matter, can ever be “the last best hope for good in the world”. Human kingdoms, no matter how much good they may do (and I believe that America has and continues to do many great things around the world) can never be the hope of the world.

Jesus Christ himself is the hope of the world.

Jesus is the one who promises us the possibility of a world where injustice, violence, exploitation, and even death itself are no more. Jesus is the one who helps us to believe in a kingdom where no one is superior to another simply by accident of birth, but where all work together for the betterment of the whole world, even for those to whom they owe nothing.

The greatest changes in the world for the better have never come from the grand initiatives of human kingdoms, which ultimately seek only their own glory. The greatest changes in the world for the better have always come from those people who follow in the way of Jesus, perhaps not confessionally but in actual practice. It comes from those who aspire towards the flourishing of all of God’s children: people like Mohammed Unis, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, and Mahatma Ghandi, to name a few. These are people who have dedicated themselves to making a better life for the poorest and weakest amongst us, and in so doing have inspired the fundamental goodness and decency that resides in each of God’s children. This fundamental goodness comes from the fingerprints of our creator, and it cannot be taken away, even by the stain of Sin.

There is a “last best hope for good in the world”, but it is not the United States of America. It is not any candidate or the platform of any political party, nor is it any church or religious group. The last best hope for good in the world are those people that listen to God’s still, small voice whispering to their hearts, calling them to live in such a way that proclaims that there is more to this life than accumulation and consumption.

The last best hope for good in the world is the Spirit of God working through normal people, maybe even you and I, if we’re only willing to listen to the call and act upon it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post!