Posted on Nov 2, 2015 in Engagement, Theology blog | 0 comments

by Roland Wrinkle

Jesus was not a pessimist. Paul was not a cynic. God is not a doomsayer:

  • Jesus said: “Do not fear.” (Matt. 10:31) and He said it over and over and over again.
  • Paul said: “When the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. ….And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three.” (1 Cor. 13): and “We boast in the hope of the glory of God.”(Romans 5:2)
  • God promised Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you,….and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3)

We profess to follow these folks–well, religiously. Yet, it seems to me that we are going to pick our next president based on who can best convince us that “we live in some of the most dangerous times in history.” Hogwash! How briskly and facilely we tend to forget real history, i.e. what actually happened and didn’t happen and how things truly were. When we fall for the demagogues of disaster, we doom ourselves to a bleak and fatalistic view of the world—one which has little room for the redeemed creation Jesus thought He was gifting us. My hunch is that this is all due to modern methods of news dissemination and social media. Our news sources revel in the tragic, the frightening and the dangerous. How do even get out of bed in the morning after suffering a bombardment of gloom and hopelessness from the TV and computer? Our perspectives on the world become distorted. We lose the role of Christ and forget about His work in the world.

Last year, John McCain declared that the world is “in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime” (which includes the rise of fascism, Nazism, World War II, the Soviet nuclear threat, Communist Red China and the Cold War). That’s plain crazy—and anti-historical. We worry about ISIS as the threat of the day because we watch them cut peoples’ heads off. We worry about Iran because they shout, “Death to America.” Iran’s Middle Eastern enemy states have eight times the military might than Iran. We have forty times the military. Iran is busy fighting a two-front war in Syria and Iraq, all while trying to defeat ISIS.

In an essay in 1989, Harvard scholar Samuel Huntington noted that the United States was experiencing its fifth wave of this kind of pessimism since the 1950s. First, he explained, Sputnik shocked the United States, and by the early 1960s, the country was convinced that the Soviet Union was on a path to overtake it economically, technologically and militarily. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, as Vietnam sapped the nation’s confidence, the Nixon administration urged Americans to get used to a multipolar world with a diminished place for Washington. When the oil shocks of the 1970s hit, people saw the Middle East’s petro states as the world’s new power brokers. By end of the 1970s, with the Soviet Union modernizing its nuclear arsenal and on the march — from Afghanistan to Central America — scores of commentators prophesied that Moscow was winning the Cold War. And when Huntington wrote his essay, conventional wisdom was that an invincible Japan would soon become the world’s No. 1 economic power.

I remember all of this stuff. I remembered practicing putting my head under my desk so I could do it really good when the nuclear holocaust hit North Hollywood.  I was in the Army at Fort Ord during the Vietnam War. Khrushchev vowed. “We will bury you.”  Now, Germany and Italy are our good friends.  Japan has fallen on hard times (and, of course, still has no military).  Most of the satellite countries of the former Soviet Union are aligned with us.  Heck, my daughter is married to a Chinese kid.  I get my Cupid’s hotdogs from an Iranian and my wine from a Syrian.

Satan has been spectacularly unsuccessful in actually derailing God’s project to restore all of creation and put the world to rights. But that doesn’t mean he can’t put it into our minds that chaos, not Creator, rules the 21st century earth.  That’s why the gospels tell stories of Satan making pigs run off cliffs and possessing people and all manner of stuff like that. But……..

Jesus was an optimist. We can too easily fall into pessimism. I’m with Jesus.

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