Thursday, November 06, 2008


The exuberant optimism and idealism I expected. The world-weary cynicism, too. But the advent of Barack Obama raises interesting questions about the nature of hope (as distinct from wishful thinking), not least for Christians. The prevailing Christendom mindset seems to me, simultaneously, to invest far too much in "the powers that be" (and the 'new guard') while displaying thinly veiled scorn for the possibilities of change arising from what seems vulnerable and the unexpected (if one does not see the divine potency in it). This is primarily because we Christians do not believe in the Gospel, or we have turned it into self-serving ideology, or we have split its principle concerns off from arenas like politics and economics, or we have projected it all into a conveniently abstract future.

The alternative is to let practice reshape our theory. To re-invest ourselves in the difficult work of peacemaking, sharing resources, extending hospitality, deploying forgiveness, acting for justice, truth-telling... and many other concrete actions which can then enable us to see and develop a different polity, as well as to recognise the source of our (and the church's and the world's) potential transformation in learning to "live beyond our means". This is what Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke of in what remains my favourite prayer-poem.

All that said, it would be as dangerous to underestimate what Obama may open up for us as it would be to believe that a new dawn will be birthed in the White House, rather than some grubby stable.

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