Friday, April 06, 2007

Hoping for a Truly Better Future

I was reading Psalm 78 last night and found myself reflecting on the following verses:

Hearken, my people, to my teaching;
So that the generation to come might know,
Their sons yet to be born,
That they too may rise and declare to their sons
That they should put their hope in God,
And not forget the deeds of God
But keep his commands
And not be like their fathers,
A generation wayward and rebellious.

So often we talk about the need “to give our children a better tomorrow” to give them “a better future” and also hope that they will be “better off than we are today.” Usually, this means a variety of things, often including: A cleaner environment, a more just society, a more fiscally responsible country, better work for them. It is not very often that we hear (or – for that matter – say), “I want my child to be more holy than I am. I want him or her to love with more affection and tenacity than I have in my life, for I have been reprobate in my days.” Now, this is implicit in good parenting that this is wished, but it never seems to be given the central location of a truly formed hope for the future, when indeed it should.

I was at a lecture on the administration of healthcare in a crisis situation (like an influenza outbreak, etc). The lecturer briefly spoke about the big scare in 2004-2005 over a possible pandemic of influenza, prompting panic in doctors’ offices across the country as it was realized that there was a shortage of vaccines. Intriguingly, we ended the season with extra vaccines. After all this panic, why was this so? I no small part, it was thanks to the altruism of individuals who decided that they were in good enough health to sacrifice their chance for a vaccine in order to assist others. In this case, the formed consciences of individuals made for a presumably safer tomorrow for the community as a whole. (This can’t be directly proved, for the influenza scare was never realized.)

Hope-language is massively popular in contemporary culture. To use the word “hope” is to be truly caring and truly liberal in your outlook for the world. Perhaps we should take some time to revisit the very obvious relationship between the individual and the community. Perhaps, just perhaps, in the midst of a pluralistic society, we can find the fortitude to assert that Goodness and Truth do indeed exist and can be grasped by individual persons. This fortitude would provide the mortar for holding together society in true, lasting justice. Hope is indeed an audacious affair, for humanity often shows the colors of the Fall with brilliant darkness. However, we are also quite aware that the human person is the locus of the Image of God, the point at which creation is lifted from the biosphere to the noosphere, from the realm of the practical to the realm of Love.

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