Saturday, February 16, 2008

Change and Hope

If there are any two words that summarize this election cycle, they are “change” and “hope.” While presidential hopeful Barack Obama has done to most to frame the political discussion in these terms, we can thank President Bush and the conservative wing of the Republican Party for creating the demand for what they represent.

There can be no doubt except among the delusional among us that our country’s leaders have done great damage by systematically reconfiguring government to conform to their overly simplistic view of the world. People with their values and perceptions are good, and everyone else either needs to be converted, enslaved, or rendered powerless (if not dead). Ironically, many of these very same leaders claim to be followers of Jesus, whose philosophy of love and acceptance was the exact opposite of theirs.

The situation has gotten so bad that “change” is now synonymous with reaffirming the basic tenets of the Constitution and the rights that have been incrementally bestowed on people since that great document was written. That we have even debated the use of torture or the granting of immunity to companies and government agents for spying on American citizens is a testament to how low we have sunk.

Hope and fear are similar concepts with opposing outcomes. Both involve the creation of expectations, one good and the other bad. Hope attracts us toward something we want, while fear drives us away from something that threatens us. In practice, hope expands our freedom of action and fear constricts it. The destruction of people and cultures that we are unfamiliar with is a knee-jerk reaction to fear, which makes it an effective if blunt weapon for terrorists and cynical politicians alike. Hope, like its close cousin faith, enables us to act in the absence of certainty, thus optimizing our chances of success.

We have lived under a cloud of fear for several years now, with predictable results. Fortunately that cloud is lifting as the majority of us have become aware of its costs. We must however be careful, as the old saying warns, with what we hope for to take its place.


PonderPatron said...

Idea Explorer,

Interesting parallel between politicians and your comments about Jesus.

Jesus taught love and acceptance, but was also a revolutionary and ardent (and sometimes violent)advocate to moral law (not necessarily levitical law). People who believe and follow this Jesus have screwed-up lives just like those who do not follow Him. The only difference between the two is those who believe have a faith in a benevolent creator and the hope of everlasting things to come. Since humans are fallible beings, everything else is the same. Being a follower of Jesus does not make the person better, just very different from those who do not.

Your statement "Hope, like its close cousin faith, enables us to act in the absence of certainty, thus optimizing our chances of success." confuses me. In your previous blog entry, did you not state "Faith, I've concluded, is dangerous when applied to anything important.". Therefore, are you stating that using faith in the the absence of certainty, we are incurring danger?

I do very much agree with your last statement that we must be careful about the change we hope to occur in this election cycle. As the old saying goes "the devil we know is better than the devil we don't know".

BradJ1001 said...

Faith is a useful motivation to act, when any action is better than none and we don't have the time or resources to learn. It is counterproductive if not dangerous if it is used as a substitute for facts that are available, or if it is used as an excuse to avoid learning when learning is possible. For "important" decisions, especially those where lives are at stake, we have an obligation to test the assumption that action without information is absolutely required, and perpetually test and adjust the tenets of our faith so we have a better chance of acting appropriately in future emergencies (the latter effectively converting faith into something else).

PonderPatron said...

Idea Explorer,

At least we agree with first century theologians on two concepts about faith.

First, faith is the belief in things not seen.

Second, faith without action is a dead faith.