Realism and the Fairy Tale of the Gospel

I know what I want to write about, but right now my thoughts are a tangled jumble of threads. We’ll see if I can make it work.

Realism and accepting the status quo are not the same things. 

In the world of intellectualism, idealism is discouraged, and rightly so. It helps no one at all when someone harbors dreamy, half-formed thoughts about what the world should be, but has no foundation to what they believe. During my time in college, I’ve heard people say that as they gained knowledge of the way the world works, they became realists, and realized that their big dreams were just those: dreams. Plans that would end in futility. Because the world is battered and scarred and broken, and good things eventually either can’t get off the ground to begin with, or just fall prey to entropy, like everything else. I may not be giving realism itself a fair case here, but this is what I can surmise from many conversations with many different people. I see people come into the world of academia fired with passion to alleviate suffering in the world, and I see that the flame seems to have burned out in some. I can’t do the things I once thought I could, seems to be a common sentiment.

At Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia this morning, Dr. Christopher Wright preached on the following passage in Jeremiah:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper…This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”   –Jeremiah 29:1-14a, NIV

But…by the waters of Babylon, they sat and wept when they remembered Zion! Isn’t it interesting. God is telling them, Wake up! Your time for mourning has passed! Settle, and Babylon will be blessed through you! Forget your complacency, and act! Make your home here. Invest in this city, for if you do so, you will be blessed as well. Israel is in exile. God is turning “refugees into residents, mourners into missionaries, and victims into visionaries.” He is turning passion and suffering into action that will bring about good for Babylon itself. It echoes of the promise to Abraham long, long ago, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

I think it’s a message to us all. Seek the peace of Babylon, the peace of wherever we are, wherever we’ve been uprooted and thrown. Enough pandering and pondering about the evils of the world, for in the end, in the New Jerusalem, it just so happens that all of the idealism that we’ve avoided will turn out to be the most resounding, ultimate truth.

From the lovely Eastern University production of Our Town that I saw yesterday…

Emily: Do human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?

Stage Manager: No. The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.

 

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