In this Easter series I have been using the notion of différance used by Jacque Derrida to illustrate how hope, faith, and love are always both different in some sense than we expected and also deferred to a degree.
Today I want to talk about the future.
For years as I have taught seminary courses I have tried to convince my students that the saying, “the more things change the more they stay the same” has never been less true that it is today.
In the 21st-century, the saying should be: the more things change the more rapidly they will continue to change.
We live in a time of unprecedented change that happens not at an incremental rate but at an exponential pace. This can be very disorienting and even discouraging for some.
This rapid rate of change affects everything from the economy and environment to technology, our families and our religious communities.
In the last 100 years we have moved from being a largely rural and agrarian society through an industrial and onto a technological society. These changes are profound and cannot be understated.
I recently found a saying that I really like,
“the future was better yesterday.”
Many feel like this is too true. The future used to be bright and full of hope whereas now it feels uncertain, chaotic, and even concerning. We can no longer promise to our children that if they just apply themselves they will get a good job and be able to take care of their family.
The future seemed better yesterday.
This is where the notion of différance really pays off for me. The future will both be different than we expected and in some sense our hope will be deferred.
Know this may seem like an odd thing for a Christian minister to say. Some people may think that it is the job of the church to say “everything is going to be okay.” Well I’m not that type of preacher and that is not my understanding of the gospel.
In the post-World War II era many churches took on a very therapeutic rule to help people be well-adjusted citizens in a stable society. In many instances, and I would say mainline churches like the United Methodist in particular, became so overly identified with the surrounding culture but the culture actually took on many of the virtues and values from the gospel individually no longer needed the institutional church because the culture itself had become inseparable to large degree from the ecclesiastical community.
This is the secular age we now live in.
That shift was probably a good thing and largely inevitable. Of course the downside is that the mainline denominations fell into a steep decline narrative and it has caused a real identity crisis. In that context the role of the church became Little more in some cases then embracing sentimentality and the warm fuzzies. We were chaplains to the empire.
I came of age in the era of the Cold War and I remember with the fall of the Soviet Union, the Berlin wall and communism in eastern Europe that many assumed we were in the end of history. We had reached our final form. Between capitalism, democracy, and nationalism you can hardly imagine a better way.
It became so impossible to imagine that there would be an economic form after capitalism or a government better than democracy or day when the nation-state was no longer are primary identity.
A famous saying states that for many Christians it is easier to imagine the end of the world then the end of capitalism.
But we now live in a time of crisis. We are plagued by ongoing and perpetual problems: environmental, economic, political, educational, psychological, medical, and relational to name just a few categories.
So as a person of faith I have no interest in promoting some pie in the sky starry-eyed optimism. If that is your brand of faith that is fine and I’m not trying to burst your bubble.
For the rest of us however there is a growing concern that the answers of the past will not satisfy the questions that are present moment is asking about us.
I agree with my favorite philosopher, Zizek, when he said that the light at the end of the tunnel may be another oncoming train.
I know that may seem disconcerting but as a person of faith I want to deal with reality in the clear about what we are dealing with. As people of faith I want to be prepared for the fact that it may get worse from here.
I am uncomfortable with many of the conversations I hear during this global crisis of Covid-19 and the hope to return to normal in the near future. If that happens that I will be glad to say oh thank goodness.
But I keep asking myself what if we get hit by a second emergency? What if there is massive earthquake on the west coast? What’s there’s a terrorist attack? What if there’s an armed uprising by the second amendment crew?
I just want us to begin having a conversation about life beyond what has become normal.
So to begin that conversation I just want you to think about these ideas that I’ve presented today.
- The saying,” the more things change the more they stay the same” has never been less true than it is right now.
- The future was better yesterday.
- The light at the end of the tunnel maybe another oncoming train.
If this is true, what changes should we make during this global pause to come out of this different than we went into it.
You can listen the audio podcast here: https://vermonthillsumc.org/podcast/the-future-was-better-yesterday/