Thursday, February 07, 2008

On Obstinate Optimism

I find it interesting, when I consider genres like the printed page or the screen (big or small), how rare a thing it is to come across a true tragedy. You know, the kind where Sauron takes the Ring, where Voldemort kills all the Muggles, and where the villain escapes at the end, leaving behind a trail of suffering and darkness with no evidence of "lux post tenebras" (as the fella said).

The reason for this is pretty obvious, I think: Deep down we need to believe that nice guys finish first, that only the good die old, that cheaters never prosper, that crime doesn't pay, and that honesty, at the end of the day, really is the best policy.

Problem is, none of this is true. Not in the here and now, anyway.

What if the story of man, in his earthly kingdom under the sun, is the consummate and archetypical tragedy? Now I know what you're thinking: "Well duh, Sherlock! Of course it is, look at all the suffering and misery out there." Yes, but perhaps we're not seeing the tragic nature of the human story with sufficient clarity and depth.

Let me put it another way: What if our collective earthly story, yours and mine, is actually swept up in and even contributing to the tragic nature of this present age? What if it's not merely the case that, despite America's most valliant efforts to rid the world of evildoers, suffering still exists out there among the swarthy and less civilized. But what if we Americans are ourselves culprits, contributing collectively to what we claim, on paper at least, to desire to eradicate?

I'll not elaborate just yet (or perhaps ever). I'm just wondering out loud if we American Christians are willing to accept the fact that our heavenly citizenship may be the only redeeming thing about our earthly lives.

I mean, we Reformed folk can resign ourselves to being outsiders looking into a broader church culture with which we feel little affinity, and we often do it with no small amount of moustache-twisting and sinister glee. But why can we so readily "tsk, tsk" those misguided evangelicals, while insisting that our secular corner of the earthly kingdom is on the right side of every battle, destined to don the white hat and ride off into the providential, common grace sunset?