Part of my morning ritual includes reading the paper. Actually it’s two and sometimes three papers. Most days it can be pretty depressing. Currently the news is mostly about the presidential election, the Olympics, floods in Louisiana, fires in California, war in Syria, cop shootings, cops being shot; the usual stuff. It’s called “Doom and Gloom.”
Preaching doom and gloom seems to be valuable currency in every age. There always seems to be those who will try to convince us all that we are “this close” to catastrophe, and that we had better shape up or face the consequences. But, as with most things in life, there are other ways of looking at the world.
Don’t get me wrong. The world is clearly a mess in a lot of ways. We can never be naive about the kinds of violence that exist in the world, and not just physical violence either. I would argue that all the ways we pollute our planet is a form of violence, that all the ways we assault and condemn one another in the name of whatever political or religious agenda we have is a form of violence.
Doom and gloom is real. And it leads to the worst kind of response we can make. Despair.
Despair is the offspring of doom and gloom. It immobilizes us, numbs us, robs us of our humanity. For example, according to Psychology Today, “The suicide rate among young adults has tripled since the 1950s and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students.” These are our children and grandchildren. Their lives before them, with all they promise, they are filled with despair?
And some will ask, “Where is God?” As always, there are two general answers to this question.
The first is that God is judging us and our doom and gloom, so we had better clean up our act or we will wind up in “that place we don’t want to wind up in.” This is the most common answer, given throughout Christian history. It’s based on the hierarchical structure of “God in heaven, people on earth, and hell below.”
This construct is being challenged both without and within the church today. Why? The most obvious answer is that hell already exists on earth. The 20th Century was the most violent in human history, and raised questions, theological questions about God and God’s presence. In the 60’s some theologians even argued that God was dead.
See how insidious despair can be?
The second answer, the one I’m betting my life on, is that God was never “up there” but was always in our midst. Present in the very creation we are a part of. So-called primitive religions have always understood this. Rather than thinking of God “up there,” think of God as being part of our every day reality, actively involved in the lives of us all, nudging us toward the best possible outcomes, laughing with us, crying with us. Loving us.
And aching for us to do the same.
“That all sounds fine and good,” you say, “But how do we do that?!”
A catchphrase from the 60’s might provide an answer. It’s simple really. Maybe even corny. And, of course, like most things that came out of the 60’s, not very realistic. Or so people say.
“Bloom Where You’re Planted.”
That’s it. Bloom where you’re planted. Find what makes your heart sing and do that. Your job is not to save the world. That has already been done. Your job is to be you. No one else can do that. Only you can. Replace despair with hope. And faith.
God will do the rest.