We are living in a time of totally uncertainty. There are a lot more adjectives we can cite: dislocation, disillusionment, disorientation, and dis-ease. The only thing that is certain in our times is uncertainty.
This is highlighted by the news that President Trump and his wife Melania have come down with COVID-19. If the most protected person on the planet cannot be protected against the Coronavirus, no one is safe. Of course, the personal choices we all make do make a difference, and this should serve as a wakeup call to everyone that personal choices do make a difference. No matter what political camp you belong to, or no camp at all, as faithful Christians we must share compassion and prayers for the President and his family. No one should be exempt from our compassion and care. Please join me in prayers for the President and all others who suffer from this horrible disease.
All of us continue to try to make sense out of the current state of our world, and there seems to be no end in sight to the bad news we are experiencing. Let me try to give some personal perspective in this briefing.
Bob Johansen, the legitimate futurist, in his new Book, “Full Spectrum Thinking” delineates the difference between “certainty” and “clarity.” Certainty is negative: it expresses an arrogance and the lack of openness. Certainty is oppressive and lacks the compassion to listen and learn from others and the world around us. As Johansen puts it:
Certainty is rigid categorization. Certainty is freezing the truth. “True believers” categorize obsessively. They want to know whether others are in or out – whether or not they are true believers. And, with true believers, there are usually only two choices. The ultimate power play is to claim that god is on your side – and not the other side. (Johansen: True Spectrum Thinking, pg. 138 Kindle Version)
On the other hand, clarity is open and evolving. Clarity is by nature, “fuzzy,” but never satisfied in staying that way. Clarity is always seeking to know more and get a sharper picture of what we are dealing with. Again, to quote Johansen:
Clarity is the ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot yet see. Leaders will need to be very clear about where they are going, but very flexible about how they get there. (Johansen: True Spectrum Thinking, pg. 59 Kindle Version)
Ultimately, Johansen concludes that in this uncertain present and into the future clarity will be rewarded, and certainty will be punished. We are seeing this play out now on our current political stage, where most of our elected leaders on both sides have an abundance of certainty, but very little clarity. As I am striving for this current clarity, I believe our Christian faith and our Wesleyan roots provides some great filters to sharpen our lenses. Johansen himself quotes our United Methodist Quadrilateral, where Scripture, reason, tradition and experience provides all the necessary tools for the clarity we seek.
Walter Brueggemann, in his blog entitled “Fall 2020: How Do we Not Live in Despair?” provides the very Christian clarity that I have been referencing. He begins with our current reality and if that is the lone story, we cannot help but to live in denial and despair. However, he is quick to point out that we Baptized Christians live by a totally different narrative. Our divine narrative is in the crucifixion, dying and rising of Christ, and proposes that the church has two principle tasks in the midst of our uncertainty:
– to practice grief in the face of denial by truth-telling;
– to practice hope in the face of despair by promise-telling. (Brueggemann, “Fall 2020: How Do we Not Live in Despair?”)
Brueggemann is quick to point out that our Christian narrative counters the secular values of “scarcity, fear, greed and violence” with “abundance, courage, generosity and peaceableness.”
Clarity resists certainty in Brueggerman’s clarion call for the church:
– Resists denial and tells the truth.
– Refuses despair and tells the hope. (Brueggemann, “Fall 2020: How Do we Not Live in Despair?”)
As an Old Testament scholar, he quite naturally turns to the Psalms for his references, and concludes with a powerful assertion:
– The Friday Psalms of lament, protest, and complaint resist denial.
– The Sunday Psalms of thanks and hope for new life refuse despair. (Brueggemann, ibid)
Let me close with his own conclusion:
“There is little point, in my judgment, in the church simply echoing the pious clichés of the dominant narrative of our society.
Our work — and our wonder — is to do otherwise. It is my urging that pastors and congregations may undertake this unfamiliar work that boldly resists denial and with equal boldness refuses despair.” (Brueggemann, ibid)
Here’s to “resisting denial and telling the truth, and refusing despair and proclaiming the hope!”
For inspiration this week, let me close with one of my favorite Psalms:
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
– Psalms 30: 4-5
May we all be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop