On Peter Mommsen’s “Hoping for Doomsday”: So eye-opening to understand the difference between apocalypse as fear and punishment and apocalypse as unveiling. My spouse and I read this together and found it very helpful in reshaping our views of what’s important in a time of war in Ukraine, Covid, etc. I guess I wonder if we’re being told to stop worrying about the future and focus simply on the moment we’re in? Like plant a tree now, then go meet your Messiah.
I have found myself, all too often lately, “doomscrolling” through articles on climate change. This article is such an antidote to the fear and anxiety that come from this kind of empty pursuit. Just recently, I started reading through Revelation again. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I would go there given my depressing focus on climate and civilization collapse. Your article exactly articulated why: I’m looking for my true and lasting hope in and through all this. My heart’s true cry in hope is in concert with the Spirit and the Bride – “Come Lord Jesus, come!” Our Morning Star signals the end of the night and the start of a new day, that’s where my focus needs to be … while tending to His garden, even as damaged as it is.
Life’s Not Safe
On Brandon McGinley’s “Everything Will Not Be OK”: Mr. McGinley didn’t mention the Covid plague we’re stumbling through. I use the word “stumbling” advisedly, given the shambolic response our various public health, government, and cultural institutions have provided since the arrival of the virus. I believe, though, very much in line with the author, that our current cult of safety has driven us past the edge of what was once considered sane – dare I say adult – behavior. It seems clear to me that this obsession with an unattainable level of assurance in the preservation of our mortal bodies derives immediately from what Alexander Schmemann referred to as a culture that defines man “not from ‘above’ but from ‘below.’” If we are merely the meat puppets our world tells us we are, there is no cost for safety that is too high.
Of course no one wants to get sick, or to be responsible for the sickness of another. But there was a time (not even very long ago) when we understood in Whose hands our fates were held. You cannot hold your own fate in your hands, though we do try. It’s a bit like giving yourself a piggyback ride.
One has the sense that there is a communal waiting for victory, for all of this to end and for things to return to “normal.” That, too, is a fantasy. A veil has been pulled aside, and what has been revealed to us is what was true all along – that we are fragile; that we live in a fallen world in which bodies sicken and die; that we will sicken and die in time, long or short. But the battle has already been won. We can see that, as McGinley so ably points out, if we cast our eyes above, rather than below.
On Cardinal Peter Turkson’s “The Spiritual Roots of Climate Crisis”: This interview with Cardinal Peter Turkson should be required reading for political leaders the world over. If we stop for a moment to think of God’s wonderful creation – where the fruits of the earth were to be shared by all – and see what, in our selfishness, we have done, we need to hang our heads in shame. To put it bluntly, we have made a mess of God’s wonderful creation and unfortunately the innocent are paying the highest price.
The Foundation of Hope
On David Bentley Hart’s “Tradition and Disruption”: David Bentley Hart’s wonderfully crafted article is provocative, slippery, and, perhaps, a bit of flummery. His work begins with the notion that the church’s effort to rightly articulate the gospel was something that occurred long after the existence and work of the earliest, kingdom-intoxicated, Christians. But the questions that finally led to the creeds began during the life of Jesus, when he asked his disciples: “Who do men say that I am?”
It appears that the earliest of Christians loved God with their minds as well as their hearts. This was so because the center of the proclamation of the gospel (Acts 2 and I Corinthians 15) was the coming and work of Jesus Christ. It is true, of course, that invested in this proclamation was (and is!) the coming of the kingdom of God. It is also true that this coming will mean the utter disruption of this present, wicked age and thus inspires a kind of rebellion on the part of God’s people.
But there always has been a center to godly Christian rebellion, because there is a center to the gospel and that center is Jesus Christ. From this center, the kingdom of God was understood (and not in a hazy way!); by the reality of this center the kingdom of God was expected; from this center the claims of nations and rulers were tested and adjudicated.
Thus we understand that Christian refusal to embrace racism (or the policy of abortion on demand) comes not from a sense of an unknowable disruption caused by the future coming of the kingdom of God. Instead, it comes from an understanding of the nature and implication of the Incarnation. It comes from knowing that the creed we profess on Sunday morning is true. Now we can see that the creed is not simply a “melancholy” response to the delay of the coming of the kingdom. It is, instead, an articulation of the gospel, and when it is understood, it leads Christians to act in a way that is congruent to the reality of this gospel; a reality that will mark the coming kingdom, a kingdom reality we can know, because we know the king.
To declare the creed is to declare light in the midst of darkness, truth in the midst of a great lie, the foundation of hope in the midst of despair. Furthermore, because the creed declares the truth, we are emboldened to await the coming kingdom with certainty.
A Caregiver’s Dilemma
On Johann Christoph Arnold’s “Living with Dementia”: I am grateful that you are helping people think about dementia. However, I felt that the article was excessively negative against care homes. My wife has frontotemporal dementia (FTD); she was diagnosed over fourteen years ago. She is still at home, but the time is probably coming soon when the loving thing to do is place her. At present I am able to care for her needs (cooking, cleaning, dressing, coping with double incontinence) but if her limited mobility decreases any more I might not be physically able to care for her as she needs. At that point I believe the loving thing to do would be to place her in care where people are around all the time and can recharge by going home after their shift is over. The alternative would be to provide sub-standard care at home.
Such a placement would not be, in my opinion, giving up on her care, nor on my wedding vows, but a shifting into a new role whereby I would still advocate for her. After all, if our loved one has a medical emergency we don’t insist on caring for them in our house, but are willing to let them go to hospital.
In my experience the life of a caregiver is hard and often very lonely, and there is the temptation to feel unnecessary guilt when faced with having to choose from a number of bad choices. I felt that the author was trying to pile on unnecessary guilt using inflammatory language such as “warehouse” and “feel guilt, pain, and shame.” This very negative approach to caregivers spoiled what was otherwise a good article.
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