Ours is now a chaotic time, thanks in large measure to our election of a president who is himself a chaotic person. He seems unable — like much of the Republican Party since its conquest by the Tea Party — to think ahead more than one step. He is apparently unable to envision consequences.
But chaos is not the same as hopelessness.
Think of our own history. Daniel Boorstin (“The Americans: The Colonial Experience”) looks back on early American experiences and writes:
America began as a sobering experience. The colonies were a disproving ground of utopias. In the following chapters we will illustrate how dreams made in Europe . . . were dissipated or transformed by the American reality. A new civilization was being born less out of plans and purposes than out of the unsettlement which the New World brought to the ways of the Old.
America has been “a disproving ground of utopias.” I like that phrase. We’re still trying to create our own unique utopia, of course, and I hope we will never cease. But I also know we’ll never reach the goal because human nature itself will always get in the way.
Nonetheless, our opening years were hardly utopian and not just because of human weakness. Boorstin quotes Governor William Bradford on the prospect facing the Plymouth settlers in 1620. The Pilgrims had landed in winter, a bleak time in the northern climes. Bradford wrote:
For summer being done, all things stand upon them with a wetherbeaten face; and the whole countrie, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage heiw. If they looked behind them, ther was the mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a maine barr and goulfe to seperate them from tll the civill parts of the world.”
Prospects for survival were not good and hopes for utopia were impossibly out of reach. And yet here we are, the greatest, strongest, wealthiest nation the earth has ever seen.(I would like to say we’re also the kindest and most generous, but at the moment that’s a bit in doubt.)
But my ground for believing that today’s chaos is not hopeless goes beyond our own American experience. The ground of hope in times like this is found in the first verses of the Bible.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
The Creator and Sustainer of the Universe first made chaos and then brought order. That’s an important observation. Orderliness, “law and order,” sensibility, rationality. . .all these are brought from chaos.
All change is a form of chaos. And our Lord is the Master of Chaos. So our task now, aside from being as sensible as possible, is to be as faithful as possible. Bonhoeffer, in his own time of national chaos, said that in times like these we must rely on “prayer and righteous action.”
Our hope in not in our president, not in our congress, not in ourselves at all, but in our Lord. Trust and obey; trust and work; trust and hope.