Friday, November 30, 2012

Striving for a hopeless cause

One of the things that struck me about this article that quotes Pope Benedict XVI's reaction to the recognition of a Palestinian state is just how, as Christians, we are to strive for the inevitably hopeless.  I mean, read the reaction:
"No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing. Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream."
No more bloodshed?   No more fighting?  No more terrorism?  No more war?  That would be great.  And since peacemakers are called blessed, and told they will be called sons of God, I think it's something we Christians are supposed to strive for, despite the fact that it's apparently a hopeless cause.  Why hopeless?  Because of sin?  Because of human nature?  No, because Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of wars,when speaking about what to look for leading up to the last days.  He took the existence of warfare as a given in the same way he took the existence of the poor as a given.  And yet, we are to reach out to the poor, even if we can never help everyone.

There's something in that, I must admit.  Something that makes me wonder if in the tendency we have of adjusting our faith around a yen for comfortable lifestyles we might be missing something.  I mean, I spend my life trying to keep my home, avoid foreclosure, avoid bankruptcy, somehow get my kids through college, save in some way for retirement, and so on.  And that, too, seems to be an assumed set of values, since Jesus often uses the shrewdness or the careful planning of individuals as a good thing in certain parables (I'm thinking of Matthew 25 and Luke 16).

But yet, in the end, there seems to be something in our faith that say just do it, no matter how hopeless   This isn't to be confused with using such an observation as an excuse to avoid responsibility   This isn't to say our response to complex ethical dilemmas should be 'screw it, I'm not going to sin, babies are going to be killed anyway, so I'll stay pure and know I'm doing the right thing.'  Martyrdom, after all, is not how willing I am to let others die for my faith.

But there is something to be said for striving forward, fighting the fight, giving it that old college try, no matter how hopeless.  Even if God himself has said there is no hope that wars will end, we are to strive to end wars.  Even if Jesus spoke of the perpetual existence of the poor, we are to strive to help all who are poor no matter how hopeless.  I don't know.  There's probably a profound insight in there somewhere.  It just hit me when I read that quote.  No more war?  Indeed, there will always be war, just as there will always be crime, poverty, despair.  I suppose as long as it doesn't lead to an ethic that allows the weak and helpless to suffer under the guise of 'it would happen anyway, but at least I'm being pure', it is something to consider when we measure effectiveness versus our calling as Christians to strive to set our minds on God's interests, rather than man's interests.

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