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Because It Rains: Why Kobe Bryant’s Death Hit So Hard & Wide

The following was written by Isabella Yosuico. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) Why has a death like that of Kobe Bryant—and his daughter and companions—hit so many so very hard? Even non-basketball fans have been […]

A Future Not Earned But Given (THE FUTURE ISSUE IS HERE!)

In celebration of the Future Issue hitting the PO today, here’s Issue 15’s Opener, as well as the Contents page. If you haven’t subscribed, the time has come!

Like every person who sped through HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl, I immediately wanted to know what it all looks like today. After six-plus hours of radioactive waste and human suffering, I needed to know the ultimate impact, so I googled it, and one image I found there has been emblazoned on my mind since. In the foreground, you have what once was a very cutting-edge (for the Soviet ’80s) Brutalist apartment building. There’s a giant insignia standing proud on the rooftop, the hammer and sickle superimposed on a globe. The insignia has rusted to green, and the apartments below it are completely blown out. The apartments are apparently inhabited by wild dogs.

In the background of the photo, further on the horizon, two silhouettes are visible. The first is the “sarcophagus,” the enormous steel dome sealing off the reactor that exploded in 1986. The second, harder to make out, but unmistakable if you look close enough: a ferris wheel. An eerie reminder of what this place was once meant to signify: the Nuclear Age, the great tomorrow of the Soviet people. Now it’s a place literally frozen in the past.

Chernobyl is a harrowing fable about the instability of future hopes. In this fable, promising visions are always clouded by hubris, hubris which winds up both thwarting the future you’re working towards, and poisoning the present you’re living in. Chernobyl is a visceral reminder (on a global scale) that every hope for a Promised Land is as shortsighted as those promising it.

Unfortunately, at this present cultural moment, anyone with Wi-Fi has a future to promise and publicize, and so it can often feel that we “live in the future” more than we live in the present. But the human race has always lived in the future more than in the present. It’s easier to live in the future. Much as we may subscribe in theory to the merits of “mindfulness,” the future is preferable because, practically speaking, the tedium of the present is too much to bear.

Especially on an average Wednesday afternoon, at work. The writer Jonathan Malesic recently described what the ancient monks used to call acedia, “the noonday demon.” It is that force of inertia that slows everyone down at 2 pm. Under the weight of acedia we grow idle, we find ourselves refreshing Twitter again, shooting off a few “what up” texts, looking from our workstations out to a future that doesn’t include this expense report or that team presentation, but something more. As Malesic puts it,

Acedia gets you to wish your life away in anticipation of something that will validate your worth as a person. If you feel lonely and anxious in your work now, then maybe you’ll feel better at that meeting tomorrow, or when you get a new project each week, or after you get a new job altogether…

Any 2 pm Promised Land of a new career, or a new vacation, is a bad Promised Land, Malesic says, the fruit of the same restlessness that will be waiting for you tomorrow at the next stop. Why not just accept the gift of the present moment, then?

Man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.

So, while we are future-oriented people, the futures that we orient ourselves toward are ones we ourselves must create, produce, and earn. This is why anxiety is a future-oriented emotion. When the world to come, the Promised Land we hope for, is one we must bring ourselves to, our present lives become understandably colored by fear. Am I doing enough? Is this the right direction? How will I know if it isn’t?

In putting this issue together, it was important for us to distinguish what exactly Christianity has to say about the Future. Christianity is ultimately rooted in a future promise. The Gospel is a message of hope. Jesus leaves his disciples with a commission and a vision. But, at the same time, the Bible is full of ambivalence about future investments: Save your manna for tomorrow, and it will rot. Go ahead, take out an insurance policy on your harvest, but what if your personal harvest has come today?

We are functional believers in a future that is ours for the taking, but there is a sense in the Bible that the future is not a human thing to reckon with at all. The Bible pronounces that all the work you’ve put in, all the injustices you’ve fought against, all the vacation time you’ve stored up, finally amount to a future that is not earned, but given—or not given. A future that tenuous would be most offensive to those who have plans. Unfortunately, everyone’s got plans.

So while Jesus himself promises a Kingdom coming, an ultimate future where every tear will be wiped clean, Christianity is also not alien to dystopian thinking, to a deep pessimism about where human beings are capable of steering the proverbial spaceship. On top of this, the Good News proclaimed in the Christian faith, of salvation and a New Heaven and New Earth, often feels about as sealed off as Reactor No. 4. As Tolkien puts it, the Christian is not afraid to see history “as a long defeat, with small glimpses of final victory.”

This is the terrain we’re exploring in this, the Future Issue. A long history of bleak futures, and the one solid Future we’re promised to inherit. We have interviews with science fiction novelists and classical historians; essays on the future of church architecture, Amazon orders, and the human race itself; and amid all the grim prophecies and 2 pm job searches, we can tell you there is a difference between blind optimism and real, lasting hope. The Future won’t be so bad, dear reader; let us tell you why.

Ethan Richardson

Editor

Get the Future…today! 

 

 

Hopelessly Devoted: First Timothy Chapter One Verse Fifteen

This morning’s devotion comes from Paul Walker’s Almost Daily Devotional. Chris Stapleton sings a song called “Drunkard’s Prayer.” “When I get drunk, and talk to God / I say I’m sorry for the things I’m not / I mean every word I say / And I promise I can change / When I get drunk, […]

Hopelessly Devoted: Romans Chapter Three Verses Nine Through Twelve

This one comes to us from Paul Walker’s “Almost Daily Devotional”: The Third Sunday of Advent has been called “Stirrup Sunday” after the collect’s plea for God to “stir up” his power on our behalf. There’s nothing like a little churchy witticism to get you going on a Monday in mid December. Ecclesial wit aside, the […]

From Mary’s Womb

My son was being showered with attention and shouts of “Happy Birthday!” when another mom leaned over to me and quietly said, “Happy Giving-Birth-Day to you!” And I thought, “Yeah! Why is he getting all of the attention? I’m the one who went through childbirth!” Soon of course that attitude passed, and I continued celebrating […]

Stealing the Joy from the Gospel of Luke: Misadventures in the Christmas Story

Mary, about to give birth, treks down with Joseph to the backwater town of Bethlehem to fulfill Caesar’s census decree. They arrive at Joseph’s hometown and are greeted by “no vacancy” signs at all hotels, and the Airbnb’s have just been banned by the municipal authorities. The snow begins to fall. They are jet-lagged from […]

Devotion # 4 – Larry Parlsey (Colossians 1:21-23)

The next video from our gathering in NYC features conference chaplain Larry Parsley. Here Larry addresses shame and the curation of blemishes — and from where we draw our ultimate hope:

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:21-23 NIV)

Devotion 4 – Larry Parsley from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Shared Story 4

I had the privilege this past week of attending a field trip with my son’s third grade class. It was held at a place called Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit organization that sends food to places around the world where children and families desperately need nourishment. We helped assemble, seal, and box the bags […]

Above the Noise: A Word of Comfort in a World of Sound

The ears, Martin Luther said, are “the only organs of the Christian.” His point was not to contradict Paul’s “body of Christ” analogy but that hearing is the most passive of the senses. While the watchful eye and the grabbing hand both suggest a more aggressive mode of action, the ears simply receive whatever comes […]

Ancient Samaritans and 70s Seminarians

It was curious to me that the first Christians didn’t see the parable of the Good Samaritan as a purely ethical mandate. I’m talking about the oft maligned, rarely approved interpretation of the Good Samaritan parable that nearly every early church father embraced. If you dabble in the waters of church history, then you know […]

Shouting Louder (Mark 10:46-52)

This morning’s devotion is taken from Larry Parsley’s book An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel: Meditations on Mark. …they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he […]

G.K. Minds His P’s and Q’s: Why Human Happiness Depends on Good Doctrine

I hate to admit it, but I am not a DIY person. In an age where there are countless instructional videos online to walk me through any number of household tasks, I, for the most part, tragically remain a get-someone-else-to-do-it person. Call it what you will — apathy, entitlement, laziness — but it is a […]