In his timely new book, Truth & Hope: Essays For A Perilous Age, Walter Brueggemann writes: “Truth-telling is grounded in the God who will not be mocked by our illusions. Hope is God-grounded in the conviction that even our wayward resistance does not negate God’s good resolve for fidelity in the creation of futures.”
Then he asserts: “Without that God-groundedness, truth-telling can readily become nothing more than harping, and hope-telling only wishful thinking.”
Those familiar with Brueggeman know his unique ability to bring forth the prophetic voice within the biblical text in ways that unsettle our complacency and stir our poorly settled priorities.
When blessed to be in one of his doctoral seminars long ago, I described the experience to friends as “listening to George C. Scott as Patton, telling Old Testament stories.”
The intensity and insights have lasted over the decades. And more follow in this latest volume from Westminster John Knox Press.
The prophetic tradition of truth-telling anchored in hope is exactly what we need in this particularly perilous time in which fear and uncertainly seek to rule our days.
If seeking a compromised chaplain to our current culture (and there are plenty of loud ones today), don’t read Brueggemann. For that matter don’t read Jeremiah either, who voices God’s disgust with injustice and reminds us too we have forgotten God and trusted in lies. (Jeremiah 13:25)
Crises test our arrogant claims of piety and exceptionalism — and the “moral cover,” as Brueggemann calls it, used to justify aggression toward and exploitation of those we, but not God, consider of less value and expendable.
Fact-less ramblings repeatedly flow from the highest level of government. Propagandized memes spread across social media like a virus — with their unsubstantiated claims regurgitated in conversations.
Truth is in short supply, while forgeries abound. Truth is not speaking one’s mind or “telling it like it is” when it isn’t.
Even the one who claimed, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life,” has his way of life dismissed as inferior to power, prejudice and fear — by the very ones who claim him as savior and lord.
Uncritical minds and fearful hearts grasp that which is comforting over that which is, in fact, uncomfortably true.
Daily wolf-crying numbs us to the point we simply don’t expect to hear the truth — and often don’t want to deal with the upheavals of reality. Truth is a tragic casualty of lazy minds that settle for easy, false answers that temporarily soothe the fears and satisfy the appetite of those unwilling to taste cultural change.
The only adequate fuel to keep us going — especially through such challenging times —is realistic hope. It is rooted in the belief that what is beyond us is more promising than our current state.
Hope is what we rest in when we let go of something we love and endure pain that we pray is not lasting. It is betting our lives on the one who promises enduring love.
Back to Brueggeman, who notes that Jeremiah, like other biblical prophets, moved his message from truth to hope in proper sequence: “There can be no hope until truth is told. Our temptation, of course, is to do the work of hope without the prior work of truth.”
As we move into Holy Week and then Easter in unprecedented ways for most of us, we can benefit from what Brueggemann notes, that “in the Christian tradition, the sequence of truth and hope is given dramatic articulation in the Friday [crucifixion] and the Sunday [resurrection] of the life of Jesus.”
Both truth and hope are rooted in a faithfulness that doesn’t settle for falsehoods or immediate gratification at the expense of others or a damaged future.
Many of us have a bit more time on our hands. We can spend those moment, hours and days on mounting fear amid uncertainty. Or we can open ourselves up to better embracing and extending that which is truthful — and out of which hopefulness flows.