Our beloved battle hymn foresees the Lord returning to trample “on the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” Well if that’s a fair description of the end of time, then surely we have arrived. Those bitter grapes are everywhere, indeed, the world is a vineyard. Without a doubt, we are awaiting the last trump! (Don’t scream at me: that last word is not capitalized.)
Here is the USA, fight clubs still sweep the country, not among gangs like MS-13, but championed by young, well-educated, urban professionals. College students riot after being offended by trigger words. Popular politicians are shouted down and hounded off the stage at town hall meetings. If your business flight isn’t delayed while stubborn passengers are pummeled and dragged off the aircraft, it may be forced to land prematurely due to a furious passenger assailing the flight attendant. Meanwhile, social media like Facebook and Twitter are so charged with rage, insults, and vitriol that ordinary people are afraid to sign on for their daily dose of baby pictures.
What gives? C.S. Lewis offered a precise diagnosis of today’s world three-quarters of a century ago. “Aim at heaven and you’ll get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.”
There’s a powerful idea we’ve abandoned, and it begins with trans. Does anything come to mind? Not transsexual: but transcendent. People who cherish transcendent values can live with disappointment and adversity in life because their spiritual convictions lift them above the moments of mundane frustration. Because they believe in heaven, in divine wisdom, and in the power of love, spiritual people literally transcend the down times by trusting Providence and practicing delayed gratification. People of true faith believe many of the best things in life are invisible at the moment, and other treasures are awaiting the fullness of time.
Materialists, on the other hand, expect satisfaction every day because they live in a world filled with things; and things are supposed to bring us joy. Who wouldn’t be happy with the newest smartphone, the most gargantuan HD TV, and a futuristic home where smart devices do everything for them effortlessly? Apparently, that’s not nearly enough for most people. Look again at the seething multitudes all around you. To paraphrase a former president, “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to smartphones or social media or antipathy to people who don’t agree with their ideas as a way to explain their frustrations.”
People who hope only in the here and now have no patience with delay and defeat, even the most fleeting variety. And therein is found the crux of our national despair. We suffer from the most powerful forms of addiction; big money and big government. And now that both of us have failed us miserably, we are left in the misery of withdrawal. We traded away the transcendent spiritual truths that could lift our souls from the Slough of Despond. Very soon, perhaps an old cliche’ will begin to resonate once again: Jesus is the Answer. The world is not enough… seriously.
Lift up the Cross!