We are not a MOPE generation. We are a HOPE generation.
I will allow that it is no mean feat to be a hope generator negotiating so cynical an age. Being an optimist in a postmodern society is something akin to running up a downwards-going escalator.
Postmodernism is the lingua franca of the cool and edgy…but like the phrase itself (which can mean just about anything), its users say one thing but mean something else. Novelists who happen to be fanboys of the postmodernist genre are not afraid to pull you out of the story to show off their writing chops and give irony a nod. Their self-referential wink at the camera (“Hey, it’s only art, after all.”) is a hip way of saying they don’t take themselves too seriously. They deem the genre of binary morality tales to be passé and pastiche.
If you dare ask a postmodernist what he stands for, he’ll give you a look that says, “You dare ask so uncouth a question? You’re unibrowed. Knuckle-dragging. Tall-haired. Three-toothed. You…caveman. Me…enlightened.” He claims that “the only absolute is there are no absolutes,” which is an absolute statement predicated on a paradoxical, self-contradictory, oxymoronic maxim.
The postmodernist gives his own case away.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying we all become traditionalists, mossbacks and fuddy-duddies. I’m not suggesting we turn back the clock. We should indeed get past the past. I’m all for a bolder tomorrow. But postmodernism is not new. Postmodernism is just modernism after the shock wore off. To advocate that the world will be a better place if we become neanderthals is categorically false. I’m not lobbying for the tameness and sameness of “churchianity.”
The answer to postmodernism is not Neo-Pharisaism:
In the ancient world, there were only 6,000 Pharisees at any given time. Their name literally means, “separated one,” all too fitting for elitists. Pharisees adhered to the commandment, “Honor the sabbath day and keep it holy” and refrained from work. But they defined what work was. Work could be defined as “carrying a burden.” Ergo they debated whether wearing false teeth, donning a wig or lifting one’s child on the Sabbath day was a breach of the law because that was technically, “carrying a burden.” Jesus – that shattering personality – “worked” on the Sabbath and healed people. Why, Jesus healed on the Sabbath seven times in four Gospels! He flew in the face of the Pharisees’ traditions in favor of love.
Conversely, the postmodernist’s solution to neanderthalism is nihilism. Like insurgents toppling a tyrant, who in turn have no clue how to run mundane government, postmodernists are fantastic at exposing the heresy of the powers that be but have no solution to the problem they’re so adept at pointing out. Known more for what they’re against than what they’re for, postmodernists become jaded. Contract Weltschmerz. They grow world-weary. In a word: a postmodernist is like dancing with a girl at a party when she clearly wishes she was dancing with someone else.
Such blasé cynicism is no new thing. It’s been in vogue for millennia. The Israelites are a case in point. Geographically, their journey to the promised land should’ve taken only 11 DAYS when in fact it took 40 years. (They wandered around the same ole mountain because, even in Bible times, men wouldn’t ask for directions. Jokes). They murmured in their tents, thought Egypt the bee’s knees, deemed the land of milk and honey too good to be true (instead of acknowledging that, because God was in it, it’s so good, it’s got to be true), and they bucked against the establishment to oust those who led it: Moses, Aaron and Miriam. Their cynicism got them swallowed up by the earth, eaten by snakes and meals of maggoty manna. But at least they were trendy (wink, wink).
The Israelites were infamous for their snarky doubts, their jaded sardonicism. Until. A prophet like Malachi emerged. He didn’t speak nihilism and atheism but mysticism and optimism.
“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another,” Malachi said, “And the LORD hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” The context against that text was that Malachi sang the praises of those who were praising the Lord in the face of widespread complaining against God. Very beautifully, he says that every word spoken, making much of the God of Hope, is not in water writ but recorded in a Book of Remembrance. The Lord is the author of your faith, and He’s writing a book that contains all your hope quotes.
In a day where jaded talking heads had become the M.O. of the Cool, Malachi said that God was listening to people who opted for optimism. The Lord hearkens to hope speech. In fact, the word Malachi used for “hearken” is the same word that describes the ears of a dog perking up when he hears the voice of his owner. God’s ears perk up when He hears conversations that don’t beat people up but build people up.
Don’t let the postmodern world beat the childlike hope out of you.
Don’t. Grow. Jaded. How do we add hope quotes to God’s Book of Remembrance when life feels as awful as the postmodernists suggest? Answer: There’s a bottle in the book!
In Psalm 56, the poet penned, “All my tears are in Your bottle; are they not all in Your Book?” There’s a bottle in the Book of Remembrance! In Old Testament times, women actually collected their tears in “tear bottles.” A woman’s tears were a precious possession, because they represented her happiest memories (tears of joy) and greatest tragedies (tears of woe). They signified the most important moments of her life. The tear bottle was normally given to the man she would marry.
(Note: The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair probably did so by emptying her tear bottle on Jesus. She was admitting she was the “bride of Christ.”) Your tears are not lost on God. Every tear that stains the tragic middle pages in the Book of Remembrance makes the happily ever after all the sweeter. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. If you sow in tears, you will reap in joy.
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filled the pools” (Psalm 84:5-6). Baca means “weeping.” Put simply: Too blessed to be stressed is she who goes through the valley of weeping and makes it a spring for others to be refreshed! Weeping can either make you bitter or others better.
Worldly sorrow leads to despair, godly sorrow to catharsis. Science shows that emotions denied breathing room affect our physical, mental and intellectual performance. Crying is healthy. When, like the Psalmist, your pillow is swimming n tears…when you venture through this “Vale of Tears” and the valley of the shadow of death with your Good Shepherd, Baca becomes a spring. As Oscar Wilde said, “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.” There’s a bottle in the book, and the book is chockfull of hope quotes!
Jesus said out of the heart’s abundance the mouth speaks.
The Old Testament teaches we will eat the fruit of our lips. Translation? If you don’t like the fruit, check the root! The power of life and death is in the tongue. David asked God to save him from the WORDS of his enemies which were like SWORDS. Our words can either build people up or cut people up. What takes only ten seconds to say can lead to ten years of regret.
One study says one of the main reasons women fall into depression is because they don’t have the blessing from their husband: They don’t feel valued and appreciated. Do we nourish life with the tongue or suck the life out of people with our cynical talking? If we want to be world changers we’ve got to be word changers. Let’s be wor(l)d changers!
Every week we speak enough words to fill up a 500 page book. What’s the book you’re writing? What is your story about? Is it a drama? If you want to make history by talking about His-story, then add your hope. Speak to God’s Book of Remembrance. The Good Book says, “Happy are those people whose God is the LORD.” Everything will be happy in the end, so if it’s not happy, it’s not the end!
Don’t be a postmodernist beating us into a mope generation; be a sacred optimist building up a hope generation!