Utopian Undertones

The desire for utopia is a common theme in everyday life.  The news is rife with stories of destruction and disasters.  Disbelief and disgust are almost our default responses to the news, and so is our desire for utopia.  It’s apparent that we all want more out of this life – a more ideal life.  In fact, we all chaotically push and pull to bring about more of what we envision to be the ideal life. 

Even if our version of the ideal life may differ, one thing we hold in common is the hope for the ideal to become real.  Perhaps that’s what motivates us all to do what we do.  Yet, as we all know, except those too disillusioned by fairy book tales, there’s nothing we can do to attain and maintain our version of the ideal life here on earth.  Utopia is elusive, and on this earth it will only ever be an ideal sought but not obtained.

Why?  Because even if a common ideal were achieved, it wouldn’t take too long for some selfish soul to disrupt the peace in attempt to gain his own version of the ideal life.  Has human history taught us any different?  No.  Human history is a constant story of conflict and discord.  This is true even on the most basic level – the relationship between husband and wife. 

So, do you agree?  If not, you’re probably thinking that if we all try just hard enough we can do it.  Sure, I agree… in a perfect world.  But, this isn’t a perfect world.  It’s a fallen world.  One in which it’s sometimes hard enough to get along with the people you love, let alone your enemies. 

Some of you may be thinking that if given another try (e.g., reincarnation) you wouldn’t make a mistake again.  That way of thinking is ambitious and should be applauded, but I wouldn’t put too much hope in it.  Even for one thing alone, don’t you have a hard enough time not doing the mistake you promised never to repeat again?

So what’s my point?  We are in dire need of something bigger and better than ourselves, even our collective selves, to get out of this fallen state – a state that we obviously desire to alter.  Perhaps you should ask yourself what your ideal is and why.  Is it an ideal worthy of aspiration?  How would your ideal provide a way out of this fallen reality into a utopian reality?  I’ve found my ideal.  It’s God, and His story of redemption through Jesus Christ.

– Terrence

*Origin of Discursion: Mental discursion during Pastor Dave Johnson’s Easter Sunday sermon about the Biblical history and significance of third days – them being very good days – God’s days.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Utopian Undertones

  1. DJS

    T.

    Good thoughts.

    However, I respectfully disagree with your premise.
    “It’s apparent that we all want more out of this life – a more ideal life. In fact, we all chaotically push and pull to bring about more of what we envision to be the ideal life.”

    I do agree that people are generally looking for more, but would you agree we are looking for ‘more’ for ourselves and not necessarily doing what we can to push and pull society, as it were, into some sort of Utopia?

    People, in general, pursue that which they believe will bring them happiness, often regardless of the consequences their actions may have on society, their family or even their personal long-term well being, etc. In fact, one could argue that the unredeemed fallen human nature is by default moving us away from a Utopian existence insofar as our natural propensity is to look out for ourselves first.

    Now, while I believe that one of the more distinctive (and overlooked) aspects of Christian theology is the redemption of creation, we must distinguish idea of “New Creation” from some sort of Utopian dream.

    Utopia doesn’t seem to be a Christian idea, redemption, on the other hand, might be the central Christian idea.

    Utopia suggests that we can create it if we try hard enough and come to a consensus on the best way to live.

    Redemption is out of our hands, it is in fact transcendent.

    And finally as a good post-modern thinker I discredit the possibility of a Utopian existence for the same reasons I believe “progress” to be a myth… I possess a certain incredulity for the meta-narrative, to steal a phrase from some French philosopher…

    Response?

  2. Good thoughts Stew. Thanks for discursing.

    I’d say that we agree. My premise was intended to address one’s personal and community ideals. I’d argue that we too often disassociate our personal lives from our community lives when they are actually deeply interconnected. Yes, as you said, “People , in general, pursue that which they believe will bring them happiness, often regardless of consequences their actions may have on society, their family or even their personal long-term well being.” Things that we deem as personal prove to have a ripple effect working it’s way out from those closest to us to the broader community.

    I also agree that our natural propensity in this fallen world is to do things that are selfish to attain or maintain our ideal. But, that’s not always the right, or righteous, thing to do. This is one of the reasons I find Jesus so compelling. He called us to go against that natural human state, which is fallen. The human state we ought to desire is the ideal state which we we’re made for – communion with God. Why else would we strive to be like Christ?

    I’m using utopia as an end to a means. Utopia is something that seems to resonate with people. For some reason it’s something people can readily grab on to conceptually. As I stated above, utopia will never be achieved in this fallen world… because we’re fallen and incapable of reversing our own fallen state. This connects back to the personal and community ideal discussed above. Thus, I introduce redemption (which is about God’s ideal becoming reality, and has nothing to do with our ideal, unless we desire God’s ideal).

  3. Christopher

    Terrence,

    Thanks for your comments. I want to dive deeper into what you’re saying because I think that mis-representation of this idea is the key to mis-representation of Christianity. I think we come to essentially the same understanding, but I want to put forth two concepts and see if you agree.

    What is utopia? My understanding of utopia is a world in which all come to a mutual respect and understanding of the beautiful differences that our omnipotent God created in us. Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. The naked are clothed, the hungry are fed. It is a place in which we can come across people so different from ourselves and immediately recognize our divine nature in one another. IT IS NOT a place in which all worship Jesus, all are heterosexual, don’t have abortions, all tuck our shirts in, part our hair on the side, don’t do drugs, etc etc etc. It is a place where we are still challenged by our own innate human limitations, but where our hearts and minds are charged in compassion toward our fellow man.

    The danger lies in simplistic theology: that by merely accepting Jesus (into our hearts?), we are instantly saved. Meanwhile, it is the life-long struggle with Christ’s difficult charge that makes us people of faith, and gives us the keys to work toward heaven on this earth.

    How many people do we know who are “saved” in their Jesusy-utopian ideal, blind to the hellish reality of the world in which we all flourish? I can think of soccer moms in suburban-minivan-mega-church-loving utopia who just know that they’re saved because of their “personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.” These are often the same people who are Pharisetically quick to condemn those different then themselves.

    In the least, a faith in God/Christ/Spirit is a life-long charge of action. It is a heavy and difficult burden, though in a perfect sense, a beautiful and inestimably rewarding one. Is our Christian faith merely a nice accessory in our lives? A personal insurance policy to some unfounded salvation theory? A comforting bubble by which we can blindfold ourselves to the harsh realities of the hellish existence many in this world live?

    THIS deep discerning of faith is the key to tipping thr balance of heaven and hell right here in our midst; not in some far away firmament.

    Secondly, as I discover Christ’s true message I am constantly challenged in my long-held socio-political beliefs. I am becoming ever constantly aware that the American brand of Christianity each of us has been fed (to whatever degree) is highly based upon Prosperity Theology. This is why so many “Christians” seem to focus on instant personal salvation – A whole line of thinking makes it alright for us to continue our lavish existences at the expense of so many others in our world community. Now before anyone accuses me of being a pinko-commie, Rainbow flag-waving, USA-bashing hippie, I want to say that I’m actually an Ayn Rand Libertarian, something I’m attempting to reconcile as a High-Church Anglican.

    Christ spoke of community that takes care of one another. Utopia, to use your term. I call it heaven. WAS JESUS CHRIST A SOCIALIST? Should we seek to politically activate the “utopian” world to which Christ’s message seems to point? What scares me about this is the sheer number of people (60 million Baptists) in this country who think they know what God’s will is: saving fetuses, keeping Gays from marrying, and dropping bombs on A-rabs.

    Comments:

  4. GCC

    “These are often the same people who are Pharisetically quick to condemn those different then themselves.”

    Now that is a great use of a spontaneously generated adverb form of a proper noun. But there’s one problem: It continues a rather ahistorcical portrayal of everyone’s friends, the Pharisees. I’m really not sure where this misunderstanding comes from (although I have theories), but it’s not really on point with this post. So suffice it to say for now that the Pharisees were really more of the peace/love-niks of 1st (or is it last) century BCE & 1st century CE Jewry, not really the evil quick-condemners they are in the popular imagination. (This might be worth its own post.)

  5. Hey Christopher! I’m glad to see you joined the discursion. I’ve always enjoyed hearing your thoughts. I would like to reiterate that I’m only using utopia as an ends to a mean. If utopia is ever to exist, I believe it would only be under God’s redemption, which we call heaven.

    I think speculating whether or not Jesus was a Socialist is rather immaterial. Christians too often separate Jesus from the Trinity. Jesus is the same God yesterday, today and forever. Throughout history God has certainly thrown down His fair share of thunder. God has dished out tough love along with tender-hearted love that we could only hope to emulate.

    Nevertheless, your main argument appears to be captured in your question, “Should we seek to politically activate the ‘utopian’ world to which Christ’s message seems to point?” This question reminds me of Jeremiah 29:13, which says, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (see also Deuteronomy 4:29).

    My next thought takes me to Matthew 22:37-40, which says, “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

    Now, I realize this is an insufficient answer regarding political policy, but it certainly addresses how we ought to treat each other. I’m not sure if we should always save a fetus, keep gays from marrying, or drop bombs on Arabs. But, I’m certain that we should love fetuses, love gays, and love Arabs. I have a bigger issue with people who say they are Christians, but do not love these people, more than I have an issue with saving fetuses, keeping gays from marrying, and bombing Arabs.

    There are certainly a lot of things to attempt to balance in this fallen world. There is also a time for everything, even war (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Sometimes love looks strange. Sometimes love does what it ought for the greater good. Sometimes love does what it ought to preserve Truth. The worst thing we can do is acquiesce. It reminds me of the other 3:16. Revelation 3:16, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”

    If nothing else, the debates of whether or not we should save fetuses, keep gays from marrying, and drop bombs on Arabs are evidence of a fallen world that is sorely out of order. It makes a mockery out of utopia. It also makes God’s redemption that much sweeter. Until redemption is complete, it is our calling to bring more of the Kingdom now – to love the LORD your GOD, and your neighbor as yourself.

  6. Christopher

    Grant – isn’t making up one’s own words a sign of mad genius????

    Have a great weekend everyone. Wish you were on the boat with me in So Cal…it’s 90!

  7. blraatikka

    CGG– I would love to have you post a reconciliation of Ayn Rand and High Church Anglicanism (I’m not saying it can’t be done– in fact, I’ve love to do it myself! Sounds awesome.)
    One thing that caught me a little off-guard with your comments: if Jesus was the Son of God, deserving of all our hearts, souls, strength, and minds, wouldn’t not everyone worshiping him be something short of a complete Utopia?

    And, does the SEC still have boats in Newport Harbor?

  8. GCC

    Sweet, my comment about the Pharisees now has more context: the Matthew quote above. That summation the Law, Prophets, etc. has it’s real origins with the Pharisees, from between about 100 & 70 BCE. But now I’m thinking even more that I need to write a whole post on this and similar topics.

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