Lesson 16: Hopes and Fears

Hopes and FearsPeople are really worrying about the future. That’s what I found in all my classes from the high school, the young adults, the three more mature, and the online ones. When we discussed hope, all spoke in one way or another of fearing the future. Some seemed to live under constant threat.

A lot of this was a reflection of the current volatile world situation. However, those in my classes felt the power of modern technology brought new dangers. Their worry centered on grave doubts about human nature’s ability to manage technology.

Technologists maintain human nature is no obstacle to their visions of the future. Those championing a vision Franz and I labeled “Technology Expectation” claim technology will bypass human nature. It will use deep algorithms to foresee all possible outcomes in order to make the best decisions for us, computer programs to settle fairly any conflicts in personal transactions, and ubiquitous surveillance to keep offenders in line.

Those fostering “Technological Optimism” feel technology will transform human nature. It will provide enough knowledge and opportunity to convince people we can finally solve humanity’s basic problems. When we see it is possible for all to have enough, we shall begin co-operating rather than competing.

Those in my classes thought both of these are terribly naive. They understand Christian hope is based on God’s promise to provide peace, justice, and love in the future and to participate in humanity’s pursuit of these now. They have faith that such hope transforms human nature, but have different ideas about how this works. Well, it might be more accurate to report nobody is all that sure how it works.

All of our people think hope depends on God’s promise and participation. Most acknowledge this involves some kind of waiting in confidence for God to act. Our discussions become more questioning at this point though. Some emphasize practicing peace, justice, and love in your personal life in such a way that you benefit from the blessings of those values now. For instance, you find peace in your heart, trust you will be treated justly, and feel beloved. Some think you have to go further in making your practice a witness meant to transform other people’s lives, so they can also enjoy the benefits. Others go further yet calling for action that will also transform the community through personal or political activities that bring it closer to the ideals expressed in the visions.

I relish the different opinions, because I think they demonstrate that the divine-human relationship is an ongoing conversation. If we are to overcome our fear, we have to learn from one another. The conversation involves much more than just sharing our personal opinions about the religious experience of those in our group. It also listens and responds to the voices of the past recorded in the scriptures and history, and it engages with the thoughts of those set apart to lead. Nonetheless, I believe in our day hope is going to be found in the conversation in which God speaks through all his people.

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3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Kerry says:

    Thank you for this!

  2. Derek Halverson says:

    When I read this lesson I felt compelled to see what sort of definitions were used to define poverty. The issue being that it is an ever changing, sliding scale. A dictionary definition defines it as the state of one who lacks the usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.

    Perhaps more interesting is the World Bank’s definition as described by Compassion International here:
    https://www.compassion.com/poverty/what-is-poverty.htm
    which states that the poverty threshold starts with fear for the future.

    In that sense, as you note in the opening paragraph, we are all a bit impoverished, and truthfully I suspect most of us tend to act too much in that mindset despite our current circumstance when deciding how generous we are able to be.

    This came from the descriptions in the text of the expectations some put on technology. I consider myself something of a technological optimist, but I don’t see it eliminating poverty. Technology has made a great difference already, but I don’t know that we have a lower percentage of the population living in poverty than thousands of years ago. Rather the difference is that in the modern first world, the poor can also be overweight and have a cell phone.

    Still, it is perhaps one of the few sources of optimism I’ve felt for the future. I’ve said things like that before, and what occurs to me having read the lesson is that I haven’t felt much hope in generous Christian action making a wide transformational difference in society this side of death and the second coming. Rather charitable giving can make individual lives a little better right now, which still makes it worthwhile, but then the money is spent and things continue as they were.

    So perhaps what is needed isn’t so much less optimism in technology, but more optimism elsewhere?

    • Fritz Foltz says:

      I totally agree that “the poor” refers to all kinds of people and situations, including his own small band of disciples. I sometimes interpret it as “poor souls”. We greatly limit Jesus’ teaching when we limit it to a monetary meaning. In fact, we lose the ability to understand the Bible unless we discern religious words have a wonderful ambiguity.

      I think you also probably perceive when I use the term “technological optimist” I am defining a special group who do think technlogy will solve all of humanity’s basic problems. Franz and I use Christian hope in contrast to pretty much express your position. You see the potential but also the limitations.

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