“We have this hope” has been a Seventh-day Adventist anthem for at least five decades.
“We have this hope that burns within our hearts,” we sing. “Hope in the coming of the Lord!”
There’s not much like hearing 70,000 people in a single stadium banging those lines out and insisting through the emphatic, vaguely Soviet, and none-too-subtle notes that something new is on the way.
Anticipation is where the song stops, however. The quickly coming something is apparently unavoidable: what’s coming will come. But the hope in the song only projects an outcome. It doesn’t have the force to propel us there.
What we need to get from “what is” to “what will be” is not hope, but imagination, the capacity to perceive what might just as easily move from idea to reality, from possibility to form.
As I shared recently, Walter Brueggemann distinguishes between the imperial, totalitarian, controlling mindset of management and the prophetic, creative mindset of imagination.
The management mindset, also called the “royal consciousness,” is implicitly satisfied with the way things are, even if it also uses the rhetorics of hope or change.
So a large system may well have use for hymns about hope—but actual hope suggests a world of alternatives, a universe of new information, something that doesn’t already exist, something that the social power center hasn’t already determined and does not control.
The present ordering, and by derivation the present regime, claims to be the full and final ordering. That claim means there can be no future that either calls the present into question or promises a way out of it… The present is unending in its projection, uncompromising in its claim of loyalty, and unaccommodating in having its own way…
It is unthinkable for the king to imagine or experience a really new beginning that is underived or unextrapolated from what went before. Kings were accustomed to new arrangements and new configurations of the same pieces, but the yearning to manage and control means that new intrusions are not regarded as desirable. Nor are they regarded as possible or discerned when they happen.” —Walter Brueggemann
Since the Pacific Union College Student Association’s statement on diversity was published this week, I’ve had half an eye on the blogosphere’s comment sections—for science, not penance. I’m no longer surprised by the Adventist community’s hand wringing about social change. In this moment, my surprise has shifted into fascination with a side of resolution to a future that’s wider in perspectives and presence than the past has ever been.
“It is the task of the alternative prophetic community to present an alternative consciousness that can energize the community to fresh forms of faithfulness and vitality.” —Walter Brueggemann
It’s our job to imagine our individual and collective futures despite the social hand-wringing and despite the system itself. Imagination is our job!