The Longer View of History
I recently read a piece about the great distances in the universe and the vast amount of time involved. The nearest star to the earth, other than the sun, is Alpha Centauri, which is estimated to be about 25 trillion miles away from earth - - 25 Trillion! It takes light from Alpha Centauri more than four years to reach the earth.
The image that the author chose to illustrate this distance was the printing and delivering of a newspaper. (I know the idea of a printed newspaper is a bit dated for some modern folks who prefer to receive their news on screens, but bear with me.) Imagine a newspaper that was published on Alpha Centauri being delivered to our front porch this morning, perhaps tossed from the window of a delivery person's car or maybe an alien space ship.
The news contained in that newspaper would be at least four years old. Theoretically, all the newsworthy issues discussed in today's local paper probably would have been resolved, or at least changed, by the time we read about them in the Interstellar Tribune.
Most of us who do follow the news and the current state of affairs in our nation and in the world are likely to spend time being somewhat perturbed. There is so much anger, divisiveness, recklessness and duplicity that we are subject to despair of any good outcome. Climate change, political chaos, population migration, racism and international terrorism. Huge problems that we feel so helpless to contribute anything to helpful solutions.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to do what we can to address suffering and injustice. Certainly, it is hard to see much that we can do to affect these massive, complex troubles that have developed over so many years of toxic choices to the point that they have become embedded in our culture. Our most powerful tool is prayer; and we are all called to pray for our nation, for our leaders, even for our enemies, offering to God our hopes for a just world. There are some ways that each of us can contribute to positive movement, and of course we are called to do whatever we can to promote health and justice.
Yet it is sometimes hard to avoid a kind of despair about it all, a mental agitation and fear. Despair is one thing followers of Jesus never need to fall into. "Fear not" is one of the main themes of Jesus' message. "Fear not," said the angel to Mary. "Fear not," said Jesus, "You are of more value than even the sparrows." [Mt 10.31] "Do not fear, only believe" [Mk .36]. "Fear not little flock, it is the father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." [Lk 1.32]. And perhaps the most useful for us, is the Apostle John's admonition, "There is no fear in love, but love casts out fear... The one who fears is not perfected in love." [I Jn 4.18 ]. Love is sadly lacking in our public discourse.
Getting back to our interstellar newspaper delivery, we are reminded that four years from today the public events we are experiencing now will be old history. The outcome will be known, and of course there will be new troubles to worry about. Our faith is that God sees the long view of history, that God is capable of correcting our errors, and, through the ancient processes of human life and nature, things are being worked out. To quote another philosopher, "In the river of time the universe is unfolding as it should."
Without being too naïve, I think this can give us comfort and peace. At least I hope so.