Seven days in and March is proving to be a hectic month, full of good things, but full of things nonetheless. I haven’t allotted myself the time I normally do for ruminating. That said, I feel I ought to share/reflect on David Zahl’s reflection on Andrew Sullivan’s essay on America’s opioid epidemic. Admittedly, I haven’t read Sullivan’s piece in its entirety, but DZ’s thoughts on it are worth sharing nonetheless. There are lots of gems in there, but I thought this passage especially poignant. Writing about how in our culture (and churches), we prefer to avoid addressing the real problems ailing us, he states:
…we opt instead for false positivity or spiritual to-do lists. It’s acceptable to preach a topical sermon on marriage (on the right) or racism (on the left) but not… despair. Which is, ironically, the most relevant topic of all when it comes to the Christian religion.
If, as Zahl argues, the current epidemic can’t be reduced to its political and economic factors (relevant though they may be), but reflects a much deeper crisis of widespread despair, then the response of Christians ought to be one that addresses that despair with countervailing hope.
Readers who don’t share my beliefs may find such assertions ludicrous, if not offensive. The response is fair and warrants another conversation entirely, one I’d be glad to have. But at the same time, I would argue that the deepest need of our time is grace in a world bereft of it.
And I think that’s what I’m trying to communicate with this blog—exploring how to think and live and treat others with grace in a world where disagreement is thought of as violence and political leaders flex their nuclear muscles on social media and billionaires launch their cars into space. My hope, I guess, is to see how truly transient these things are—and how the apparent madness of our time needn’t have the final say. Indeed, it won’t. I’ll close with DZ’s close:
The gospel, if it is to find traction in the age of fentanyl, must speak to the Crystal Champs of the world. It cannot stop at sobriety or hang on willpower; it must resonate in the Wet House as well as the dry. This gospel, if it is to be actual good news, must address men and women whose hearts and bodies are infected with all manner of trouble, bereft of hope, who see God as an exacting cop (if at all), not a loving father who meets us where we are, in our shame and sin, with mercy, help and the spirit of adoption.
Thankfully–and miraculously–it does. The gospel in the age of fentanyl is the same gospel as ever, the message about the God who intervenes upon us with outlandish charity, at a cost to himself, offering life eternal to those who’ve been checkmated by the here and now. Not one who gives hope to the hopeless, but who is hope to the hopeless.