Reality and Hope

It’s taken me a while to continue the series of post that have stopped off at points of pain, hope and the prophetic imagination.┬áMy eldest brother has wonderfully distilled Brueggemann’s thesis as follows:

In his book The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann identifies two modes of Old Testament prophets. The first is the message of future hope, shaping the imagination of the people so that they can envisage what God’s future will look like. The other is making sure that they confront the reality of their current situation. In this second mode prophets shatter the rosy views people carry around, the assumption that things aren’t as bad as they seem. They make sure that the true extent of the problems and failings are felt.

Dan Wilt has written recently concerning this call to be the message of hope and its long tradition in the community of those following the way of Jesus:

While writing from their unique times, unique places and unique worldviews, one only needs to read a few words from Therese de Liseux, Bernard of Clairvaux, or Irenaeus of Lyon to sense something desperately needed in our times.
In the face of their own seemingly insurmountable challenges, their words are often fragrant with the scent of hope. Living in hope is a formidable task in our generation. Life is hard, and while the culture around us can be beautiful, it can also be dehumanizing.
… Art and music can be aromatic with an expectation that heaven’s reality will bleed into our daily reality, and can restore the memory to us that new creation and right-relationships are “the order of the day” for the follower of Jesus.

For me this is all typified in the video for U2 and Green Day’s cover of the song ‘The Saints Are Coming’ which was produced following the tragic situation of the floods in New Orleans [home to “the house of the rising sun” and the Saints US football team]] where primarily the less well off in the city were massively affected. The War in Iraq was in full swing at this point also, and subversive references are made to it in the video.

This was the reflection I wrote when I first heard it:
U2 and Green Day join with a city in pain of the tragedy of the citizens of New Orleans; like the cry of a biblical poet, Bono and Billy Joe cry out, “[Abba], How long?”. The video starts with lament in stark black and white cinematography and Billy Joe counts himself among the poor and suffering as he appropriates lyrics from “The House of the Rising Sun”, and Bono pleads that the “shadows still remain”.
As the song gets in to full swing the screen is full of colour and the music rings out the sounds of hope. “The saints are coming” – they cry as news footage of the US air force come to the aid of the flooded city. But this is not a song of blind patriotism but the celebration of the weapons of war being used as tools of mercy, aid and peace, looking forward to a time when people will “beat swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” and a time when “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.”

The song is originally a cover of a track by ‘The Skids’, here are the lyrics sun by Bono and Billy Joe in this version:
There is a house in New Orleans
they call the Rising Sun
And it’s been a house to many a poor boy
and God, I know I’m one
I cried to my daddy on the telephone
how long now?
Until the clouds unroll and you come down on the light wind
will the shadows still remain since your descent
your descent
I cried to my daddy on the telephone
How long now
Until the clouds unroll and you come home
The line went
But the shadows still remain since your descent
Your descent
The saints are coming
The saints are coming
I say no matter how I try
I realize there’s no reply
The saints are coming
The saints are coming
I say no matter how I try
I realize there’s no reply
A drowning sorrow floods the deepest grief
How long now
Until a weather change condemns belief
How long now
When the night watchman is in the fleet
What’s wrong now?
The saints are coming
The saints are coming
I say no matter how I try
I realize there’s no reply
The saints are coming
The saints are coming
(I say no matter how I try
I realize there’s no reply)

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