Hope Deferred…

kinnon —  October 31, 2008 — 8 Comments

Source for this pic.

There's a passage in scripture that says," Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life" (or as Eugene Peterson would have it, "but a sudden good break can turn life around.")

A lot of my American friends and acquaintances have already voted in the advance polls. They'll spend November 4th getting the vote out for the Changeling candidate. Many others have marked their calendars in eager anticipation of November 4th. Hope and Change are in their thoughts, on their lips and in their writing.

My friend, Ed Brenegar, made this comment on the We are Stupid post below.

This is a therapeutic election. Who one votes for is intended to make one feel good about oneself. One of my closest friends, an Obama supporter, told me that he believes that Obama will not lead according to his past political convictions, but from the middle. My heart sank. Not because I though he was mistaken, but that he, the smartest guy I known, invested so much hope in a narrative that is clearly designed for him to get elected. I felt he was hoping against reason, and that has become the meme of this election. (emphasis added)

When my boys were younger, I used to take elements from their previous day or two and weave them into what we called the "Little Lion" bedtime stories. (Liam was the Little Lion, Rylan the Littler Lion – sorry Kai that I didn't continue the tradition with you – I guess you would have been the Littlest Lioness.) I took some of the hard things they'd gone through and turned them into fun stories of overcoming. But. They were stories. They weren't truth. And they were designed for a specific audience to promote change and bring hope. (And, yes, sometimes they were successful.)

One of the things Obama has said is that people project their ideas and convictions onto him, as if he were a blank slate. I find this quote from an Obama supporter on the BarackObama.com site rather telling,

…specific public display events, like festivals, often have intentionally ambiguous meanings so that individual members of that society can project their own personal meaning onto the representations. So while you have one singular event, you have multiple understanding of that event (which we like to call postmodern hermeneutics).

This is so Obama. He is criticized for being vague and lacking substance in his speeches, but that's precisely the genius of him as a public figure (not a public festival, but still a public figure that operates by using discourse in the public sphere). By remaining somewhat ambiguous, he allows many different people to project their own meaning onto him. That's how he can reach across party, racial, and gender divides: he means something different for everyone. This is also why I consider him to be an important figure as a politician: through his presence in the public sphere as a politician, he has the ability to change our national imaginary.

Perhaps Obama will truly be the first post-modern president – one who "has the ability to change our national imaginary." Or, and I'm afraid more likely, he will turn out to be a thoroughly modern Chicago-bred politician – fully indebted to the machine that brought him to prominence.

While finishing this post, I read a tweet from an Obama supporter, who is a Christian leader, twittering about watching a documentary on how the Republicans stole the '04 election – and how he is so ashamed he was once one of them. He's bought the narrative – Republicans Evil, Democrats Good. (Because, of course, the Democrats would never attempt to steal an election, right!) But I do wonder what he and others will be writing four years from now.

My fear: many happy voters today will have their hearts made sick by hope deferred… once again.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

8 responses to Hope Deferred…

  1. The prevailing assumption is the changes we want are all beneficial,all controllable and without any personal consequences. I sat with colleages, all Obama supporters, and simply asked them what they thought would happen to their small businesses and their clients if Obama was elected. It had not even crossed their minds. They assumed that all the change would affect other people, not them, because they were protected by their support of him. If elected, and he follows through on his intention to redistribute wealth by manipulated the tax code, will not have US depression but a global depression. How could this happen? Because the margin for error in our economic system is so sleight, that the slighest change can result in monumental change.
    I sincerely hope that I am wrong. But my gut tells that we are in for a cruel lesson in the law of unintended consequences.

  2. Thanks for this thoughtful and insightful post, Bill — and your important comment, Ed.

    It is amazing the number of times people look to make some significant change without considering the immediate, much less long-term, consequences.

    Ed, I could exactly see the faces of your colleagues when you asked them that question.

    Very sad, friends … the School of Hard Knocks is giving a mid-term exam, as it were, and all of us students are about to get an interesting November Surprise, regardless of who gets elected.

    Trick R Treat, eh?

  3. Bill, thanks for having the courage to go against the flow. I know many of our neighbors to our north want to see Obama win because he seems to reflect a more global worldview and that is attractive to many. But, I am dismayed at how many Christians ignore Obama’s stance on abortion, sexuality and personal responsibility. I am heartened by your intellectual honesty. Thanks, bro.

  4. Well … I got five words for all o’ y’all:

    seven hundred billion dollar bailout

    We are all going to be hurt by that little redistribution of the wealth, small and large, private and public, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. It doesn’t really matter who gets elected … our financial system is undergoing a significant sea-change … it remains to be seen what will come of it.

  5. Observing from across the pond, if Obama is a pomo President, then, oh dear, you’ve got the American Tony Blair. Blair caught the spirit of the times in 1997 with his mixture of socially liberal and economically conservative policies (we were still at ‘the end of history’, then). He had a charismatic personality with an ability to be inspirational and vague.

    I’m glad to read a thoughtful rather than hysterical Christian piece on the election. See my thoughts here.

    Many thanks as always, Bill.

  6. Bill, as always, your reflections are of the sort that bring light. I’m so grateful for neighbor friends who have a watchful eye.

  7. With apologies to Rushdoony, this all falls into the familiar “messianic nature” of American presidential elections.

    Thanks for stirring up the conversation Bill.

    Keep creating,

  8. Thanks for making me think today.


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