Friday, June 29, 2012

Hope Against Hope

Wonder Woman: This is madness, Kal-El!
It was called The Vanishing, a hopeful name in the face of hopelessness.
For all we know, those people could be gone forever, and our only hope is that they didn't suffer.
Superman: For all I believe...
...they're alive.
Wonder Woman: You have no proof!
Superman: Diana... I don't need proof.
I have something stronger.
I have faith.
- Superman #211
by Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee

An incident happened where a million people around the world suddenly disappeared without warning, reason, or explanation. The incident was popularly dubbed "The Vanishing," as Wonder Woman points out, to give the event a potentially positive spin. Maybe they didn't die by disintegration or spontaneous combustion. Maybe they simply disappeared to somewhere else and are still safe and sound.

Except that was a year ago and there's still no sign of them or where they might have "vanished" to. Superman is taking this particular hard since his wife, Lois Lane, was one of the people that randomly disappeared. He's been searching for his wife for a year. Odds are she's dead and gone and Superman will never see her again. But Superman shrugs off the odds and is determined to still have hope.

And that is true hope. And it fits well with postmodern theology and deconstruction. In his magnificent little book, What Would Jesus Deconstruct? The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church, John D. Caputo writes about faith and hope:

"The more credible things are, the less faith is needed, but the more incredible things seem, the more faith is required, the faith that is said to move mountains. So, too, hope is hope not when we have every reason to expect a favorable outcome, which is nothing more than a reasonable expectation (the virtue of a stockbroker), but when it is beginning to look hopeless, when we are called on to "hope against hope," as St. Paul says (Rom. 4:18), which is a magnificently deconstructive turn of phrase."458*
It is easy to hope in something that is likely, or even relatively unlikely. But it is impossible to hope in something that is assuredly not going to happen. And that is when true, pure hope shines through. Hope is the possibility of the impossible.

"In other words, we are really on the way of faith and hope and love when the way is blocked; we are really under way when the way seems impossible, where this "impossible" makes the way possible." 462
If this sounds illogical it's because it is. Hoping in the hopeless is absurd. It's impossible. It's madness. And it's these mad excesses of love, hope, and faith the Jesus preached. Caputo refers to it as the "madness of the kingdom." I love that phrase.

*I read the Kindle edition of this book, which doesn't have page numbers but only "locations." So if you have a physical copy, these location numbers probably aren't helpful for looking up the citation.

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