Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Day the Stones Sang Songs of Hope

Today I attended a lecture entitled Eclipse of Empires, Dawn of a New World Order, featuring two of UW-Madison's most prominent and (on this day) book-promoting professor's: Alfred McCoy and Crawford Young.

I cannot pretend to do justice to the remarkable conversation here, but a particularly compelling digression occurred over McCoy's observation that, with the decline of the U.S. as world empire a near-certainty (within 25-40 years, McCoy projects), a futuristic global empire is imaginable in which a global, governing class of wealthy, largely corporate, elite, navigate between high-profile cities as the masses are relegated to the margins, with economic disparity on a scale never before seen in the history of humanity, and governments relegated to contractor status for these dominant corporate powers.

The digression came in the form of another well-respected professor's suggestion that McCoy and Young were being too optimistic; that their "straight-line" projection failed to account for human depravity, world war, and a potential global economic collapse on par with the Great Depression.

As the professor spoke, it was hard not to hear echoes of the apocalyptic gospel lesson that began the Church's Advent season. Indeed, a friend recently preached his observation that, while the post-modern world finds end-time claims of faith traditions unintelligible, the post-modern world's vivid imagination for the end of all things is all too operative. "There will be signs..."

And then, as the conversation droned on, a most peculiar sign: bells, from the carillon tower just across the street, lifting up what I would have sworn - had I not known better, situated as we were in the heart of secularist UW - was a hymn. It was a hymn. And more than that, a laughably out of place hymn for a land and still holding the season's first snow. I began to mouth the familiar words: "Now the green blade riseth..." An Easter hymn. In the bleak of winter. In the face of annihilation and collapse, even faced with the revelation of the sin that makes the American empire possible. In the deep winter of the soul's despair. The very rocks crying out:

Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain,
Thinking that He never would awake again,

Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain,
Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain;
Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Jesus' touch can call us back to live again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:

Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

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