Hope Springs Eternal

Comerica Field in Detroit, Steve Pepple /
Comerica Field in Detroit, Steve Pepple /

Oh my, did I need Opening Day this year. Opening Day, of course, is the first day of the baseball season. For baseball fans, it is a time when hope comes alive again, after a long winter of waiting.

On Opening Day, every team starts with a clean slate, all the win/loss records are 0-0 , and, as they say, “hope springs eternal.” There is talk in every baseball town and among all baseball fans of how we really could win this year if only this or that goes right, if our players could live up to their real potential, if we could finally “gel” as a team, and if all the things we can’t control could go well for us and not so well for the other teams. “Have you seen that new rookie?” And “that trade we just made could make all the difference now!” Everybody is a believer on opening day.

The Boston Red Sox need to throw off the long-lasting “curse” of the Bambino, which still lurks around Fenway Park despite their recent successes. The hated New York Yankees still stand in the way of another World Series ring. The Cubs fans in Chicago, with a record that would cause mere mortals to despair, have actually learned to nurse an almost eschatological hope of victory that might require the second coming of Christ to fulfill — but nonetheless, you hear chatter all over the north side of the Windy City about how it could happen “this year.” Just think of what finally going all the way “this year” could mean to my suffering hometown of Detroit, which we could do if Miguel Cabrera stays healthy. And, just so you know, the starting pitching rotations of both the Washington Nationals (the adopted team of everyone who lives in D.C.) and the Tigers are simply the best in baseball. But, I may be a bit biased.

Opening Day always comes, and I believe not accidentally, during the end of the holy season of Lent (marked by waiting in disciplined reflection, sacrifice, and even suffering), and always close to Easter and Passover — when hope comes alive again.

The Politics of Aslan

Politics is a true American idol, and the 2012 election will dramatically demonstrate that reality.

People of faith should never worship at the altar of politics, because we worship God; the kingdom of God is never the same as the kingdoms of politics. Our worship of God should shape our engagement with politics. When politics shapes our religion, it distorts our true worship.

Rather than becoming the chaplains or enablers of political idolatry, the faith community should confront it. The idols of politics are many: the idol of money over democracy, the idol of celebrity over leadership, the idol of individualism over community, the idol of ideology over civility, and the idol of winning over governing. Both sides take a problem and do two things: make us afraid of it, and then blame it on the other side. What they don’t do is work together to solve our problems, finding solutions for the common good.

What caused me to rethink these questions of faith and politics was my encounter earlier this year with a lion in a monastic community overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the beginning of my sabbatical. Entering into solitude and silence with monks, punctuated only by Vigils, Lauds, Eucharist, and Vespers, can alter a person’s perspective. In the monastery’s guest kitchen library, I spotted the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, and decided to reread them. Aslan the lion is the creator and leader of Narnia, the true and good king, and the stories’ Christ figure. Because I was beginning to write a book about the common good, with Jesus as the inspiration for it, I was again drawn to Aslan.

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Listening for the Voice of Aslan

Jim Wallis
Jim Wallis

I returned to Sojourners this week, after a three-month sabbatical. The time away was a deeply needed one, and did my soul good. It did my body good too, and I feel better than I have in years — much lighter and healthier than before.

Sunrise walks on the beach, yoga and prayer to the morning light, and then running along the waves put many things in perspective. Wonderful time with Joy and my boys — Luke and Jack — made me remember how blessed I am.

A main purpose of the sabbatical was to write a new book and, gratefully, I am now on the last chapter. It’s about “why Jesus came,” and the writing made me feel closer to him. Re-reading C.S. Lewis' Narnia chronicles, while on retreat at a monastery overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the beginning of my time away, set the tone for the sabbatical.

My favorite chapter in the new book is called “Aslan, Narnia, and the Living Teacher Who Walks Among Us.”

Castro's (Hypothetical) Death, Narnia and Middle Earth: The Florida GOP Debate Follies

At NBC's Florida debate earlier this week, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich got into a game of one-upmanship over where Cuban dictator Fidel Castro might end up after his hypothetical death.

You really can't make this stuff up. But you can make it funnier...if you're Jon Stewart, that is.

Watch the video inside the blog...