“As our current crises carry on, we will be sorely tempted to recreate an idealized, selectively remembered past…”

Golden Calf

Over at Christianity Today, Jeremy Sabella, a lecturer in religion at Dartmouth College, reflects on the place of nostalgia in times of social crisis. His theological reflection draws heavily upon the Old Testament story of the wandering Israelites and their nostalgic longings for their old lives in Egypt.

Here is a taste:

In times like these, communities of faith can offer something far more edifying than nostalgia: hope. Hope, in its full biblical sense, arises out of hardship: “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope.” This hope endures precisely because it is the work of the Spirit: “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5). Hope takes root when the people of God follow the Spirit’s prompting to face the present trial. Nostalgia, on the other hand, can tempt us to indulge phantoms of an idyllic past rather than face the present hardship. Giving into fantasies of the past cheats God’s people of the opportunity to cultivate hope that overcomes despair.

Our comfortable, settled American life has given way to a season of wilderness. Wilderness spaces unsettle us to our core by confronting us with how contingent our lives are. The manna God provides in such spaces does not taste like what we’re used to. But it nourishes us in ways that the rich fare of our previous settled life could not. As our current crises carry on, we will be sorely tempted to recreate an idealized, selectively remembered past rather than attend to the needs and concerns of the present. But God’s people must discipline themselves to focus on the here and now. For that is where the work of the Spirit unfolds, making all things new.

Read the entire piece here.