No matter who you voted for in the presidential election, you’ve got to admit that a large wave of enthusiasm washed over our country and made quite a splash on Inauguration Day. And whether or not you believe all the high-flyin’, hope-flingin’ rhetoric, you’ve got to admit that lofty words lift spirits. Come on; admit it. That was true in the Reagan era, so give our new president his due. He, too, knows how to inspire people.
In fact, before you start worrying about whom I voted for and whether I am a Christian just because I made one positive comment about President Obama, let me quickly turn your attention from politics to psychology.
We are witnessing a natural law of the human psyche in this wave of enthusiasm. We are wired to respond passionately to gigantic dreams. To big talk. Audacity is almost automatic. Given the choice to listen to a dreamer or a manager, we’ll take the dreamer nine times out of ten. We don’t even have to believe him, but we love hearing words that rise above our limited experience and low expectations. We prefer the activist over the accountant any day, even though the accountant has accurate facts to back up his dismal projections.
Even when our hopes have been dashed time and time again, all it takes is a passionate dreamer selecting choice words to breathe life into hope’s dry bones. This isn’t just me saying so. I’ve got the support of the most famous and articulate sage of all time confirming my claim. “Hope springs eternal.” There. You see? If Anonymous said it, I believe it.
But here’s the thing. Lofty words are rarely empty words when spoken with sincere, even misguided optimism. Lofty words, big dreams, audacious plans catalyze action even when those dreams and plans are impossible. At every juncture between what is and what can be, there stand people who must follow someone’s call to believe the impossible can occur. And the fact is, when someone calls clearly and points confidently, we are wired to say yes.
This is a lesson we Christians need to learn. Our concern to be morally right often mutates into a fear of making mistakes. Consequently, our rhetoric rarely rises above the horizon of predictable outcomes. If we can’t be sure something will turn out well, we won’t risk it. Often the world, not so habitually afraid of “doing something wrong,” is freer than we are to jump into the deep end of the pool of the impossible with a sink-or-swim passion.
As a result, people respond. An amazing coalition of energy, ideas and resources is marshaled into action that never would have been prompted without a ridiculously impossible dream. That’s essentially what John F. Kennedy said in 1962 when he promoted the dream of putting a man on the moon. “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to measure and organize the best of our energies and skills. …”
Without huge, audacious challenges the “best of our energies and skills” never get measured (How much can we really accomplish?) and organized (How do we put them to the best synergistic use?). They just sit on the couch flipping channels between American Idol and Dancing with the Stars where we fantasize about stellar accomplishments.
Thank you, President Obama, for reminding us that people are ready to respond to someone bringing a huge challenge. As a result, we may see more clearly our timidity in how we envision what’s possible and make our plans. Thank you for startling us awake. Your successful invigoration of the secular masses challenges us to retake our God-given place as the prophetic community that calls our world to audacious hope.
We who gladly belong to the Free Methodist tradition must redouble our efforts to honor that tradition by once again owning the audacious dreams of our founders, to spread scriptural holiness across our land and preach the gospel to the poor. That gets me off the couch!