Watching the musical Candide at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater was an interesting discovery in interpretation. Voltaire, the author, is questioning how optimism and the church interpret the world. He intended to strip away the naivety of “hoping for the best” to see the depravity of men, the cultural stuckness of women, and the need to get used to being disappointed.
I wonder if this philosophy of the Enlightenment is not a common vision. Though the theater was full and delighted in the quality, people seemed equally happy to dismiss the hope of a creative God engaged in this world. Candide communicates much truth about the uses and abuse of humans toward one another, which I took as an apt description of the state of fallen humanity. But I left wondering why we have to give up hoping and focus only on our garden of survival.
Churches have a great task in creating hope in the alreadyness of God’s activity in the world. Yet so much is focused on what we can do, and we dismiss the story of God in creating our own. Yes, we need to be honest about our weaknesses and failures, compassionate toward the needy, and active in loving those who dance around us. But we also need to be able to speak of God’s future with a grounded optimism that extends beyond the mental twisting portrayed in Candide. How do you live the story of God’s hope in your context?