The new millennium is here, without cosmic catastrophe or computer collapse.
Now what? Will the personal impact of the millennium last no longer than the average New Year’s resolution? Will our dreams of a better world, a more just society, a peaceful, livable earth, vaporize with the millennial hype?
History is not encouraging. Utopian communities tend to collapse under the weight of human failings. Ideal republics from Plato to Communism have stumbled on human selfishness, greed and ambition. Heaven, as the traditional ideal world in Judaism and Christianity, seems to attract less of a following each year. After a century of wars and genocide, appeals to human progress lack the power to inspire. Has cynicism prevailed? Is there any place to turn to with realistic optimism?
Hopes for an ideal world live on in the Bible but require confidence in God’s activity as the foundation of our human efforts. Until recently, our confidence in human reason and mastery of the physical world excluded God more and more from daily life. But suddenly spirituality has sprung up all over. From Falun Gong in China to “new religions” in Japan to a bewildering multitude of movements, churches, havurot and cults in the United States, individuals are searching for a vital, nourishing and all-encompassing way through life. How can the more traditional biblical metaphors and narratives contribute to this search?