My generation gave up on progress. We remember those (unintentionally) funny little cartoons that pictured the future and all of the unbelievable inventions we would all have in our homes. I've been to Disney World and seen the attraction close to Space Mountain based on the same theme. It's funny in a novelty way now, though both were dead serious in the beginning. The fact is that we don't have flying cars or a refrigerator that makes our breakfast for us. It never happened. It never even came close. It's not that we haven't made progress...it's that all of our predictions were laughable in retrospect. This is exactly the phenomenon that Conan O'Brian gets so much mileage making fun of with that bit on his show. The entire reason the gag works is because the year 2000 came and went, and nothing spectacular happened. That's just it, isn't it? Everyone from Prince and Will Smith to self appointed Evangelical Doomsday prophets to Technology Geeks told us there would be something...and there wasn't. Not a bang...not even a whimper. Time just kept going, in exactly the same way it had before midnight. Nothing great happend. Nothing catastrophic happened. We woke up the as the same people in the same place when the sun rose in the same way it always had. "And there was evening and there was morning...the billionth day".
And it was really just the straw that broke the cammel's back. The generations before us had promised us great things. "The world is going somewhere" they said. "We know what we're doing" they said. Then I watched the Challenger explode on takeoff from a TV screen in my fourth grade classroom. Then the twin towers fell. Then the Columbia exploded on re-entry. The year 2000 came...and went with nothing much to show for it. And to top it all off, most of the things we thought would make the world better actually made it worse. It's not that we lost faith in the great stories...It's that we lost faith in the ability of human rationality and achievement to act on them in any meaningful way.
Oddly enough though, this I think presents a very interesting opportunity for the Gospel. I'm not talking about the "get rich quick" scam we passed off as the gospel. I mean the real thing. I'm not talking about pitching the right ideas to obtain the right reward. No, I'm talking about beliving in something that makes us together a force for good in the world. Instead of selling the idea that the world is progressing into a great future, I'm talking about a world that is being pulled forward into God's future. I'm not talking about pitching a way to save our individual butts from Hell...I'm talking about us partering with the God of the universe to save our word from the Hell it can become in this life and in the afterlife for all of us. I don't believe in progress. I believe in God's world being pulled into God's future...and for all the stories that turned out to be fairytales, I believe in this one...and I believe this true story has the power to change the world.