Renewal and other empty promises

Renewal is a trope common to all religions. To hope for renewal is to have a desire for something one thinks no longer exists. It is an appeal to a certain kind of sentimentality.

The followers of Islam might hope for the renewal of the Caliphate or hope for a repeat of greater eras of Islamic culture or hope just for generic and old-fashioned righteousness. Christians of all sects, too, speak of the renewal of righteousness and renewal of faith. Similar examples could be given for Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and many other religious traditions. The worst among all of these pine for a less specific renewal of God’s Rule over the land — the god of their own sect, of course, and, not unexpectedly, that governance would involve actual people. Suspiciously, no gods in sight.

A little bit of thought about some of the implications of a true renewal would show us that, like any other overhaul or reconstruction, this would be a messy and disruptive undertaking. The faithful often seem to hope for what seems to an outsider, and even them, to hear them describe it, a magical, benign change. Such a renewal is cast as a blessing to be bestowed invisibly and received  with cupped hands but, if those many promised or hoped-for renewals are to be taken as literally as for all of the things they called for, that is, for heightened, vague spiritualism, for extra special holiness, cleaner purity and so on, the world would be transformed into a very different kind of place. For one thing, it would not be quite so habitable. An Earth restored to idyllic form would probably be incinerated or drowned, to hear the sermons and read the foundational documents. To be fair, it would indeed be an Earth without crime or disease or suffering. Containing no people–or plants or animals–it would be pure and without blemish.

The idea of renewal, presented by imams, pastors, priests and other promotors, is continuously popular from year to year and generation to generation in every country and province precisely for its supple, vague optimism and equally vague menace: The idea finds special traction among those terrified of their neighbors, convinced of a peculiarly universal foreign disarray and cultural disintegration.

But these hopefully and weekly expressed sentiments from the faithful never seem to hinge on rigorous analysis of what actually challenges people within their communities; their assent to the proliferated messages of spiritual renewal do not take into account careful community planning or even just plain, financial investment. Calls for renewal and promises of a bright future with a god hinges only upon self-obliterating obedience and languorous prayer. That and not a small dose of communal credulity. Imagine how threatened rational citizens would feel if the promises made by religious zealots and their scriptures were to be taken seriously! Happily, these ideas rarely effect the daily business of life. Jesus is not really going to come out of the clouds while you have lunch with your boss or during your vacation in the mountains.

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