Progressive Revival

One of my favorite movies is the old film, Anne of a Thousand Days.  After her turbulent affair and
brief marriage to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn awaits execution in the Tower of
London and reflects on the fleeting 1,000 days she spent as Queen of England.  “One thousand days,” she ruminates
sadly on the events of her marriage. 
“Only one thousand days.”

If one thousand days seems short, what is this business
about 100 days?  Barack of a Hundred Days?  One hundred days
into a presidential term seems–pardon my skepticism–relatively
inconsequential.  Sure, some
policies can be established, ideas generated, new partnerships formed,
directions set, and tone changed. 
But 100 days is a wink of human time, especially in relationship to the
enormous challenges facing us:  the
world is undergoing a massive period of economic, technological, philosophical,
religious, and social transformation on a historical scale not seen since the
17th century. 

One hundred days? 
The media wants to talk about 100 days?  It hasn’t even happened yet, and I’m already tired of a week’s worth of media chatter on 100 days.

I think President Obama has done pretty well with these 100
days–about 6% of what will be his current term.  But no matter the success, progressive Christians would do
well to take the longer view as in the words of Psalm 90:4, “For a thousand
years in your sight are like a day gone by.”  Or, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “the moral arc
of the universe is long.”  One
hundred days is the briefest bits of time, almost imperceptible in any
meaningful historical way. 

Of course, 1,000 days may change history–as they did in the case of Anne Boleyn.  Or, these 100 days may wind up being among the most significant in American history.  But–and this is an important but–we won’t know that for quite some time.  The importance of individual days are most typically revealed only in the longer term.

Patience is an under-rated virtue these days.  But anyone who works for justice and
social transformation knows that change does not occur on neat timelines or in
pre-packaged media holidays.  No,
working on behalf of a better world–a fairer, more just, more equitable world–a
world where human beings in all sorts of circumstances might flourish–is tough
business.  Even in the most
optimistic times of American history, progressives recognized this.  In 1922, at the height of
pre-Depression enthusiasm, the liberal Baptist preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick,

The course of human history is like a river, sometimes it flows so
slowly that one would hardly know it moved at all; sometimes bends come in its
channel so that one can hardly see in what direction it intends to go;
sometimes there are backeddies so that it seems to be retreating on itself.

Human history happens in fits and starts, Fosdick said, “a
fight, tragic and ceaseless, against destructive forces.”  But, with faith, he argued that change
“is not aimless, discontinuous, chaotic change,” but a “path” of God’s justice
that moves history toward its spiritual culmination. 

1,000 years. 
1,000 days.  100 days.  All are but moments as the moral arc
bends.  Work for change.  Keep the long view.  And remember that old-fashioned virtue:


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