Narratives of Hope

By Volf, Miroslav; Williams, Tammy | The Christian Century, January 28, 1998 | Go to article overview

Narratives of Hope


Volf, Miroslav, Williams, Tammy, The Christian Century


America once again considers itself the capital of the future," wrote Ronald Brownstein, commenting recently on "the return of America optimism." "Return" may not be quite the right word: even in its more pessimistic moods, mainstream America exudes a kind of optimism rarely found elsewhere in the world. Which makes talk about the "return of optimism in "America" even more significant. By all standards, this is optimism extraordinaire.

At the end of the century, pessimistic fin-de-siecle moods seem in retreat before a "pitiless procession of good news. The economy, now in its sixth year of growth, has driven down unemployment to its lowest level in a quarter century. The federal budget deficit, which once threatened to submerge Washington, is evaporating like a puddle on a sunny day. Crime is way down, and the rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock birth are stabilizing after years of explosive growth."

The consequence? Bright-eyed Americans, buoyed by a heightened sense of security, are smiling at the dawn of a new millennium. The "city on the hill" of past centuries has become the "capital of the future" -- a vision not too far removed from Ebenezer Baldwin's musings in 1776 that America would be "the principal seat of that glorious kingdom, which Christ shall erect upon the earth in the latter days."

Observing the capital from the periphery, one gets a sense that something has gone wrong -- the same sense one gets when reading about American teenagers with unexceptional academic skills who nonetheless extol the superiority of their mathematical performance as compared to that of their peers in other countries. The problem is not that they feel good about themselves even though their performance is shabby; the problem is that they need to believe that they in fact perform better than others in order to feel good about themselves.

The mainstream culture seems to reason: If you keep pumping personal and national egos, the world will be all right. Don't worry about actual math scores or the many lamentable public schools. Don't worry about the "dead streets" of inner cities, about low wages for unskilled laborers, about racism that still raises its ugly head. Instead, indulge in dreams about "the capital of the future." For when Americans feel good, they have babies, they work, they achieve.

But will the "feel-good" strategy work? And if it does, at what price?

The controversial film Amistad, which chronicles an 1839 slave mutiny, casts a brief shadow over the dawn of the new millennium by relating a messy story that threatens our sense of optimism, even superiority. We need precisely this kind of complex narrative which compels us to confront the underside of our history and thereby helps us imagine a just and peaceful future.

Named after the Spanish slave ship that was commandeered by its African captives off the coast of Cuba, Amistad portrays the capture and imprisonment of rebel slaves by American authorities and their subsequent grant of freedom after their legal claims reached the U.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Narratives of Hope
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.