Let’s Hope Its a Good One . . .

Sometimes an idea or a song rattles around in your subconscious until you just have to wonder, “What are you doing in there?” I have no idea why John Lennon’s Happy Xmas  (War is Over) has been the aforementioned rattle in less interesting parts of my soul. I’m sure I haven’t heard it on some muzak station since I try to avoid the mall or other muzak using places as much as possible. I generally turn off the radio from the day after Thanksgiving ’til New Years. I love the Little Drummer Boy but after the fifth time I start to dislike that little “Bah rumpa buh bum” in spite of myself and then I feel guilty for not liking it. So I have no reason to think I’ve heard that song but I’ve been humming  it off and on.

 

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

I think what may be bugging me about this song is the words “Let’s hope its a good one” referring to the new year. Assuming that Lennon’s world view is consistent with his other famous song “Imagine” were there is no hell below us/no heaven above us only sky” then hope REALLY is all he has. He can only cast forward a miniscule plea devoid of any justice. In the words of Douglas Wilson–pastor, apologist, and wit–“the universe just doesn’t care” whether war is over or not or whether this year is a good one at all. Consider Wilson’s reflections about the death of Vaclav Havel, his friend and anti-theist Christopher Hitchens, and evil dictator Kim Jong-Il.

On the death of Kim Jong Il, one wit tweeted that he liked to think that God had let Havel and Hitchens decide who would be the third one to go. That’s funny, but if ideas have consequences, and they do, then there are a few other considerations.

We often say, when someone passes away, that they have “gone to their reward.” But given atheism, what is that reward exactly? It is exactly the same for Havel, Hitchens, and Kim Jong Il. All three have now entered into nothingness, which is to say that, given atheism, there are no rewards for anything — good, bad or anywhere in the middle.

Now that’s stark. If Lennon is a consistent atheist, it brings new meaning to the words, blind hope. Some might call that courageous but I’m sorry to this little writer, that’s just sad. It may, despite all logic and reason,  be true (I don’t have perfect knowledge) but its still just sad. Now let’s be fair, the atheist says, given that there is no ultimate justice we should strive for justice IN SPITE OF the fact that we don’t have a cosmic nanny. I give you Bertrand Russel:

If strength indeed is to be respected, let us respect rather the strength of those who refuse that false “recognition of facts” which fails to recognise that facts are often bad. Let us admit that, in the world we know, there are many things that would be better otherwise, and that the ideals to which we do and must adhere are not realised in the realm of matter. Let us preserve our respect for truth, for beauty, for the ideal of perfection which life does not permit us to attain, though none of these things meet with the approval of the unconscious universe. If Power is bad, as it seems to be, let us reject it from our hearts. In this lies Man’s true freedom: in determination to worship only the God created by our own love of the good, to respect only the heaven which inspires the insight of our best moments.

This is Russel’s idea of a free man’s worship. Free from cosmic justice and relationship with God that would require trust in anything but that atoms will do what atoms will do, Russel’s stubborn courage skulks demon-like behind Lennon’s baseless “Let’s hope its a good one.” Courage and good for good’s sake in the face of a reality of atoms in motion just seems irrational. Wilson again:

Nothing ultimately matters and so we must redouble our efforts to act like it does? All things are meaningless, and so we should make sure this thing here is meaningful? This is like maintaining that all triangles have three sides, except for this one here in my personal life, which has five, and which I find comforting. For people who put so much stock in “reason,” you would think they would spend a more little time meditating on what deduction actually entails.

Think of it this way. Every day of his life that passed, Kim Jong Il was one day closer to getting away with everything. In the Christian universe, the day of his death was the day of his final capture and arrest. When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes (Prov. 11:7, ESV). The day comes when his life is required of him (Luke 12:20). But in the atheist universe, the day of his death was the day of his final and irrevocable escape.

Lennon’s song cries for hope in the face of true evils:

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight

And yet there is no reason to think that this worry and compassion is anything but an existential reflex to things that are fundamentally wrong. Quick confession: between Christmas and New Years’ I get more introspective  and somber than a 14 year old listening to Emo while reading Nietzsche. Though I’m not the only one:

The contrast between these two post-Christmas sentiments couldn’t be more jarring. Matthew West gives the Christian response and–despite what every atheist who reads this blog will say–entirely reasonable response. If Jesus really did rise from the dead, then there is not only hope but courage and justice. From the first truth that Jesus exists and did not simply return to the random collection of atoms and into the arms of a universe that doesn’t care, we get a coherent sense of hope and with hope comes courage in the face of our questions and a sense of justice. In other words, Kim Jong-Il didn’t get away with anything.

Here comes the letdown Christmas is over
Here comes the meltdown, there goes the cheer
But before we have a breakdown, let us remember
The light of the world is still here
Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here
The light of the world

Come January I’m ready for summer
The Super Bowl’s over and I’ll settle for spring
Sometimes we all need a change in the weather
But it won’t change the reason we sing

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world

So take down the stockings, take back the sweaters
Take down the lights and the star and the tree
But don’t let this world take your joy after Christmas
Take joy to the world and just sing

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here

 

 


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