For me, the word “imagination” has become a theological term. Much of what I believe requires incredible imagination. I think oftentimes, faith becomes about backwards-looking imagination: I can imagine two of each animal crammed on a boat, I can imagine a dude being swallowed by a big fish. I can imagine someone being resurrected from the dead that one time. My sense though, is that the biblical authors wrote what they did in order that we might have imagination about the future. Can you imagine a world where swords are beaten into plowshares? Can you imagine a world where the metaphorical lion (the predator) and the metaphorical lamb (the victim) co-exist harmoniously? Can you imagine the hungry fed, the prisoner released (and the prison closed), and the sick restored to full health?
The people who have positive influence in this world do so because they are hopeful. And they are hopeful because they are imaginative. They imagine solutions to problems. They imagine avenues where others see roadblocks. They see opportunity where others see crisis.
I’ve always clung to a statement made by theology professor, Gregory Love, that in the atonement the first thing that is “saved” is our imagination. Think of it, if evil can be combated in nonviolence and death can be circumvented, then what else might be possible? The good that can exist in this world seems only to be limited by that which we allow ourselves to imagine possible.
To hope, then, is a willful act of creativity. Hope builds a world that does not exist from the raw material found in the depths of the soul. Perhaps a hopeful world is a world filled with artists…