Thursday, December 25, 2008

The animating vision of the moral imagination

Every great movement in human history was driven by the moral imagination. Many of those movements were similar in their claims: they were in quest of justice and peace.

What the world celebrates today is of course more than a child's birth: it is a reiteration of an ancient and continuing yearning for a better world, in which justice and peace prevail. As a social scientist I am interested in the moral claims that somehow resonate with the human psyche. With respect to a day like this, Christmas Day, we see a message that resonates, affirming how broad is that yearning for peace and justice. The great texts of this season, ancient though they be, still captures the imagination from generation to generation.

Isaiah's prophetic vision of a future with justice and peace is read and reread in this season, perhaps because it so effectively characterizes the great hope shared by peoples all over the world, people who otherwise would agree on little else.

ISA 9:2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

ISA 9:3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.

ISA 9:4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.

ISA 9:5 Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

ISA 9:6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

ISA 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

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