One must remember when in dialogue with unbelievers that a utopian longing may be present. Christians believe the kingdom of God will become fully realized in the future. It is by God’s power, not by human strength, that all things promised come to fulfillment.
For five-hundred years in the West a number of authors have described fulfillment by human power. Thomas More enlisted the Greek derived word. Utopia (meaning nowhere), as the title of his book, describing an ideal society. A host of books, published since then, have dwelt on the same subject. Dystopian (referring to highly dysfunctional societies) novels, mostly written in the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries, e.g. 1984 and Brave New World, are available in abundance. A novel, The Light in the Ruins (by yours truly), that has recently been published by Westbow Press, is an example of this type of writing.
Many secular-minded individuals, certainly not all of them, long and work for an ideal society in which all human beings flourish. Communism is a utopian ideology that has produced dystopia. One need only read about the modern history of Russian and China or the equally nightmare reality of Cambodia. Utopia seems as far away as ever.
The problem with utopia is that the requirements of a perfect society do not at all match the nature of human beings who from a Christian perspective are sinners. Imperfect beings cannot produce a perfect society, but are more likely to produce its opposite.
In the literature many different kinds of utopia have been described. Different writers have different ideas about what is ideal. Utopian and dystopian novels are most often critiques of present reality.
The fact is that only God can bring about a perfect society under His reign of love. You may have opportunities to share this perpective when in dialogue with unbelievers.
It is good to listen carefully to others to discover their aspirations and hopes about the future. Few people live under a regime of pure nihilism that denies any sort of fulfillment in the future. Human beings were not made to look into the face of nothingness and exclaim, “All is well.” Christians can encourage the belief that God will fulfill our lives through the coming of the New Jerusalem where love conquers all. It is a matter of faith, not sight.
MIchael G. Tavella
August 20, 2019
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux