Hope is under siege. Corporate media, social media, party politics, populism, and mass marketing are all undermining and denigrating hope. Hopelessness is the flavor of the day. Wildfires burn at hope, floods inundate hope, pandemic infects hope, politicians mock hope, and corporate America redefines hope as hunger, greed, and dissatisfaction with what one already possesses. Every new drug promising relief from one malady comes with an anxiety-inducing list of possible (horrible) side effects. Climate change, food insecurity, economic disparity, racial injustice, ethnic cleansing, anti-immigrant xenophobia, and a 24-hour bad news cycle promote exhaustion and despair. What kind of idiot would lift up hope?
This kind of idiot. What are we griping about? We are not limited or defined by our maladies, deficiencies and inadequacies. If we don’t like what we see, then it rests with us to change it. Wokeness shouldn’t defeat us, but energize us. The problem is that we are living in such an individualistic and entitled culture, that we (personally) do not think about we (societally and connectionally) might accomplish, so problems overwhelm instead of inspire. Our problem is not a lack of resources or information or knowledge. Our problem is selfish disregard for the greater common good that would allow creativity, synergy, and transformation to occur. Our abdication of community for self-aggrandizing personal and private agency is reducing us to impotent motes in the eye of eternity. Our selfishness is making us irrelevant and unsustainable. It is only in dynamic and symbiotic community that we have any hope of a better future. But we choose not to value one another enough. We is never as important as me.
Maintaining hope for the future can never simply be defined as “what’s in it for me?” What we are doing today isn’t really about us, at least not exclusively. Every generation creates a new layer of advancement, progress, development, technology, learning, and wisdom upon which subsequent generations build. The present moment is given to us as foundation upon which to create a future. For Christians, the choice becomes “do we simply add to what is already here, perpetuating human will for the world, or do we discern and pursue God’s will and desire for creation?” Selfishness, competition, separation, and isolation will never generate hope.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously observed, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” (February 1936 Esquire Magazine, “The Crack Up”), but this is only part of a larger quotation. The rest reads, “One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.” I truly believe this is the heart and soul of true Christian discipleship – to live in God’s hope regardless of what others view as hopeless. And the key here is that no one can do this alone. It is why the focus of the gospels and remainder of the New Testament is on oneness in Christ, unity, inclusion, expansion, and the redemptive grace of God’s unconditional love. How can we not be a people of hope?
Are things tough? Does tragic and devastating stuff happen all around us all the time? Do innocents suffer while oppressors thrive? Do these rhetorical questions have a point? Yeah, obviously. No sane individual can deny the crap of daily life and the pain, suffering, grief, and despair all around us. The fact that all this happens, that all this is true, that it is inescapable, is the very reason why the people of God in Christ must be a people of hope. God never dies, so hope never dies. God never fails, so hope never fails. WE are the body of Christ. WE are the agents of God’s grace and love. WE are the healing word, the kind gesture, the compassionate act, the merciful expression, the source of patience, peace, kindness, and generosity. WE are hope.
What greater purpose might we fulfill? There is enough hate and anguish and desolation and depression in the world. Lying and cheating and gossiping and hoarding and judging and condemning are powerful, but they are wrong, and they have no place in our Christian communion. They may prevail in the world, but not in God’s will for the world. It doesn’t take a scholar to dig out God’s intention, nor is it a mystery unfathomable to all but the wisest. No, together, in Christian community we have figured out that God seeks mercy, compassion, and justice. We know that God is love. We see expressions of God’s grace through kindness, gentleness, patience, generosity, and self-control. We know we have been created not just to experience joy, but to share joy with others. We are to be peace-makers, peace-builders, and peace-keepers. We know that God expects us to speak with respect and civility to one another, to make sure everyone has safety and security and is fed, clothed and housed (whether we think they deserve it or not). We are to be honest, authentic, and genuine with each other, and we are to hold each other accountable to “do no harm,” hurt, or injury to others – physically, emotionally, or spiritually. If we will simply choose to devote our time and energy to living these values, principles, and practices, we won’t have time to contribute to all the destructive energy in the world, and truly we will become God’s hope incarnate for the whole of creation.
Thank you, Dan. So good to have your words to reflect on again. Here’s to Hope!