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We Need Hope Right Now
The only way I see to cultivate it is togetherness
The West Virginia vs. EPA ruling is out, and once again the court has chosen needless cruelty: the court holds that one of the last remaining mechanisms by which the US government might mitigate coming climate disaster is unconstitutional, based on an analysis that amounts to “I know we said we were textualists, but we didn’t mean this text.”
But that’s not what this is about.
Today the court also agreed to hear Moore v. Harper, a case whose underlying “independent state legislature” theory would give state legislatures essentially unchecked power to throw elections however they like, and could potentially lead to a much more successful 2020-style coup if adopted. “The end of democracy in the US” continues to grow from “completely unthinkable” to “I give it a 30% chance over the next 10 years.”
But that’s not what this is about, either.
This is about hope.
Hope has been hard to grasp lately.
The last few years of American politics look really familiar to anybody who’s studied global history: from Leabua Jonathan’s “election results were faked by communists” conspiracy theory to Mwai Kibaki’s refusal to concede in 2007 to Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch, the kind of bumbling coup attempt we’ve watched unfold in slow motion has almost always been followed by something more sophisticated, more bloody, and -- in a disturbing number of cases -- an eventual reversion to authoritarianism.
If history is any guide, we are in for some dark days. And that makes me scared and angry and sad and worst of all hopeless. Because try as I might, I really can’t imagine a scenario where the Tucker Carlsons and Matt Walshes of the world suddenly admit that maybe stoking hatred against vulnerable people is shitty and repent. I can’t imagine a world where more than a few of the people who’ve been calling my gay, trans, and queer friends “groomers” and calling for discrimination and violence realize that *they* are the ones whose actions God detests. I can’t imagine a world where the people who’ve bought into MAGA-style propaganda realize how fundamentally they’ve been lied to.
In short, I’m finding it difficult to find hope because things really are bad, and I don’t see a way for them to get better before they get a hell of a lot worse.
But this is about hope.
Because hope is something worth pursuing.
Not the “words of comfort and hope” I use to shut you up because your pain makes me uncomfortable. Not the callous charade where I’m “spiritual enough” to ignore your real present suffering because “you have Jesus and that’s all that matters.” Not the desperate and anxious hours I spend trying to convince myself that everything is basically fine because that’s the only way my privileged self ever learned to hope.
I want the real thing.
The hope that spurs people to fight for the rights of the suffering no matter how much it costs them personally because they know deep down justice will prevail.
The hope that sees clearly the mercy and justice of God -- not as two abstract truths locked in tension, but as the fiery righteousness of a Lord whose mercy to the marginalized manifests itself in wrath to those who oppress them.
The hope that says yes, child, you are deeply loved by the God who crushes empires and no human power can ever take that away from you.
This is an active hope, one that sees “thy kingdom come” not just as a disembodied spiritual promise but a rallying cry to break the forces trying to bring hell instead. It’s the sometimes blazing, sometimes quiet hope you find embodied in people like James Baldwin and Rosa Parks and Gustavo Gutiérrez and Janani Luwum who didn’t flinch even when their walks with Christ brought them face-to-face with the worst parts of the human spirit.
This kind of hope is intentional, something that’s cultivated in community and sacrament and faithfulness in the face of opposition. It’s something that (to my disappointment) you can’t learn from theology books or by studying the abstract nature of God -- it’s something you have to actually go out and touch and see and experience. There is something about hope that gets lost when you speak about it in generalities: something to be found only in the particular shape and contours it traces out as it guides you through a particular trial.
I want to cultivate this hope, and I’m not completely sure how.
If you’re in Chicago and have ideas or passion for communally cultivating hope, particularly in a Christian context, I’d love to learn more. If you don’t have ideas but would like to spend time with other people trying to do this, that works too! If you’re already part of a group doing this in a way I or others could join, please please let me know!
(If you’re not in Chicago I would love to talk to you too! But after so many months of pandemic there is something about physical presence I really need right now.)
If things do get worse, as they appear poised to do, we’ll have to get through this the only way anybody ever has:
With space for tears, action, silence and growth.
And a whole lot of love.