Several times over the last few months I’ve been asked for my thoughts on hope. The context has always been the confluence of two things: Christian faith and alarming ecological trends. I’m skeptical of quick and easy responses.
For Christians hope is a central virtue. Paul describes it as one of the big three, along with faith and love (I Cor. 13). Christian hope can seem absurd to those who don’t buy the story because it’s grounded in the idea that divine love is at the core of reality and God’s Spirit is powerful enough to conquer death. It’s this feature of the faith that is run up against the ecological woes of our time. These ecological woes might seem abstract. But to anyone who realizes the pond doesn’t reliably freeze over anymore and the birds and insects they grew up with are now much harder to find—well, that’s not abstract at all.
Hope can look like an unequivocal good. It’s nice to have. It’s more pleasant to feel optimistic than anxious. Some Christians will even trot out hope as the key difference between themselves and others. While others are swamped with angst and panic, they are not.
The problem is that in the hands of some hope becomes a euphemism for irresponsibility. They believe no change is needed and no repentance is required. They believe God will pull a rabbit out of the ecological hat and make everything alright. Hope can be a nice way of saying “I don’t care about reality.” This is the problem with hope.
So, should we ‘have’ hope? I think the wiser voices are encouraging us to think less about ‘having’ hope and more about ‘being’ hopeful. If hope is a way of being, if hope is a way of acting—then something useful is afoot. True hope doesn’t cause complacency. True hope causes action. To be hopeful means that we decide to cultivate joy in the mundane and the beautiful. To be hopeful means that we try to do things differently because we believe another future is possible.
All this is to say that I find hope to be an ambiguous term these days. Hope is essential. Hope is a threat. Hope is the future.
*Though the views expressed here are my own, I am inspired by the work of my A Rocha colleagues. If you would like to learn more about A Rocha Ontario or support our work of creation care, please look us up on the web and consider signing up for our e-newsletter.