Where is hope to be found?
Christians have three good reasons to face the future with confidence
There are temptations for Christians at a time of significant cultural and political polarization. Our present problems arise in no small part because of the increasing identification of people with the ideas and beliefs they hold. In times past, Western countries had a foundation of shared social capital that ran deeper than politics and thus prevented political disagreements from defining personal relationships.
That capital, whether we think of it in terms of patriotism, shared history, or common loves for things such as family and neighborhood, seems all but gone in many places. And once history, place, and family vanish as markers of who we are, only ideas remain. There is then nothing to bind together in the world outside the voting booth those who have always ticked different boxes within it. That my father voted Conservative and his father-in-law voted Labour was never a source of tension when I was growing up in Britain in the 1970s and ’80s. It is hard to believe the same would be true today.
One temptation that arises from the ideological fragmentation is despair. It is hard to be hopeful about anything when the world seems marked simply by the endless clash of incommensurable opinions. And yet despair is not an option for the Christian, nor is the burn-it-all-down attitude that springs from desperation. So where is hope to be found?
There are three areas where American Christians can find hope today and rebel against the trendy hopelessness that grips our age. The first is in the health of their country’s institutions and the involvement of her citizenry in the big issues of the day. That might seem a bizarre claim, amid all the noise, left and right, about how the system and the culture has failed. But has it? Roe was overturned. 303 Creative was correctly decided. And, as in the case of Mark Twain, reports of the death of democracy have been greatly exaggerated: for all of the noise about January 6th from the left and election fraud from the right, Congress still exists and free elections still take place. Not every country can claim that.
Further, at a grassroots level, parents are becoming more engaged, with some success, in pushing back against trans ideology in schools. When I first become involved in the issue in 2016, writing a letter to the local school board, what shocked me was how indifferent other parents were to the issue. They had no idea what was going to happen and thought I was a catastrophist crank. That would not be the case today.
The second area is in our own families. The world may choose to descend into the depths of cynicism, hopelessness, and concomitant anger, but we do not have to do that as Christians. We can show our children by precept and example how to speak respectfully of others with whom we disagree. We must eschew the Marxist tilt of both left and right today in making everything political. We do not have to do that.
We can make our homes places where our hospitable God is honored and where the sojourner is made welcome. It is no coincidence that hospitality is a qualification for eldership, for kindness to strangers is of the essence of what it means to have a Christian home. If our children grow up angry, cynical, and hopeless, let’s make sure it was nothing we did or said that made them that way.
And finally, let us keep hold of the hope of the gospel. The promise in the New Testament is clear: Christ will triumph and His bride will be given to Him on the great wedding day at the end of time. That eternal weight of glory relativizes everything here on earth. If we think that the wedding feast of the Lamb depends upon our nation, our denomination, or our church, then of course we will despair. But if we see that the promise is not to nation, denomination, or congregation but to the church as a whole, we will rejoice. No matter how weak or corrupt we are, the grounds of hope are solid and guaranteed to remain so.
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