Things are bad. The idols of Money, Sex, and Power are established in the land. A spirit of delusion seems to have taken hold. I know that I could have said the same thing if Hillary Clinton had been confirmed today by our nation's electors. Would I have said it, though? I don't know, but certainly Donald Trump has the gift of making things starkly clear.
I was 49 years old in December of 2011, when I realized that I had never heard a sermon on the subject of hope. This was surprising. I had been listening to sermons since I was told to sit up and be a good boy at Trinity Baptist Church in Wichita, KS, age seven. I had attended Bible College. Nary a word about hope. French theologian Jacques Ellul would surely tell me not to be surprised. Hope, he argues, can only be experienced in a time of hopelessness. Certainly words of hope are spoken pastorally into our individual crises, but when in my lifetime has my white evangelical church ever needed to study the subject, hone up on the topic, cry out for instruction? We were Americans after all; we pull it out in the bottom of the ninth inning every time! Even now I hear people telling me, "Peace, peace" and "Give our new president a chance." They are insulted when Michelle Obama says, "We feel the difference now, See, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like." Donald Trump responded at a rally in Alabama: "I assume [the first lady] was talking about the past and not the future. . . . I believe there is tremendous hope, and beyond hope we have such potential. This country has such potential. You watch: It's going to be special. Things are going to happen like you haven't seen happen in many, many decades." Does that last sentence of his fill you with hope, or with dread?
The first sermon I ever heard about hope was one that I tracked down myself, on the internet, from Anglican theologian John Stott. The second sermon I ever heard about hope was one that I preached myself on January 1, 2012 in Manhattan, KS. I'd like to offer it to you as a gift for your kind support of The Liberator Today in 2016 and with heartfelt, parousia-centered, hope for 2017. Thank you.
My three favorite books on Hope:
Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978).
Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2006).
Jacques Ellul, Hope in Time of Abandonment (New York: Seabury Press, 1972).