Putting faith in Christian hope
WHEN NELSON MANDELA was asked if, during his 27 years in prison, he was ever optimistic about his release, he answered that he was never optimistic, then added “but I never ever lost hope”. This is exactly my feeling at the start of 2016.
There is a vast difference between optimism and Christian hope. Optimism is based either on wishful thinking or on statistics and trends, and today there are certainly more reasons to be pessimistic than there are to be optimistic.
Think of high and increasing unemployment, poverty, a growing culture of violence, corruption, a widening gap between rich and poor, water issues, misplaced priorities, tortuous taxes, the almost stationary wheels of justice and so on.
Then again, optimism is easily contrived and manipulated. For example, by dispensing calculated misinformation, by diversionary fetes and extravagant “bashments”, by a frequent use of church services by politicians to share political opium to the masses, by spreading the frightening threat (in a democracy!) that to organise a mass protest against perceived injustices or to exercise the right to withhold one’s labour could be seen as a “declaration of war” on the state. In fact, a mortal sin.
Too often we see democracy attacked and defeated by the demands of a contrived and manipulated optimism.
Unlike optimism, Christian hope, such as Mandela’s, is based entirely on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, on what the Bible calls the “certain hope” of the victory of life over death, truth over lies, goodness over evil, justice over injustice, love over indifference, spite, hatred and victimisation.
Mandela’s well-informed and undying passion for democracy, which landed him in jail and in the South African presidency, was founded on, and sustained by, the Gospel, by the “certain hope” of the Resurrection.
Christians are called to proclaim the gospel of resurrection hope; not a cheap, “feel good” glossy optimism that can only promote personal and national misplaced priorities.
To be converted is to live and to promote the transcendent nature of every single human being, made in the image of the God, and to denounce the prevailing culture of “gross materialism” and death.
It is to move from the mere general affirmation of truth, justice and love as abstractions, to their active promotion in our particular situation.
My wish for us all is that in 2016 we build a culture of resurrection hope. Democracy is best served when it is founded on and sustained by resurrection hope.
– Fr Leslie Lett