Hanging on to Hope

You may not have struggled these past several months, since, say, November 8 or so, to find reason to keep your basic human hope alive.  But I have.  It has been gut-wrenching to watch our new president maliciously instill fear in the undocumented, cheerfully deny climate change, and try his darndest to take away health insurance from millions.  I’ve felt shocked, confused, frustrated, and woefully disempowered (an uncomfortable feeling for a white straight cis male citizen!)

The Women’s March helped me connect to a collective malaise and anger that left me feeling affirmed and tentatively hopeful.  But in the time that followed it seemed nothing concrete came from the mobilization, and I slowly slipped back into my Trump funk.

The Faith Not Fear Summit run by the San Diego Organizing Project last Wednesday rocked my world.  It gave me the same sense of belonging and shared power as the Women’s March, but it took place within a local political context: our representatives and police chief were there, nearby churches showed up, and SDOP is serving as the steady vehicle of our emerging local movement work.  There are winnable campaigns ahead and the people to win them.  I’ve got a place now to direct the energy that God has been building up in me.

From the Christian perspective, this faith-based organizing work only makes sense in light of Jesus’ resurrection -- what we celebrated days ago on Easter Sunday.  The deceits and insecurities and powers of this world that put Jesus to death paled in the face of a Love stronger than we can imagine.  

Surprisingly, it can be difficult to really see this Love -- and believe.  On the first Easter morning, though the beloved disciple and Mary Magdalene saw and believed and told of their Lord’s rising, the rest of the disciples remained locked inside a room out of fear for their own lives.  It’s so hard to trust news this good! The process repeats itself: now Jesus appears to the disciples so that they might believe, but Thomas, who was off on an errand at the time, wants to see for himself.

Many of us need to see the risen Jesus to believe.  I know I did.  And even when we do, it can be hard to sustain that faith and hope.  We need to keep seeing him to keep believing because so much of the rest of our sight is taken up by news that tempts us to despair.

But despair, as Dante reminds us in the Inferno, belongs to the devil: Satan is stuck waist-deep in a frozen lake of his own tears, and the gates to his lair read “Abandon all hope you who enter here.”

Sustaining hope, then, is a spiritual practice.  It requires eyes to see God at work in this hurting world.  I saw the Risen Christ on Wednesday night in the hundreds of women and men who packed Our Lady of Guadalupe Church to pledge their participation in the organizing work ahead; in the DACA Dreamer who had the courage to tell her story of growing up in a country whose president no longer wants her here; in the diversity of clergy ready to lead their congregations into this fight for the soul of our society.

God has given us everything we need: love, shared power, and conviction that truth and justice will, when we work together, find a way to overcome in this time and every time ahead.