Americans should embrace virtues of hope
Polarized and divided
It is no secret the 2016 presidential election left the nation more polarized and divided. The day after the election, while many were still celebrating, thousands flooded the streets in New York City, Los Angeles and Portland denouncing the results. “Dump Trump!” was a common refrain. Emotions ranging from triumph to deep despair have gripped large parts of the nation and the Church.
While certainly understandable, this extremism poses a great threat to our country. David Runciman, head of the department of politics and international studies at Cambridge University, described “unwarranted optimism” and “unwarranted pessimism” as the “dual daggers” of democracy. Both sides are guilty of this in the immediate aftermath of the election.
Some see a Republican president and Congress as the ultimate chance to stem the tide of the culture wars after many crippling defeats. For others, President-elect Donald Trump serves as nothing more than a manifestation of the vitriol and hatred that drove much of the presidential campaign.
So, what should be the response to the triumph and despair that seem all too common? Looking to many of the great thinkers of the church, it seems clear that the answer lies in rediscovering the virtue of hope. Christians need to embody the virtue of hope as a check on the baser passions that are gripping citizens all across the nation.
The Catholic Church’s catechism on hope adds great insight into what it means to be hopeful in the political arena. They write that hope “keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude.” Many evangelicals felt deeply abandoned and isolated from both major parties during this election, but this much needed exhortation demands we cling closer to hope instead of abandoning it.
President Barry Corey mentioned the importance of hope in an email addressed to the Biola community on Nov. 9, stating, “We must be a people of hope and reconciliation. We must recommit ourselves to loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind, more confident than ever that our allegiance and our calling is to Jesus Christ, above all else.”
Improving what is broken
But what does this tangibly look like in today’s climate? A clue comes from Augustine of Hippo, who notes, “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” Thus, hope rooted in Christ and his kingdom does not entail inaction or false optimism in how things are. Rather, hope in Christ is what should fuel the Church’s actions to improve what is broken in our nation.
Nor should Americans swing to the other extreme and get caught up solely on temporal issues—pressing as they may seem. C.S. Lewis aptly expands on this in “Mere Christianity,” writing, “The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.” We are called to be people who put the kingdom first in all matters, including politics. Hope in the age to come means we do not need to resort to the life-and-death rhetoric that dominated the political sphere because we know our true leader is sitting on his throne.