Twelve Things I Believe About Hope

With Easter approaching, my liturgical mind shifts toward hope. The hope of resurrection and new life. The hope of regenerative transformation of wounded and wound-ers. The hope that the Love-centered moral vision of Jesus might increasingly take up residence in our world.  The hope that it won’t be this difficult—whatever “difficult” means to each of us—forever.

But how do you hope? The word “hope” is thrown around more often than befits its usage, I think. “I hope” is often used as though it were synonymous with “I wish” or “I want it real bad” or “that sounds nice but it’s out of my hands.” But I think hope offers and demands so much more than does wishing, wanting, or felt powerlessness.

The following are a few things I believe about hope, informed by my faith, study, personal experience, and cultural identity (both an asset and a liability in terms of what I can see and say):

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Why I Call Myself a Pacifist

My son, Teddy, was having a difficult time falling asleep last night. And he let the rest of us know with assaulting shrieks of discontent.

So, naturally, to silence him, I walked up to his room, lowered my face to about an inch from his, and shouted: “Blaaahhh!!! Don’t do that!!! Blaaahhh!!!” That showed him. I also flicked his earlobes, just to make sure he got the point.

No, of course that’s not what I did. Instead, I wooed him back to sleep with a combination of holding, swaying, speaking softly and reassuringly, giving him his aptly named “pacifier,” and patiently waiting out his crying until he had voiced what he needed to voice.

Not only were aggressive screams and ear-flicks not the only ways to deal with Teddy’s attack on the quiet post-kids-in-bed phase of my evening, these were possibly the least effective ways (not to mention the least rational and least creative).

I would call myself a pacifist. It is fitting, then, that I am a Quaker. The commitment to peace is often a significant part of what compels and entices people to participate in the Friends (Quaker) tradition.

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The Virtue of Presence

I find it can be difficult to be right here, right now.

Can you relate?

Virtues are habits of character that enable us to attain our most sacred or important goals. Jesus—the spark, the energizer, and the exemplar of the Christian tradition—has given Christians a goal: love (Mk 12:30-31). I believe Christians ought to cultivate virtues because they are the way to love: they are the character qualities that equip us and sustain us as we regularly and increasingly fulfill our human responsibility to one another.

Among many of the virtues Christians would do well to cultivate, presence is one of the most important.

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On Courage and Seven Forms of Christian Cowardice

We all know fear. Our fears are crippling. Fear thwarts authenticity. Our ability to act. Our acceptance of ourselves. The quality of our listening. The good we might do. Fear is a constant and looming enemy. One antidote to fear is the virtue of courage.

Courage ought to be a conspicuous virtue in Christians. The linchpin of our faith himself is an exemplar of courage. We may not notice this when we only think of cool, confident, or even stoic Jesus, acting good with relative ease thanks to his God-powers. But when we remember that Jesus was human and likely faced the same kinds of fears that we face, the depth of his courage becomes remarkable. Jesus was really, really brave.

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Why the Virtue of Our Leaders Matters

Should Christians expect our leaders to be virtuous? Absolutely. Whether you lead our country or lead our churches, the burden of virtue ought to be placed upon you. Three reasons for this come to mind.

1. Virtues are more sustainable than promises to constituents, advocacy for causes, or stances on issues.

For one, leadership is so alluring to some that the means—even pandering promises or elaborate deception—justify the ends. Our leaders often tell us what we want to hear to secure their role, maybe even convincing themselves of what they are saying.

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