The End and Beginning of Hope: A Theological Reflection on Ta-Nehisi Coates

Hope is a dangerous word.  We all hope, in some form or fashion, in a vision of reality we wish were true.  These visions diverge, sometimes wildly, person to person, culture to culture, faith to faith.  One person’s hope can be another’s despair; one person’s dream, another’s nightmare.  It is precisely for this reason, you might argue, that the liberative message of Christianity should bring us clarity: we hope for equality, freedom, healing, justice, peace (Luke 4:16-21)!

But still a tension remains: do we hope in this life or in the next?  Theologians have debated this point for millennia, and while I will not end the debate here, I stand firmly on the side of both/and.  Hope in a changed world today and hope in a life to come.  I am trying, daily, not to lose hope and faith even in the midst of the exemplification of despicable personal morals, the destabilization of international peace deals, the open acceptance of racial demagoguery, and the rise of natural disasters that are directly caused by Global Warming.

But as a theologian, I am deeply troubled by the version of Christianity that now runs the White House.  If one were to construct a Christian message that is the opposite of the one I follow, the message of this administration would be pretty close.  White nationalism, a disregard for the truthflippant misogynyexplicit racism, and personal vengeance take priority, all under the guise of an ideology of positivity without the moral values of self-sacrifice, justice, and peace.  A version of Christianity, for example, that uses the phrase “Merry Christmas” to connote not peace but vengeance against a perceived threat of religious persecution.

Herein lay the modern struggle of Christianity: with such vile strains of Christianity in the public eye, what becomes of the insistence on a Christian vision of hope?  How can anyone, save the already-faithful, believe that the Jesus I Preach is not the Jesus They Preach?

With this conflicted Christian message in mind, it should surprise no one that one of the most influential critics of the sitting President is a black atheist named Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Read the rest of the post in its original form at Daily Theology.

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