This evening I was watching a documentary on Amazon entitled Mr. Rogers and Me. There was one scene in the film which struck my heart. Bo Lozoff, author of Deep & Simple, told a story about a conversation he once had with Mr. Rogers about children and violence 1 — only to later discover that at that very moment students were being murdered by their own classmates in Columbine High School. Mr. Lozoff summed up that conversation as being that “children seemed to be losing all hope.”
Losing all hope.
It is a statement which chills me, because decades later it seems more true than ever. Hope appears to be vanishing before our eyes, and the consequences of this loss are not something our society wants to address. Loss of hope is what lead Evangelicals abandon the brighter aspects of their tradition for the promise of control. Loss of hope lead a man to attack the Republican Congressional Baseball team as it practiced in a public park. Loss of hope is what has triggered riots in city streets. Loss of hope is what has given the fury of gun violence fertile soil in our culture. Loss of hope is why demagogues are on the rise around the globe.
When hope is lost, humanity is unable to cope with reality in healthy way. We lash out, and hatred is often the easiest language to use to vent what we are feeling. Worse, our culture has been trained to believe hope is a fairy tail suitable only for children. In the “real world” people “know” hope is a lie. When the bullets fly, when a drunk driver kills a loved one, when a neighbor is beaten by a police officer, when an police officer is targeted for execution because of the uniform they wear, when the towers collapse, when a silent drone launches a missile at your family we are trained that hope is powerless. This then drives us deeper into the very despondency and despair which causes us to lash out in anger, spreading hope’s loss even further afield. Humanity can endure many things, loss of hope is not one of them.
As you might grasp from my blog’s title, hope is something around which I build my life. It would be easy to give in to anger or hatred or despair, and please believe me when I say I feel all these things, but the void which surrounds that path repulses me. I need hope the way I need light to see. I need for there to be a goal beyond control or stability or power or comfort. I need for the dream of a better world, established in love and mercy, to stay alive in my heart. That is my conduit to being, and my avenue by which I connect with others. Hope is why I get out of bed in the morning, it’s why I preach sermons on the power of Jesus’ teaching and person, and why I write posts like this one. I may get drowned out in the cacophony of hateful shouts which inundate our world, but someone has to hear. Someone has to understand. Someone has to read and maybe even have their life nudged — just a little bit 2. I have hope.
Maybe, one day, our culture will come to understand that instilling hope in a person is one of the greatest joys which can be unleashed on this world. But in the meantime I see things. Images of children murdered during a mass shooting in California, the ongoing twitter assaults of Mr. Trump against U.S. Representatives, stories of wars in Syria and Yemen which are contributing to a mass migration, the despair of children in migrant detention centers on American Soil, or a U.S. Citizen being told he had no rights while being wrongly detained by ICE. And I can tell you one thing.
The only thing worse, is despair.