It was a clear and pristine Philadelphia afternoon in late April, 1991 and it was a ‘vintage hat giveaway’ day at Veterans Stadium. My friend Mark and I sat along the third base line wearing our free replica throwback hats, celebrating as the Phillies scored 2 runs, in the early goings. Then, the team mercifully decided to give the visiting San Francisco Giants a fighting chance by spotting them 4 runs in the fourth inning. That strategy seemed to backfire, though, when the Giants hung another 5 runs on future Hall-of-Famer Darrel Akerfelds in the following inning. All seemed lost. But before the last threads of our hope snapped, Mark and I turned to the only option we had: rally caps (collapsing the back of our hats, turning them sideways and placing them on the tops of our heads, with the bills pointed skyward).
In the first piece I ever posted on this blog, I wrote about living as people of hope, which drew from Paul’s words to the church in Rome in Romans 15:13. Elsewhere in the letter, the apostle explains the Christian hope on a grand scale:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory about to be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
It’s clear from passages like this that Christians have a job to give hope to the world, to the whole of creation. It’s what we’re here for. But at times like these, I wonder honestly if I have any hope to give.
For several years now, I’ve been watching from afar as the country in which I was raised succumb to more and more ugliness. The kind of ugliness that celebrates foolishness and juvenile behaviour. The kind of ugliness that rejects civility in favour of aggressive and spiteful speech. An ugliness that makes an enemy out of anyone who dissents. A horrendous ugliness that tacitly sanctions prejudice. The kind of ugliness in which the life of my brother can be considered so worthless, so deserving of fear and derision, that it can be extinguished over a jog through the wrong neighbourhood, or a pack of cigarettes and twenty dollars worth of fake currency.
Yet here’s the real dick punch: too often, I see Christians – those meant to be people of hope – complicit in this ugliness. And those Christians who do try to act as voices of reason are drowned in a sea of vitriol, conspiracy theory and confirmation bias.
So, yeah. To put it in the most raw and unvarnished terms, watching this shitshow leaves a flat, cynical sensation where hope used to be.
But I should remember that those voices of reason, those voices of dissent, those voices that refuse to submit, those voices that swim against the status quo – they’re still speaking. Hidden amidst the noise and the chaos, Christians who haven’t given in are still speaking hope. And it might be enough.
Maybe it’s time to put my rally cap back on.
(The Phillies scored 6 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, by the way, to win the game.)