I was reading a book called “Reclaiming Hope” by Michael Wear and learning a LOT of stuff I didn’t know in real time about Obama’s faith-based initiatives. My favorite chapter was the one that addressed the concept of hope head on. In my mind, it intersects with this study I’ve been doing on the cross.
In Wear’s book, he does something I appreciate. He respects, quotes and gives print time and attention to a guy who he fundamentally disagrees with on the topic of faith. Before I share the quote, let me tell you a little bit about its author. Ta-Nehisi Coates is an American writer, journalist, and educator. As a national correspondent for The Atlantic, he writes about cultural, social and political issues with an emphasis on African-Americans. Coates wrote a book as if he were writing to his son called “Between the World and Me”. He doesn’t much believe in hope the way we as believers often talk about it. Here’s what Wear quoted from Coates’ book (sorry no page reference I only have this book on audible):
“You must resist the common urge toward the comforting narrative of divine law. Toward fairy tales that imply some irrepressible justice. The enslaved were not bricks in your road and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine. Enslavement was not destined to end. And it is wrong to claim our present circumstance, no matter how improved, as the redemption for the lives of the people who never asked for the posthumous, untouchable glory of dying for their children. Our triumphs can never redeem this. Perhaps our triumphs are not even the point. Perhaps struggle is all we have. So you must wake up every morning knowing that no natural promise is unbreakable. Least of all the promise of waking up at all. This is not despair. These are the promises of the universe itself. Verbs over nouns. Actions over states. Struggle over hope.”
I would not dare to put words into the mouth of Ta-Nehisi Coates; he is obviously more than capable of speaking from himself. But tomorrow, I will respond to this quote and why I, personally, find it consistent in many ways with the cross as a symbol of our faith. In the meantime, I ask you: can your faith bear the weight of the many times in life when the grace and mercy of God are not easily recognized in the carnage of the brokenhearted? For if we have to make every faith story about “I was lost, then I was found and now I am fine…” we’re in a heap of credibility trouble my friends. How have you been tempted to try to reframe your own faith journey to make it more palatable, more marketable, more cheery?