One of Coates’ sentences I must disagree with. “A writer wedded to hope is divorced from truth.” It’s at this point in the chapter in Wear’s book (Reclaiming Hope) when the focus turns to other perspectives, in particular Christian viewpoints on hope.
Theodore Parker was an American Transcendentalist (google says that means this – “an idealistic philosophical and social movement that developed in New England around 1836 in reaction to rationalism. Influenced by romanticism, Platonism, and Kantian philosophy, it taught that divinity pervades all nature and humanity, and its members held progressive views on feminism and communal living. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were central figures.”) and minister of the Unitarian church who died in 1860. Martin Luther King quoted him so many times that oftentimes we attribute his words to MLK.
His perspective on hope is as follows, as best as I can determine from Wear’s perspective on Parker’s words. It seems that Parker believed that the arch of history bends towards justice and that the world is not as chaotic as doomsdayers would have us believe or even slices of time suggest (admittedly, sometimes those slices last decades so no wonder we get confused). According to Parker, the world ONLY bends toward justice because God wills justice. From Parker’s perspective our perspective as believers and hope should rest in the achievement of human progress (good news for people in my community who struggle with the pernicious and chronic nature of the addictive process) but instead we place our confidence in the hope that our God breaks into human history and God’s justice refuses to be mismanaged for too long (keep in mind God takes a long view of time).
I am wedded to hope. Not the kind of hope that prosperity preacher’s promise, but the kind of hope that believes that God never leaves nor forsakes us. We enter the fray of our slice of time on planet earth armed with hope because we believe in a God who ultimately brings about justice.
Here’s another quote from Wear’s book that sums up this perspective on hope: “Those of us who call the name of Jesus Christ find something in the center of our faith that forever reminds us that God is on the side of truth and justice. Good Friday is a day but gives way to the triumphant beat of Easter. Caesar may occupy a palace and Christ a cross but that same Christ will rise up so even the life of Caesar is dated by his name. The arch of the universe is law, but it bends toward justice. Hope makes way for us, not the other way around. [It is] not a matter of progressing towards justice but the God of justice moving toward us.”
This, in my opinion does not contradict the sometimes-cynical sounding Coates but serves as a complimentary position to further illustrate the symbolic meaning of the cross.