When I opened the New York Times this morning (yes, we still get it delivered every day even though we’ve lived in the Twin Cities for eight years now) I was struck by the fact that two of the headlines had the word “fear” in them (and there were several other “fears” sprinkled throughout the rest of news section of the paper).
It seems to me there is a lot of fear going around on all sorts of political and social issues. What particular individuals fear varies, but the fear is a constant.
What I see less of in our news and other social commentary – including that by Christians – is mention of hope. And that is unfortunate. I think Timothy Radcliffe, in his book What is the Point of Being Christian, is absolutely correct that hope is the central gift we, as Christians, bring to the world. If Christianity makes any difference in how we live and how we die, it has to include how we convey hope to the world, how we point to what is not yet present.
To be sure, hope is not an invitation to sit back and do nothing. I read an article a year or so ago in America Magazine by Robert Maloney, C.M., former superior general of the Congregation of the Mission. In the article Maloney cited a quote attributable to Augustine of Hippo: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” Expounding on the quote, Maloney writes
Anger, Hope’s first daughter, reacts spontaneously in the face of evil, refusing to accept unjust social and economic structures that deprive the poor of life: unjust laws, power-based economic relationships, inequitable treaties, artificial boundaries, oppressive or corrupt governments and numerous other subtle obstacles to harmonious societal relationships. Then Hope’s second daughter, Courage, standing at Anger’s side and singing out persistently, searches for ways “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield,” as Tennyson put it.
The union of the two is important. Too often, we see one daughter – Anger – unaccompanied by the second – Courage. After all, the anger part is a lot easier. It doesn’t take much effort to sit around and talk about how angry things make us. But anger without the courage (and energy) to act is unproductive.
Our call is not to sit in fear. It is a call to spread hope. And we spread hope not by sitting back and simply hoping all will be better, but by letting our anger at injustice spur us to find ways to address that injustice.