hope beyond hope: Friday and Saturday meditation
When I wrote Everything Must Change, I hoped I was overstating the magnitude of our global crises …
Planet: We are sucking out resources and pumping out wastes faster than the earth can handle, thus heating, killing, and destabilizing our planet in a suicidal way.
Poverty: Our economic and political systems favor the super-elite minority and disfavor the vast majority in ways that inevitably contribute to political instability, social conflict, petty crime, organized crime, mass migration, political corruption, war, and terrorism.
Peace: Given ecological and economic unsustainability, the likelihood of intra-national and international violence skyrockets, all in a world where conventional, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons are at available.
Religion: Our religious communities typically distract us from these crises with relatively trivial issues, or they intensify these crises, right when we need them to show a better way.
But I was not exaggerating when I called our current system a suicide machine. The recent update about the gravity of the global climate crisis, taken together with Exxon's disgusting response, tell us that we are … screwed, as Derrick Jensen states powerfully:
But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care.
Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.
To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.
There is a day in the church year when we let all our false hopes wither and die. Jesus is in the grave and there is no hope. It is a day of doubt. Despair. Disillusionment. Silence. It is not a day of waiting. It is a day of the opposite of waiting. It is a day of defeat. Here is a meditation on (Un)Holy Saturday from my upcoming book. It places us imaginatively among the disciples on Saturday ...
That’s too much to believe today. Today, we sink in our doubt. Today we drown in our despair. Today we are pulled down, down, down, in our pain and disappointment. Today we allow ourselves to question everything about the story we have been told.
Creation? Maybe God made this world, or maybe it’s all a cruel, meaningless joke.
Crisis? Maybe violence and hate are just the way of the world. Maybe they’re not an intrusion or anomaly; maybe they’re the way things are and will always, always be.
Calling? Forget about being blessed to be a blessing. Today we lie low and nurse our wounds. It is a dangerous world out there. We would be wise to stay inside and lock all doors.
Captivity? Who cares if Moses succeeded in getting our ancestors out of slavery in Egypt? Jesus failed, and there’s no Moses for us now. We’re still captives, worse off than we were before that crazy Galilean came and raised our hopes.
Conquest? If the most violent win and the nonviolent are killed, what kind of world is it?
Conversation? Today it seems that the skeptics and doubters were right. There’s nothing to say except, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!” Today’s lament feels like the only sure truth in all the sacred Scriptures!
Christ? What Christ? He lies in a grave, cold and dead, and with him, all our hopes for a better way to be alive. Let the women prepare to embalm his corpse, if they can find it. Probably the Romans tore it to pieces and fed the fragments to the dogs.
On Good Friday and (Un)holy Saturday, the question for those of us who know what happens on Sunday is this: will the hopes that resurrect on Easter be false hopes that "bind us to unlivable situations and real possibilities," or will they be true hopes, good hopes, the real hopes beyond the false hopes that motivate us to life-changing, world-changing, hope-against-hope action?