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Monthly Column on December's Soul Matters Theme of Hope

December 1, 2017

Unitarian Universalist theologian James Luther Adams identifies the practice of hope as one of the defining characteristics of our faith. He writes, “ holds that the resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism (not immediate optimism) . . . . There is something in the genuine liberal perspective that, while recognizing this tragic nature of the human condition, continues to live with a dynamic hope."

This “dynamic hope” is grounded in the present, in the here-and-now while having an eye toward the future. It is about possibility. It asks, “If not now, then when? If not here, where? If not us, then who?”

This hope is an orientation of the heart. It is not outside us but within us. It is not merely a positive attitude, a panglossian optimism that somehow things will turn out just fine. Instead, it is a resilient hope, predicated on the acceptance of the world as it is –– in all its messiness, pain, tragedy, and glory.

This hope is grounded in a human refusal to concede to the harsh realities of living. It is always prepared for the worst, yet always seeks the best. It trusts in life without denying the tragic sense of life. It asserts the goodness of life in spite of adversity.

There’s no room for fatalism or cynicism in this kind of hope. Even if we think we won’t necessarily win the struggle today, in our lifetime, it asks us to keep up the struggle.

And this hope is not a feeling, it is a decision. The decision for hope is based on what we believe at the deepest level – what our most basic convictions are about the world and what the future holds – all based on our faith – in humanity, in ourselves, in God or whatever it is that we consider holy. We choose hope, not as a naïve wish, but as a choice, with our eyes wide open to the brutal and broken reality of the world.

That’s the spirit that we are called to embrace as we make our way through these critical and difficult times.

In this holiday season, amid all the hustle and bustle, may we make room for love in our crowded hearts. May the stories we share strengthen our faith. May the songs we sing lift our spirits. And may our time together renew our hope.

Keep Shining.

Rev. Abhi