People of Hope

Dear Hope Community,

I’m sure many of you found it hard to concentrate today. I certainly did.

This morning, after watching events unfold in our nation’s capital yesterday, I did my best to take solace in Psalm 30:5: “His joy comes in the morning.”

Yet today, as we stand in the shadow of yesterday’s attack, it is natural to feel more discouraged, threatened or angry than joyful.

Last night I felt personally worried. I spent part of my career working in Washington, D.C. and have been to countless meetings inside the Capitol Building. I know people who work there, and Hope College has many alumni who work in and around the Capitol complex.

As I reflected on what happened yesterday, I found myself asking (probably along with many other Americans) whether we are witnessing the erosion of our democracy. This comes after a year of fighting the sin of racism, the intentional marginalization and unequal treatment of people who bear God’s image, and the scourge of white supremacy — all of which we saw manifested yesterday.

It is rumored that after the Constitutional Convention concluded, a passerby saw Benjamin Franklin and asked, “What do we have, a monarchy or a republic?” His supposed response, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Today our republic feels particularly fragile.

The question is, what can we do? At Hope we say we exist, in part, to “pursue truth so as to renew the mind, enrich the disciplines and transform the culture.” What does that look like now?

It, of course, means that we should condemn violence, racism and white supremacy. We’ve done so before and repeat it again now. But condemning things that are obviously wrong and antithetical to the values of Christianity isn’t a bold action.

So what can we do?

First, we should pray. This might feel like inaction to some, but could there ever be anything more powerful than seeking intervention from the one whose very name makes evil tremble?  

Second, we should actively engage in discourse with love and listening. Following Jesus comes down to two things: a radical devotion to God and radical love for each other. If we enter into all aspects of our lives — not just political discourse — looking for ways to love each other, that will change the nature of our division. We need devotion, not division. 

Third, as we prepare to come back together in a couple weeks, let’s look for ways to actively live into our aspired campus culture characterized by grace, understanding and belonging. Here’s what these mean in short:

Grace: We extend our best to each other and we believe the best of one another. We strive to foster a culture of trust and accountability. Our culture is free from threat, intimidation, gossip and retaliation. People always have someone they can turn to for help.
Understanding: Even when we don’t agree, we work to understand each other better and move forward. We disagree well.
Belonging: Everyone here feels it’s their Hope. We share in this together. Let’s each ask ourselves what we can do to foster a culture of belonging.

We talked about this before the election, and put in place some measures that we will continue in the spring.  

If we actually did all these things, we could be different than the culture around us.

We have a new year ahead of us — an opportunity to come together in a broken world, to heal wounds, to seek the face of God in others. We often talk about being agents of Hope in the world. Today, there is more urgency to our need for HOPE. Please continue to pray with me, and be a light in the darkness.

It may feel difficult to feel God’s “joy in the morning.” And yet, we are a People of Hope.

Spera in Deo,
Matthew A. Scogin

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  1. Thank you for this unambiguous statement about what is happening in our democracy and naming white supremacy as an essential threat to it. And for the reminder that our words, actions and interactions matter.

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