Dear Students of Hope,
This year, 2020, has been a year of turmoil unlike any other in your lifetime. And much of the drama is coming to a head right now.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the most vicious, mean-spirited political season in modern history has reached its pinnacle. We are on the eve of the 2020 election – and we are worn out. We are tired of all the vitriol, name-calling, stereotyping and polarization.
Hope College is not a political organization. We have never endorsed political candidates, and we aren’t about to start doing so now. You all are more than capable of making your own political choices.
Where we do take a clear stance, however, is regarding our allegiance. At Hope, our allegiance is to God above politics.
For too many people, political tribes have become family, even religion. We remember that ultimately God’s family – God’s kingdom – is the only one that lasts forever. Therefore, our allegiance is to God above country, party and political opinion.
That means our identity is not defined by the outcome of tomorrow’s election. No matter who wins, we have reason to take heart, because God is on the throne.
When all is said and done, I pray that we will look back and say that 2 Cor 1:12 characterized the Hope community. “We have conducted ourselves in the world . . . with integrity and sincerity from God. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.”
Conducting ourselves according to God’s grace has never been more needed.
As a result of a large number of people voting by mail, it is likely that the final outcome of this election will not be clear right away. It is important to be prepared for uncertainty – and the potential for anxiety – that may follow. During this time, let’s conduct ourselves according to God’s grace.
After the 2000 election, which occurred while I was a student at Hope, the outcome was unclear for several weeks. I remember the unease that gripped our nation (and Hope’s campus) during that time. But I also remember that it was a fascinating time to be a student. That can be true now also. While not ignoring the stress of the day, we can step out of the current moment and be curious observers of this historic period. Take advantage of the resources at your fingertips. Schedule office hours with your professors, and enjoy discussions with your classmates. Some scholars will spend their entire lives studying this time in human history, and you get the chance to live through it as a student.
The potential for prolonged uncertainty combined with heated rhetoric, polarization and already high levels of anxiety from the COVID pandemic, has caused many to predict civil unrest or violence throughout our country after the election. This could manifest itself in large or small ways.
It goes without saying that violence (or intimidation of any kind) is completely inconsistent with the type of Christ-centered discourse based on love and listening that we have been talking about all semester. Yet even as we avoid conflict on our campus, please be mindful that some of your peers may feel afraid for their safety because of the current climate. Therefore, as people who “love thy neighbor,” let’s continue to find ways to let uncommon love characterize our campus.
The story of our semester, it seems, is coming to a climax this week – with COVID cases rising, election day drama peaking and the stress of final exams looming. As we go through the next several days, it is worth stepping back and remembering how far we’ve come this year. You all have proven to be the most resilient group of students to study at Hope in several generations.
You are resilient. You have endured. You have bounced back from unprecedented disruption. As we near the finish line of this extraordinary semester, remember where endurance comes from. Endurance comes from HOPE (1 Thess 1:3).
You have inspired me in profound ways this year. Let’s continue to show the world what it means to be a people of hope.
Spera in Deo!
Matthew A. Scogin
This message was originally sent via email to the students, faculty, and staff of Hope College.