optimism

Olivia Whitener 10-15-2015

Image via  / Shutterstock

I spend (most of) my Sunday mornings sitting in a pew at an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation, singing old hymns, and reciting the Lord’s Prayer which I have had memorized since before I went to school.

At age 22, I make an effort to get my dose of word and sacrament before heading to brunch on Sunday mornings. Though I love the beach, I found greater joy in singing songs and leading Bible studies at a mainline church camp during my recent summers.

I love the sound of an organ.

Brian McLaren 03-04-2015
katarinag / Shutterstock.com

katarinag / Shutterstock.com

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8]

Too often, perversions of our world’s religious traditions make the daily news for their violence, corruption, greed, and prejudice. Meanwhile, authentic representatives of those traditions are often busy doing good — good that goes largely unnoticed. That’s why I’m glad that a diverse group of religious leaders are sharing about seven ways authentic people of faith can work together to make a better world.

I served as a progressive evangelical pastor for 24 years, and during those years, I saw the evangelical movement struggling with its identity. The best versions of evangelicalism, whether they were labeled conservative or progressive, always took seriously passages like Matthew 25, where Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.” Those verses continue to inspire evangelicals of all persuasions to engage in life-giving mission — and in particular, to engage constructively in the world in seven positive, reconciling, and healing ways.

If you invest just a few minutes over the next seven days thinking and speaking up about these seven ways to participate in our world, I believe by week’s end you will be moved to action and in it find a richer, more faithful life:

Nadia Bolz-Weber 05-31-2013
Bird tattoos come to life, Marianne D / Shutterstock.com

Bird tattoos come to life, Marianne D / Shutterstock.com

… suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.

-Romans 5

As many of you know, I have a regular spiritual practice of warning people that I will disappoint them. A couple times a year, we host a Welcome to House for All Sinners and Saints brunch for newcomers. Everyone goes around the room saying what drew them to this community or what keeps them here. They usually say it’s a comfortable place where they can just be who they are or they love the singing or the community. One time someone said that their mom was Catholic and their dad was atheist and that this church kinda felt like a combo of the two. And while I wasn’t entirely sure I knew what that meant, I thought it was awesome. 

Well, I usually am the last to speak at these events and when I do and I always say how great it is to hear all of that, but that I need them to hear something. And that is that this church will disappoint you. Or I will fail to meet your expectations, or I’ll say something stupid and hurt your feelings. It’s not a matter of if it’s when. Welcome to House for All Sinners and Saints. We will disappoint you.

Christian Piatt 09-28-2012
Think positive illustration: Anson0618 / Shutterstock.com

Think positive illustration: Anson0618 / Shutterstock.com

I’m a fan of TIME Magazine. It offers concise, intelligent summaries and opinions on the news that help keep me up with current events. They had an interesting article in the last few weeks about the factors that seem to affect a political party’s election results in the upcoming cycle. From their findings, it’s the party perceived to be most optimistic about the nation’s future that tends to come out on top. A fascinating bit of psychology, if not necessarily scientifically rigorous in its conclusions.

And then, in the most recent issue, there’s a pages-long piece by Bill Clinton called “The Case for Optimism,” which outlined five reasons to look ahead with hope toward our collective future. Coincidence? Maybe. But the timing of the two pieces, particularly only weeks out from a presidential election, seems more than a little bit opportunistic.

Call me cynical, but never let it be said that I’m above holding the Democrats’ feet to the fire when they pander. Yes, both parties do it, but it seems to me it’s most effective when it’s a little less in-your-face about it. President Obama rode a tide of optimism into the White House four years ago, only to watch his support erode after the reality didn’t live up to the speeches in many cases. But we wanted to hear it, and it worked. So it’s no surprise they’re giving it another go-round.

But are there grounds for such high hopes?

Lillian Daniel 01-21-2011
People tend to approach each New Year with optimism, but the latest news about unemployment was not particularly encouraging.
Tracey Bianchi 07-28-2010
We joined the flood club this weekend. I've heard rumors about this group of people before.
Brian McLaren 01-26-2010

We arrived in Bethlehem with our wonderful group of pilgrims. Folks are getting acquainted, and in a few minutes, our journey begins.

Tim Costello 12-15-2009
Yesterday was a day of high drama where Africa walked out, suspended talks, and then later in the day returned after the Danish facilitators took on some of their concerns.
Jim Wallis 06-16-2009
Elections -- indeed the democratic process itself -- shape countries, culture, and the future, no matter what their outcome.
Janna Hunter-Bowman 02-03-2009
Today I listened to a persecuted woman, mother to mother.
Bart Campolo 02-02-2009
I want to be hopeful these days, what with Barack Obama just being inaugurated as our nation's 44th president, but Tanya
Soong-Chan Rah 01-23-2009
Generations are often defined by tragedy and crisis. Cultural milestones are often measured by a traumatic event that is shared by a generation. Remember Pearl Harbor?

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