Many of the goals that previous generations strived for in Britain have been achieved. We are free from invasion (if not terrorism), we have jobs, votes, schools, hospitals, money and shops. If the majority are content with life, there is no pressing political need to attend to the minority who aren’t. The consumer mind lives largely for the present because to project our lives into the future requires us to defer gratification. In the present there is enough clutter to stop us thinking about the future anyway. So what do we hope for as a nation together now? Not much, apart from winning the World Cup. And come to think of it, not even that. No home country could possibly tolerate another one lifting the World Cup, such is the loss of generosity across Britain now.
Hope is a distinctive fruit of Christian living and as it is a virtue at odds with the prevailing cultural mood, presents a lively opportunity for witness to the nation. Christian hope is rooted in God and takes a radically different view of the future. The world is still divided between those who take a pessimistic and an optimistic view of progress. The pessimists are probably winning at present because of the range of dilemmas that progress has afforded us: global warming, enrichment of the few at the expense of the many, the developing privatisation of horrendous weapons.
A Christian view of the future is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Instead it is faithful. We should not despair at signs that it is going from bad to worse because we believe this earth shall be made new by God in a recreation as powerful as the original creation. The popular assumption that ‘when we die we go to heaven’ is unhelpful because it implies we are rescued from this world rather than redeemed with it. This latter view gives us a potent incentive to work for its renewal. The Holy Spirit has taken up residence here and he is not leaving. Both pessimists and optimists have an incomplete reading of history. We have made it bad but he will make it good. The pessimists deny Christian faith by thinking we alone cause the world go from bad to worse; the optimists deny Christian faith by thinking we alone cause it go from strength to strength. The faithful believe that the world is being reclaimed by the Holy Spirit. A partnership of God and his people are signs of a coming kingdom.
The Christian community is called to embody a shared hope which inspires others with its alternative view of where this world is heading. If we do not embrace the God of hope with conviction in our lifetime, the politics of fear will come to shape our common life more and more.