One of the unexamined assumptions of the Christian faith is a theology based on hope.
And yet, I find hope problematic because among the disenfranchised, the ultra-poor, the least of the least, I discover an ethos where hope is not apparent.
Over the past several years, I have been wrestling with the realization that for many of the marginalized, hope seems to be claimed by those with economic privilege to distance themselves from the unsolvable disenfranchisement most of the world’s wretched are forced to face.
The truth remains: dispossession, destitution and death await way too many who are disenfranchised. The reality of reading our daily newspapers is that for far too many who are on the margins there is no hope.
Billions are born into poverty and die to its consequences so that you and I can enjoy the privileges of First World status. The marginalized offer up their lives as living sacrifices so that you and I can live – and live well.
In a very real sense, the situation seems hopeless. But we who are familiar with marginalization are used to this.
The oppressed of the world occupy the space of Holy Saturday, the day after Friday’s crucifixion, and the not yet Easter Sunday of resurrection.
This is a space where some faint anticipation of Sunday’s Good News is easily drowned out by the reality and consequences of Friday’s violence and brutality.
It is a space where hopelessness becomes the companion of used and abused people.
Regardless of the optimism professed, the disenfranchised, their children and their children’s children will more than likely continue to live in an ever-expanding poverty.
Sunday seems so far away. The situation remains hopeless.
The hopelessness I advocate rejects quick and easy fixes that may temporarily soothe one’s conscious but is no substitute for bringing about a more just social structure that is not based on the disenfranchisement of the world’s abused.
But this hopelessness that I advocate is not disabling; rather, it is a methodology that propels toward praxis.
All too often the advocacy of hope gets in the way of listening and learning from the oppressed.
To sit in the reality of Saturday is to discover that the semblance of hope becomes an obstacle when it serves as a mechanism that maintains rather than challenges the prevailing social structures.
But this is never an excuse to do nothing. It may be Saturday, but that’s no justification to passively wait for Sunday.
The disenfranchised have no option but to continue their struggle for justice regardless of the odds against them. They continue the struggle, if not for themselves, for their progeny.
Definitely not by ascribing to ethical paradigms congruent with the dominant culture that fail to consider their complicity with injustice.
Ethics informed by the dominant culture are problematic for those residing on the margins of society because it reinforces the prevailing social structures
I advocate that Christians wishing to do ethics must approach the task from a theology of hopelessness.
Perhaps this is the sad paradox: that hope might be found after it is crucified and then maybe resurrected.
For this is the hopelessness that was described in Paul’s admonition to imitate father Abraham who “beyond all hope believed in hope” (Roman 4:18).
Miguel A. De La Torre is professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology.