The Easter Vigil (both of them, in my case) has ended, the alleluias have come out of the cave with Christ, and so I get to say:
Almasih qam! Haqan qam!
Christ has risen! He has risen indeed!
When I say, Christ is risen, I mean to say:
Violence doesn't win. Oppression doesn't win. Despair doesn't win. Death doesn't win.
Love wins. Justice wins. Life wins. Hope wins.
And I mean to say that this is true, in spite of all the evidence you can bring me to the contrary.
Of course, there are millions of people in this world for whom the counsel of hope seems trite at worst and dangerous at best. Who am I--white, male, straight, physically able, with access to economic resources and a U.S. passport--to lecture people on hope? Who am I to say to those suffering in the shadow of empire, in crushing poverty, in the midst of violence and war, that they should have hope? Am I simply a purveyor of opiate? Or worse, am I only building people up so that they can once again be crushed by oppressive circumstances?
My Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers taught me an important lesson. They taught me that optimism and hope are two different things. That optimism thinks, simply, that everything will turn out alright, that things just get better, that this time, this photo-shoot-posing-as-peace-process will work.
But hope is something different altogether. Hope is persistence. Hope stands firm in the face of darkness and dares, against all reason, to take one more step. Hope keeps walking with children to school, through the checkpoints, through the invasive searches, because hope believes that by walking you are creating a world in which children's education matters. A world without the sin of military occupation. A world worthy of being hoped in.
Hope does not ignore trauma. Jesus does not appear to the disciples scar-free. I'm reminded of a song that my roommate has gotten me hooked on, called "Fergus Falls" by Field Report:
"This is the one in which I miraculously pulled out/Of a free-fall dive over Fergus Falls, Minnesota
And this is the one like 10 years ago/That I told you about
Where my wings iced up in the fall/as it gets colder"
Hope doesn't just leave the past behind. It lives through it, into a new future.
So today is a day that we proclaim hope. We point to an empty tomb. And we sing songs, and we pray prayers, and we ready ourselves to step--all of us, together, with all that we are--into a new future together.