American Hopes

Contributing Writer: Aaron Hedges, Inheritance of Hope Technology & Talent Director 

Let’s begin with what hope is not.  Hope is not the avoidance of death.  It is not a false expectation that somehow death could be worked around.  Hope is not death-free.  Hope also does not wish to be death-free, does not wish to be unrealistic.  Hope does not offer an escape from reality but is forged in adversity.  Hope is not a fabrication but has to do with the fabric of reality.

This may sound strange.  For a culture that places “hope” in ever-more comfort and security, the dis-ease of death requires avoidance.  The American hope, also known as the American dream, is all about pushing dis-ease aside, getting what we want, how we want it, when we want it.  The dis-ease of death is no exception.  We push it aside, attempting to make it fit our agenda. 

The so-called “prosperity gospel” has taken this American dream and baptized it with a religious name.  Instead of us achieving for ourselves what we want, how we want it, when we want it, now God is positioned as the source of these comforts.  This view says that if we are in good standing with God, then God will reward us by enhancing our comforts.
The more blatant forms of this “prosperity gospel,” such as claiming that God will give you financial wealth if you send money to the televangelist, are easy enough to dismiss.  But it is not just such exaggerated characters who promote the view that relationship with God entails wealth, health, and happiness.  How many of our prayer requests are pleas for enhanced health?  For circumstances of greater comfort for ourselves or our loved ones?  How often do we pray for things that could reduce our personal comfort? 

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:3

This American dream is very influential, including for those who claim to be centered on Christ.  Consider this hypothetical: If you were offered a package deal of a closer relationship with God and more dis-ease, would you take it?  Most of us say we believe in and love God, yet we would hesitate to encounter God more closely if it reduced our comfort.

If we can be brutally honest with ourselves, we often want our ease, our non-death, more than we want God.  This shows a fundamental motivation to avoid dis-ease rather than seek God.  We respond to dis-ease and death, not God, as the most powerful force shaping our lives.  Our actions speak louder than our words and expose our deep-seated belief that death is the ultimate reality. 

So we put our “hope” in death-avoidance, avoiding dis-ease at all costs.  As Dr. Phil would ask, “How’s that working out for you?”