Is there a way to acknowledge the pessimists’ accurate rendering of reality and still retain an optimistic rendering of the future?

So asks L. Gregory Jones, senior strategist and theology professor at Duke Divinity School. (Full disclosure: Greg is also a former colleague and a good friend, not to mention a fervent Duke basketball fan.) Jones’s query appears in a recent edition of Faith & Leadership, Duke Divinity’s outstanding online journal, in an article entitled “Philanthropy, global citizens, and hope.”

Jones’s jumping off point is the annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation. They call us to be “global citizens.” But, according to Jones, there is a problem:

Yet its clarion call for “global citizens” exposes an Achilles’ heel in its approach. For the Gates letter’s image of global citizens is rooted in optimism about “progress” that fails to account for the brokenness in the world, a brokenness that also cuts like a sword through every human heart.

Thus, Jones observes:

Is there a way to acknowledge the pessimists’ accurate rendering of reality and still retain an optimistic rendering of the future? I believe there is, but it requires that we adopt an “opposable mind” that keeps both convictions in tension.

In Christian terms, it is rooted in the virtue of hope, something quite distinct from optimism. Hope is rooted not in who we are and what we can do; rather, it is rooted in who God is and what, by the power of the Spirit, we can become.

In the end, Jones concludes: “More than aspirational “global citizens,” what we need to cultivate is people of hope.”

This piece by Jones is well worth reading and taking to heart. I commend it to you.

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