It was like a scene from a movie. I walked into the classroom, took my seat and after five minutes of lecturing on Genesis 1 the girl next to me began sobbing. I assumed she was nervous. It was our first day of college and the first class of the morning; she was probably homesick or overwhelmed that she was, in fact, now in college.
As sobbing goes, people began to take notice and a few minutes later she regained her composure and gestured she had something to say. Confident she was going to speak to the demands of college as a first year student I initially half listened as she began to cry again while explaining that if Adam and Eve weren’t real people then her Christianity was in jeopardy. So began my entry into Christendom.
In the weeks to follow I would learn much about Christians and their thoughts on everything from Noah to gay marriage and end times to prosperity. It wasn’t exactly what I had expected in a Bible 101 class. It wasn’t until almost one year later that I began to see a different side of Christianity. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove was the window through which I saw that other side.
In his latest book, the Awakening of Hope, Hartgrove doesn’t get bogged down in culture warring conversations or statements about what Christians should avoid. In fact, he does just the opposite. Jonathan outlines a beautiful manifesto of what Christians are for and dusts off the spiritual practices that have distinguished Christians for centuries. But he doesn’t just dust them off. He digs deep into practices – from fasting to promises to intentional living. Jonathan even goes so far as to live these practices out and comes back to tell us how it went!
Too often we focus on what we should avoid rather than what we should do. We focus on hope being a byproduct of actions avoided rather than actions done. Maybe it’s our definition of hope? Or maybe it’s a deeply ingrained fear that stepping backwards is always easier than stepping forwards?
The Awakening of Hope is a bold step forward. It is a declaration of tenants that Christians can stand on and stand by. We can boldly proclaim there is much worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for. We can boldly proclaim that where we live and who we live with matter. We can serve as a testimony that even though we may be weaker and less productive when we fast, it points to the hope that another world is possible. When we step forward in hope we are the embodiment of that new world coming here on earth as it is in heaven.
Jonathan stands on the shoulders of many hopeful Christians before him and boldly proclaims that there is still a hope to be claimed and lived out in our world today. Despite a bounty of injustice, hope is being awakened around the world. From the fields of Georgia to the backyards of San Francisco and in inner cities around the world, hope is alive.
Come and see!
This review is part of the conversation on The Awakening of Hope at the Patheos Book Club