Hope is important in ways that we often don’t realize. It is ultimately what drives us to do as we do. The stronger the hope, the more consumed our decisions are by it. Perhaps the key to understanding any religion is to ask “for what do you hope?”
Most people are familiar with the hope that traditional Christianity offers: believe in Jesus and God will save you. In fact, many believe that there is no Christianity outside of this specific kind of hope. As a progressive Christian, I obviously disagree. Indeed, I argue that the hope that progressive Christianity offers is much more powerful than that of traditional theology.
If you want to get a quick peek into what that hope might be, try this exercise. The next time you have a big gathering of friends and family (maybe Thanksgiving would be a good time for this), take a moment and quietly reflect on the differences represented in the room. Note how these differences reflect differences between people all across the world. Then note how strangers react differently over their differences than the friends and family in the room with you. Friends and family are much, much more tolerant, because they can identify with each other. Common bonds can overcome extreme differences. Even potentially violent antagonistic strangers can enjoy the peace of a Thanksgiving dinner, if only they are able to identify with each other as kin. The power that can make this happen, we call “Emmanuel”.