Hope’s Work – Review

Hope’s Work. Facing the future in an age of crises, by David Gee, June 2021. Darton, Longman and Todd, ISBN 978-1-913657-03-1, 160 pages. RRP £9.99 (paperback)

As Christians, and as those who have a deep reverence and care for the Earth as God’s Creation, surely we have hope? Yet post-COP26, with a rapidly diminishing trust in politicians, realistic about the self-serving agenda of big business, and recognising so many people’s capacity for denial in various forms, honestly how can we have hope? David Gee has written a beautiful meditation on hope, beginning with a plain acknowledgement of the economic violence in our world which seems to make it impossible. He tells us stories each illustrating how it can be possible to accept the fact of violence and then move through it to find the promise of life.

Gee is a peace activist who has written about global security and peace education with a particular concern for the continuing inclusion of children and young people in armed forces around the world. He lives on a boat, moving around Oxford. For him Creation is a place of promise, imbued with life which deserves to be loved. This book invites us to consider various practical approaches to hope as the choice to treat life as if it matters, in the present – and even without knowing the future.

It begins with a version of an ancient story, a Babylonian creation myth known as Enuma Elish. This tells of a man-god who proudly slays the feared mother-dragon to impose order in the name of peace, but who actually primes history for violence. So it can be read as a kind of foundational myth of Western civilisation, reminding us that we need to recognise its norms of violence when we start to think about hope.

Many human vignettes then flesh out the message. A pioneering naturalist shows how  we must move through all violations of the Earth to honour its intrinsic worth in love. A young Libyan man, jailed for his peace work, witnesses to the promise of life he found in simply watching the sun rise each morning from his cell window. A British soldier whose special task in the Iraq war was to destroy ordinary people’s homes at dead of night now tours schools in the UK teaching about the true nature of war.  Each shows how the script of violence can be re-written through patience and small actions – and how there are pivotal choices between death and life.

As Christians committed to the wellbeing of the Earth it may well be the chapter on disillusionment which speaks most powerfully to us. For this shows how our initial hope has to be “threshed” by the violent realities of the world  before we can recognise the hopes remaining, which can indeed translate into our own active choices for life rather than death. The book’s cover is an engraving by Emily Johns depicting the US bombing of Baghdad in an image that holds despair and hope together without flinching. “Once all the chaff is threshed away, real hopes remain like a few grains in the hand … all you need to say – is, ‘The earth is alive’.” (p.70)

Hope’s Work concludes with a wonderful re-telling of the Emmaus story from Luke’s Gospel. It becomes an even more enigmatic account of two disciples sharing their experience of hope now defeated by the killing of their friend. But as they walk they find hope in each other, and they realise that their only true road is back into the city.

Andrew Norman

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Author: Ed Beale | Date: 26 April, 2022 | Category: Book Reviews | Comments: 0


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