Monday, July 30, 2012

Hope Blog Relay

I was invited by the awesome bloggess, Melanie Crutchfield, to write on “Hope”. Definitely read her article on the Hope Blog Relay and her entry for Hope on daring to fail.
In the context of Church/State issues, it’s hard to be hopeful. Honestly, the crux of my posts tend to be on the problems of the relationship. But thinking of hope made me remember what initially made me passionate about the church/state relationship in the first place: I saw people who navigated it well, with grace, and candor, and integrity. That’s seriously hopeful stuff. 
I choose to hope that religion can speak meaningfully into a starkly materialist culture without leaning on abstract improvable theologies. The article by Vatican Astronomist Guy Constomagno (referenced in a previous blog entry) really reminded me that there are a lot of truth seeking Christians in some of the most amazing places that know how to speak truth in the midst of uncertainty without being dogmatic. So great.
I choose to hope that the nation-state can truly provide an environment in which all religions can co-exist without fear of being called to the mat. Organizations like FirstThings,, and ThirdWay all remind me of how valuable and healthy interfaith dialogue is, and how it is necessary to a true and lasting peace.
I choose to hope that there is a growing number of religious institutions and people of faith that truly want to love people of all sexualities. By love, I do not mean some laize faire “do what ever you want” kind of love, but the intense, deep relational kind of love that changes your character and the way you understand the world. We may not always be good at it, but we can desire to love and welcome all people. The Marin Foundation,, and the profound stories of several of my personal friends make me incredibly hopeful for how we all can learn to love each other. 
Passing the Baton
Now I’ll pass the Hope Baton to some folks who also inspire me and give me hope:
The OutpatientMonk is a longtime friend of mine. I might say he helped give language to my deeply held thoughts until they became actions and lifestyles. Looking forward to reading his take on hope, for sure.
SDSU professor of History and my graduate advisor, Edward Blum has an amazing story that he’s sharing about his new born son Zander “E.Z.” Blum.
Lesley Mills at Merlin’s Garden is a wonderfully lush blog on life, it’s meaning, it’s troubles, and all things that grow. So happy that Lesley will contribute to the relay.

I was invited to post as part of the Hope blog relay by my friend and colleague Matt Cromwell - the Church-State Guy. If you knew our story, you wouldn't think hope would be a big part of our lives. Our first son, Elijah James Blum, our hero, our little star, our heart, died last August. He was 8 months old, had spent most of his little life in the hospital, and the doctors were never really sure what happened.

And now with our second son, Edward Zander Blum (aka Commander Zander, aka the Little E.Z., aka Zander Clause, aka Zand the Man), was born under duress and, although full term, was only 4 lbs. Our lives are back in the hospital - named Zion, of all places.

From where do we get our hope? How can we sing in a foreign land? I would love to say from the Bible or from our church community. But my hope comes from a man accused of being an atheist and a Communist (he did join the Communist Party of the USA!) I get it from the broader community of hope from the past. My hope inspiration is W. E. B. Du Bois, the most prominent African American leader and activist before Martin Luther King Jr.

Here are some quotes from prayers that Du Bois wrote for his students as a professor. He lived through much worse than we do (and he even lost his first son).

  • “Help us to hope that the seeming Shadow of this Death is to our human blindness but the exceeding brightness of a newer greater life.”
  • “It is never too late to mend. Nothing is so bad that good may not be put into it and make it better and save it from utter loss.”
  • “Give us then light, more light, O God, that we may see and learn and know and we may no longer be with them that sit in darkness.” 

Passing the Baton

Now I pass the baton to several of my friends - scholars who inspire me with their scholarly insights, their personal passion, and their friendship.
  • Stephen Prothero, professor of religion at Boston University and perhaps the finest public intellectual voice on religion in the United States today.
  • Amy DeRogatis, a professor at Michigan State University whose blog about her own family adventures gave us hope
  • Celucien Joseph, Phd, writer, scholar, and hope provider
  • Darren Grem, a new professor at Ole Miss whose sense of humor and intellectual brilliance I have enjoyed so much recently
  • Michael J. Altman, another fine new mind
  • John Fea, a tremendous scholar of American religion whose love for empathy, honesty, and Bruce Springsteen gives us hope that more historians could be like him.


  1. Beautiful post. Though times are difficult we can not give up or hope, for it is hope that will get us throug this period. As always my thoughts and prayers are with you, Jen, and Zander.

  2. Such beautiful quotes. (Loooove the second one!) Thank you for taking the baton!

    May you look forward to the day when your son takes off his diaper while napping and causes you to wonder, "Where did he get that brown sock?" (hint: it's not a sock.) (Totally happened to me.) Kids: even the bad stuff is somehow good.