Hopelessly Devoted

I haven’t written for a while because I’ve been laying in a pool of unmotivated hopelessness, which I’ve medicated with a solid amount of Netflix. Don’t worry- it’s not “you should be worried for my well being” bad, but more “I’m kind of lethargic” bad.  Hopelessness sucks the life right out of me. And it’s strange- because sometimes the things I feel hopeless about are very unexpected. Some people look at college students and feel hopeless about Christianity. But I look at college students on secular campuses and I am filled with stories of God’s faithfulness and unexpected work. On the other hand….


I have been trying to finish The New Jim Crow for months. It sits on a table in my bedroom- mocking me everyday.  The complexity of mass incarceration is overwhelming.  The tragic and horrific racism that is scarring us as a nation-  is shutting me down. I watch the painful way that incarceration impacts the lives of my students and it is overwhelming. The longer I do this social justice thing- the more I believe that we have to change things on a systemic level.  Yet, I must constantly fight becoming an atheist when it comes to systemic social change. And I feel hopeless when I see how fixated we as Christians are with having  “meaningful” missions experience that make us feel good, but are often detrimental to the very people that we are trying to serve and never address systemic change. (Let Richard Twiss kick your butt on this issue.)


Then the whole World Vision debacle went down. First they decided to hire people that were legally in same sex marriage and then after Evangelicals went ape s*!t they took it back. And no matter what you think about gay marriage- can we all agree that we shouldn’t use the sponsorship of poor children as a weapon to fight with each other. Can’t we? Apparently we can’t.  Thousands of Jesus followers cancelled their financial sponsorship of children in dire situations around the world to make a point about homosexuality. This type of Christian in-fighting and tantrum throwing just sucks the life out of me.  Rachel Held Evans wrote a great post that captured a lot of how I felt about this.

I  want to quit American Christianity lately. I knew I had reached a pretty low point when I was teaching a senior seminar and we were talking about money. A student said “A lot of people in my church do X behavior, so isn’t it Ok?”  My response, without even thinking about it was, “If it’s normal in American Christianity, it’s probably wrong.” Which I think is true for the most part, especially when it comes to money. But it’s a bit cynical, even for me.


But I know I need to be careful as I walk down this road. As much as I just want to rant or accuse or wrap myself in a blanket of judgmental awesomeness, I’ve got to stop. Beause Christians are my tribe, my people. Even Christians that I don’t agree with, even Christians that make me want to die of embarrassment or kill them in anger, are supposed to be my people.  There’s a quote people toss around (and attribute to a variety of sources) that goes “The church is a whore, but she’s our mother.” This is how I feel lately. Christians in American are depressing me and making me crazy. But we are still supposed to be one body. And I’m sure I look like some sort of liberal socialist feminista ethnic lady preacher that doesn’t trust the authority of the Bible. I’m sure I make other Jesus followers nuts. But we’re stuck with each other. Supposedly.

I keep wandering around and mumbling “Can the ass say to the butthole- I do not need you. We are all one body.” (I can play either body part in this analogy.) I could go on about the fact that Protestant are pretty lame at unity. Especially coming out of the Korean American church, which is sort of legendary for fights that lead to church splits. I could say a lot about this. But the focus of this post is hopelessness. So let me get back to the soul wallowing that was sucking my life juices away.

So I’ve languished for a month- too melancholy to write anything. But I had a little glimmer of hope the other night. Actually it’s the most hopeful thing that I’ve experienced in a long time. I was asked to lead worship for the launch of a crowd sourcing project. A friend of mine has been living in South Los Angeles and noticed that there are very few employment opportunities in the area. He observed that it is a food desert. 100,000 people and only two full service grocery stores. He saw the need for affordable healthy food drinks like Patriot power greens and also supplements as Capsules of Kratom. So he and a team have begun raising money to build a cafe and market.

Just watch this video- it explains everything. I know you’re going to waste more than 4 minutes on the internet today- this is actually worth your time.


With Love Community Market and Cafe

I led worship as Andrew and his team shared the story of how this cafe will come into being and it breathed hope into my soul. This effort goes beyond Christian feel good charity- this is a business that will bring employment to an area that needs employment. It will address a need for affordable healthy food. Giving someone $25 bucks and giving them a job are worlds apart. A job brings dignity. It brings self respect. It brings autonomy. And I think that this market has the potential to be a life giving gift from God.

I felt hope as I watched Andrew, who I met when he first walked onto campus at Occidental College as a freshmen, take this incredibly courageous step to live out his faith. I felt hope because this little business is a tiny stand in the face of these broken systems. And there was something supernatural that happened as we worshipped. I felt hope shine on my soul. In the end, real hope, not just campy Christian happy, but real hope is a spiritual transaction. People have managed to hold onto hope in the darkest of situations. Hope doesn’t wait until circumstances align. I felt like I lost 30 pounds that night- the heaviness lifted from me. And so I’m back and ready to write again.

Also- let me make an explicit plug. Please consider giving towards this endeavor. With Love Market and Cafe is one the most hopeful and thoughtful ministry ventures that I have come across in a long time.

And talk to me- what are your thoughts and experiences with hope and hopelessness?






4 thoughts on “Hopelessly Devoted

  1. Hi Erna,

    I was actually thinking about God and hopelessness last week, so I think your post is rather timely. I’m interested in U.S. foreign policy and I believe that the plans God has for me entails North Korea. I’m currently in DC and although I’m grateful for this experience, my experiences here so far have reminded me of how many problems there are in society and the international community. Also, I don’t know why but I’ve been keeping up with Sewol, the sunken South Korea ferry and with each update, I can feel another piece of my heart breaking. It sucks and as I read, I just wanna shake the South Korean government…and likewise, for other issues, I want to shake the U.S. govt sometimes, plus the media and corporations.

    I think it’s really easy to choose into hopelessness. In a sense, it gives me the excuse to not care or do anything, which is a lot easier than going out there and trying to be the change. Being hopeless makes me want to just give up and also gives me what I perceive as the logical reasoning to give up. So, I’m trying to not be stuck in that. Therefore when I find myself in hopelessness–my signs are hardening of heart with an attitude of “why should I care?” or being angry/frustrated at God for “not doing anything”– I try to go deeper into the situation and to look for where God might be. I ask the question that Ryland, my TL my sophomore year, taught me–the question isn’t “God, are you here” but “God, where are you.”

    By choosing to enter into foreign politics, God has already shown me that I’m going to face a lot of hopelessness and when I take time and space to hear God, I continuously hear, “the storm is coming.” By attending different talks and conferences on NK, I can already tell that I’m going to be faced with opposition…and I can either hop on the bandwagon and give up my opinion or enter into the realm, with my beliefs in tact, and give my beliefs a fighting chance. If I happen to be proved wrong, then okay, go fig, I’m wrong. So, I think concerning hope and hopelessness, God has been showing me that 1) being hopeful/hopeless is a choice and 2) God is sovereign over all. But I’ll admit that sometimes it’s really hard.

    But yes, those are my thoughts. Thank you for your post and I’m sorry for the length of my response.

    • Priscilla- Thanks for your reflections, I appreciate you taking the time to share. I find that I have to keep doing rounds with choosing into hope. Each layer of new knowledge I get requires another layer of spirituality to address it. And it’s one thing to be working on these issues for a shot time and another to be facing them for the 10th or 15th or 20th years.

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