Rebecca Garrett Pace

There is a genre in sci-fi fantasy called Grimdark, in which, to put it simply, everything is horrible, and we’re all doomed. Isn’t that uplifting? Dystopia, apocalypse, catastrophe. I’m sure you can think of some examples that fit into this category (*CoughGameofThronesCough*). The Grimdark genre builds its stories and characters on a straightforward assumed reality: that everyone is fallen, that humanity will not survive, and that the world is caving in on itself.

Honestly, listening to Up First (or any other news source) these days feels like a 15-minute dose of Grimdark, but unfortunately, it’s not fantasy, and the world does seem grim, dark, and hopeless.

There’s also another genre of sci-fi fantasy called Noblebright, which, as the name might suggest, is the opposite of Grimdark. Here, though the world (or even the multiverse) may seem a big fat medieval mess, a hero is coming to save us, and they’re destined to make everything right, and if we can only hang on a little longer, our hero will rescue us and everything will be fine. Insert any Marvel movie title here as an example.

Our current Unfold worship chapter, “We Are Who We Are,” has me bouncing between these two poles like a spiritual game of badminton, and can I say, I am the worst at badminton. Grimdark: We Are Who We Are – hopeless, fallen, warped, messed up, powerless to change. Noblebright: Easter is only [fill-in-the-blank] days away! Jesus will save us! Everything will be alright in the end, so we can tune out the muck and noise of the world until we’re rescued. We’ll go to heaven where we belong, and God will make everything pleasing. Jesus, take the wheel.
Am I the only one that isn’t satisfied with either of those two options?

I refuse to believe that all hope is lost, and I also refuse to believe that Jesus went to the immense trouble to live a life on earth for over three decades so that we could wait around for him to be killed and rise again and remove our responsibility from us. On my best days, I believe what we proclaim every Sunday, that we are all loved, accepted, and called – that we are all made in the divine image of God and that we have the power and the responsibility to show others that divine image in themselves.

That’s on my best days. On the rest of the days (aka most of them), I ask you all to help me believe those things when I can’t do it on my own.

And that right there is the third genre. It’s called Hope Punk. It says that things may look hopeless, but they aren’t. We are neither doomed nor evacuated from this earth with all its stuff. It’s not a hero from another dimension, nor even a Holy Savior who swoops in and allows us to abdicate our responsibility – in the end; it’s ordinary people who decide to partner with God to imagine a better future and who create that future together, one act of love at a time.

One of my favorite songs is “Level Up” by Vienna Teng. You can watch the tear-jerker music video here, and if you’re up for a bit of a deeper dive, you can listen to her talk about Hope Punk and then perform the song live here.

Here are the lyrics: 

So come out.
You have been waiting long enough.
You're done with all the talk talk talk with nothing on the table.
It's time to come on out.
There will be no sign from above.
You'll only hear the knock knock knock of your own heart a signal.
If you are afraid, come out.
If you are awake, come out.
Come out and level up.
Begin again.
Dynamite the dam on the flow.
Your body feels the tock tock tock of time as it hammers.
Lord we are all cinders
From a fire burning long ago,
But here it is the knock knock knock of your own heart that matters.
If you are afraid, come forth.
If you are alone, come forth now.
Everybody here has loved and lost,
So level up and love again.
Call it any name you need.
Call it your 2.0, your rebirth, whatever –
So long as you can feel it all,
So long as all your doors are flung wide.
Call it your day #1 in the rest of forever.
If you are afraid, give more.
If you are alive, give more now.
Everybody here has seams and scars.
So what. level up.
Let your faith die; bring your wonder.
Yes, you are only one.
No, it is not enough.
But if you lift your eyes, I am your brother.
And this is all we need.
And this is where we start.
This is the day we greet.
This is the day, no other.

This is Hope Punk: We Are Who We Are. And we are not in this alone. We walk this lonesome valley, and yes, it is full of grim and dark and terrible things. And if we lift our eyes, there’s Jesus, our sibling, beside us, ready to share the load.
Hope Punk is the Statement of Faith we say every Sunday, claiming that we are “water-washed and Spirit-filled.”
Hope Punk is the corporate confession of our sins every Communion Sunday, where we hold each other accountable for how we’ve failed, and we accept God’s invitation to start again.
Hope Punk is the GrubHub gift card you send to your friend who’s going through a nasty divorce, and you can do nothing to fix it for them, but you send the gift card anyway because maybe Cane Rosso will somehow help.
Hope Punk is believing not simply that Jesus died, but that he lived, and he is living still, in and through us, and he’s with us now, and he’s inviting us to work alongside him, right here, today.
Hope Punk is Mary Magdalene, Salome, and the countless other women (“unnamed” only in the Gospel writers’ literary oversights, but named and wholly known by their Creator God) showing up at the tomb with spices and precious gifts and grit and determination and hope.
Hope Punk is taking your meds and going for a walk when your depression tells you you’re never going to feel better again.
Hope Punk is Jesus broiling fish on the beach, asking Peter to get over himself and lift his eyes and be reinstated into his community of disciples and brothers and sisters.


So may it ever be. Amen.
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