ANGERDuring an icebreaker exercise a few days ago the question was asked: “Would you rather be helpless or hopeless?” I’ll choose helpless over hopeless every time. Every time. I can’t live without hope.

In fact, I’m not sure anyone can live without hope. I believe hope is necessary for human flourishing.

But as I watch Super Tuesday presidential primary results roll in, hope seems so 2008.

Every panel of talking heads on the cable news shows have attributed the unlikely success of Donal Trump—and to a lesser extent the surprising campaign of Bernie Sanders—to the underlying anger of the American electorate. Given the corruption, hypocrisy, and gridlock of American politics, I get it. But there is a fine line between discontent and anger—a line I’m afraid too many people are willing to cross.

Anger isn’t something to be celebrated. Anger isn’t something to be exploited. Anger isn’t humanity at its best. Anger won’t make America great.

I understand anger. I struggle with anger all the time. One of my favorite literary characters is the Incredible Hulk—the monstrous personification of unchecked anger. But I don’t want to be the Hulk. To the contrary, the Hulk is a compelling story because many of us see ourselves in Bruce Banner, a man trying to keep his demons from taking over.

I know it’s been another frustrating eight years of American politics. I know that in many respects the world is even scarier today than it was eight years ago. I know that the candidate of hope hasn’t lived up to the hype. (Whether it was his fault or the fault of a broken system is a debate for another time.)

Yet giving in to anger will only bring our nation to a dark and frightening place.

I want America to be hopeful again. I need America to be hopeful again.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit

Reader Interactions


  1. John, remember Mr.”I” from Valparaiso Baptist Youth Group?
    My wife discovered your article on her Facebook.

  2. John, I was on staff of First Presbyterian Church in Topeka, Kansas from the mid-1980’s to mid-90’s. While there, I was one of the pastors to Dr. Karl Menninger prior to his death in 1990. He one told us that he believed the Apostle Paul was wrong in his belief that the greatest of the three, faith, hope, and love, was love. He believed that the greatest of these was hope. If we do not have hope we cannot have love.

  3. Is there a wordswap in the sentence, “I’ll choose helpless over hopeless every time” ?

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