Dear Hope Community,

We just experienced a devastating week in the United States. COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Americans — nearly matching the total number of Americans lost during the entirety of World War I. As we were mourning these deaths, we were shocked by another act of injustice.

Once again an unarmed Black American was killed senselessly. Each time this happens we are more angered, more ashamed and more discouraged that this kind of overt and brutal racism still exists in our country.

Like so many of you, I am heartbroken. I’m especially hurting for our students, colleagues and alumni of color. I cannot truly know the pain you are feeling. This is not something I will ever experience first-hand; neither will my children. But as one who is aligned with you in God’s family, I acknowledge and recognize your suffering and stand with you in sadness and support.

For Christians, racism is a topic that requires our constant attention. We can’t turn away and pretend it doesn’t exist. Christians have to talk about it — ensuring the conversation stays front and center.

Why? For one thing, God talks about race — all the time. Throughout the Bible, God never glosses over racial tensions. In fact, racial reconciliation is one of the main story arcs of Scripture. At the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 11 (tower of Babel), people are scattered by nation, language and tribe because of sin. And at the end of the Bible, in Revelation 7, all tribes, nations and languages are gathered together in perfect unity around the throne of Christ.

At Hope College, we aspire to build a community that embodies Revelation 7 — true unity through diversity.

This involves doing more than just talking. It requires action.

The Class of 2024 that will arrive on campus in the fall will be the second most racially diverse class in Hope’s history. As we work together to ensure everyone in this class feels they belong here, Hope must model something different than the world around us.

The world is getting more diverse. But at the same time, it is also getting more divided.

This year, 2020, marks the first time in U.S. history when whites are a minority among 18 year-olds and younger. By the middle of this century, that will be true for the U.S. entire population.

Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers.” So let’s fight for justice and advocate for (as Abraham Lincoln said) “the proposition that all men are created equal.” But of course we can’t do this with violence. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned against fighting violence with more violence, and the Bible instructs us to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

I believe God is calling us to be a true beacon of hope. One way this can happen is by being a place that is perfectly unified in our diversity.

We are, of course, imperfect humans — and I surely include myself in that category. I know I will disappoint some of you for doing or saying too little and disappoint others for doing or saying too much. Just as I’m not perfect, our journey together toward a perfectly unified family of God will not be perfect.

But don’t despair. We have HOPE.

The God we serve is Himself an innocent sufferer. Jesus’s shed blood redeems us from these tragic times. And just fifty days after Easter is the day of Pentecost. (Today, in fact, is Pentecost Sunday.) At Pentecost, God injected us with His power. That power, in the form of the Holy Spirit, lives and dwells in us today, giving us the authority to fight injustice and heal disease just as Jesus did.

My prayer is that God would use us to do this. We can be a place where His aspirations and our reality come together.

Spera in Deo,

Matthew Scogin