March Madness is almost here!

The NCAA college basketball tournament will distract us, at least for some evenings, from the real world. Whew! Otherwise, March is a rather pedestrian month.

We live in a culture that adores so much of the material and superficial that we might lose focus on the important.

A big March event – the Academy Awards – celebrates artistic and technical merit in the American film industry but is, nonetheless, fundamentally, all about entertainment.

Sports. Entertainment. Wow!

In contrast, we mourn one more horrible manifestation of evil in the world – the gut-wrenching murder of 17 innocents at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. No words can dampen that pain and devastation.

Many will offer policy and administrative responses. Many will offer prayer and emotional support. We hear their voices, read their proposals and think about whether any avowed course of action is either justified or prudent.

That discussion is for other forums and other pages. We might – with reasoned steps – take meaningful action. Is there any hope?

Human endeavor has produced great advancement and great destruction and despair. Medicine, applied science and engineering have provided us with qualities of life of that previous generations could never have imagined. The same sciences, used without a moral compass, have rained down unspeakable catastrophe. If human effort can generate both the great and the disastrous, where is our hope?

Perhaps our hope is in the world of faith. I speak (without apology) from a Christian viewpoint. We Christians, Jews and Muslims hold out “hope” as an answer. But what kind of hope?

We cannot hope that “technical” remedies like legislation, regulation and process will change human behavior in any meaningful way over the long run. If we desire lasting change, such a human seismic shift will come about only from a change in heart. Less anger, diminished hostile language and greater willingness to hear “the other” without rancor or vitriol are essential elements.

Many understand hope as wishful thinking, as in “I hope something will happen.” This is not what Christians mean by hope.

The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” For Christians, hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown.

Hope is a fundamental component of life and – to be clear – what we believe as a promise of a future resurrection of the dead. Other faiths might express this concept somewhat differently, but we share one thing in common: along with faith and love, hope is an enduring and essential virtue.

Hope produces joy and peace. We believe that hope is not unwarranted. Whether you see it this way or not, perhaps it would be productive for each one of us to step back from the temporary and frivolous and ask, “Where is your hope?”

Your personal answer might lead to renewed hope in something better than what the material world offers. What do you think?

Joe Crowley is director of adult discipleship at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton.