Saturday, November 19, 2016

Election Apocalyptic: Revealing Signs of God's Kingdom as anti-dote to white nationalism


I think it is important to share with readers of this column that many, many of our brothers and sisters in minority communities are especially disappointed in white evangelicals this week. Some are scared. And it is our responsibility as Christians
to put away false theologies like ethnically based nationalism, and instead to remain faithful to the liberating gospel of God’s breaking down the dividing walls between us. “Build the wall,” or “send those people home,” should never be the chant of any Christian. Welcome the refugee, love the neighbor, honor the image of God in each other, these are the core commitments of Christianity. All hateful practices that violate such love and welcome and honor are 
disordered practices. It is a sin to confuse Christianity with whiteness, or America.

Yolando Pierce, professor of African-American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote, “Watching 81% of my white brothers and sisters vote for Trump has broken something in me. I do not know if I can continue to pay the cost of being a peacemaker and a bridge-builder with those who refuse to see how their actions have so deeply wounded minority communities. Something has been broken for me; a fragile hope that the work of racial and gender justice will be embraced by the larger church.

I am calling on evangelical Christians all across Northwest Arkansas to join Donald Trump in saying, “Stop it!” to the hate speech that has increased in our region since his election. We elected a man who used dog whistle race-based rhetoric to fuel his campaign, and the result has been harmful speech and actions against black and brown bodies all over our country. It is not just politically correct to speak out against racist and misogynist and homophobic slurs. It is human, and Christian, to do so. 

Yolando is not alone in feeling like something broke this week. Many of us feel like things broke. Others are celebrating. But the shared narrative is one with which many of us are familiar. This election felt, on some levels, apocalyptic.

When you hear the word apocalypse, you might think about the end of the world. That’s the popular definition. So apocalyptic films and literature tend to be about the end of the world, or at the very least the end of the world as we know it.

But when I hear the word apocalypse, I do not think about the end of the world. Instead, I think about the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. I think about the arrival, advent, and recapitulation of all things in Christ. In other words, apocalypse is really about revealing, showing forth the signs of God’s kingdom here and now.

Ask yourself: Where can I see glimpses of God’s kingdom? How can I help make them a reality? That’s apocalyptic. One of my favorite theologians said: “Apocalyptic is the mother of all Christian theology” (Ernst K√§semann). What he meant by this is that almost everything we read in the New Testament, from the teachings of Jesus, all the way to the letters of Paul, is informed by this lived anticipation of the arrival of the kingdom of God. Jesus himself constantly points toward the kingdom. When the Son of Man comes, he says, and then he has very specific things in mind that happen in that coming kingdom. The thirsty receive water, the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, repentance and humility are practiced, the poor are lifted up, the rich are brought down from their thrones. 

The outposts of this coming kingdom (of which churches are called to be the foremost) will be notable for taking up their cross and following Jesus on the way of the cross. This is not cross as tool of the oppressor (like the way the cross is used in white supremacy), but cross as a public sign of Christ’s love made perfect in and through our weakness and vulnerability.

That phrase, Son of Man, which so frequently occurs in Scripture, especially on the lips of Jesus, comes to us first in a great apocalyptic book, Daniel. In Daniel, God gives dominion to “one like a son of man” (7:13).  It’s a phrase that could perhaps be better translated: The Human One. The one who will rule over heaven and earth is the truly Human One, the one in whom the authentic image of God is restored. 

Christians perhaps uniquely among people of faith look at this Human One and see Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we see the humanity of humanity restored. Paul talks about him as the New Adam, restoring what had been lost in the Old Adam. Making humans human again (and so humane). 

Not only that, but this Human One, that Jewish brown-bodied Jesus, reigns in a peculiar way. He ends up executed at the hands of the empire, persecuted by the religious authorities, victim of a rigged trial, with a mocking title above his head—King of the Jews. 

And there, precisely in that moment, the kingdom of God is revealed. Jesus reigns from on high, on a cross. The suffering servant is our vision of the kingdom of God. There are historical moments when it is sometimes easier to be a Christian, because the culture simply aligns with your perspective and protects you. In a moment when all kinds of vulnerable people are more under threat and in need of loving neighbors, the responsibility of Christians becomes much more clear. Take up the cross, and endure being maligned by others, maybe even your fellow religionists, for associating with those who are being hated.

That’s what apocalypse looks like.

[Published today in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette Faith Matters Column]

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Clint, great job!

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  2. Love this. A great reflection on the continuing conversation of where we are called to act in this radical new landscape.

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