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by Lenrod Nzulu Baraka
Christian eschatologists are having a field day as the world drifts from one crisis to the next. David Beasley’s imagery of a tsunami on top of a tsunami seems like an apt description of our disaster-prone age. Crises and disasters are morphing into each other and bringing the human family ever closer to a period of unprecedented misery. Even the most skeptical minds in our midst are compelled to consider that we are at a tipping point that could take us all to hell in a basket at lightning speed.
As the COVID-19 pandemic started showing signs of subsiding, President Putin launched his military operations in Ukraine. The Ukraine crisis seems to have opened a floodgate of other crises that are affecting the entire global community. Global supply chains are breaking down. Entire regions are threatened with famine as environmental degradation renders existence impossible in waterless, arid wastelands.
Droughts, floods, locusts, heat waves, infernos, water shortages, and desertification have combined to create a perfect storm that threatens the existence of millions around the globe. Mass migration is already a reality that will only get worse as Mother Nature continues her deadly rampage. The devastating visitations from the natural world combined with the disasters we have unleashed upon ourselves have created a fertile field for religious speculations.
The evangelical wing of Christianity, armed with its literal exegesis of the Bible, interprets the escalating crises of our age as sure signs that we are living in the last days of earth history. Many conservative evangelical Christians expect to be airlifted off the planet prior to faeces hitting the fan for the rest of us hedonists and sinners. This world view is undergirded by the concept of the great unraveling where everything eventually comes to a whimpering halt followed by an eternity punctuated with the screams of the damned.
Bible literalists are therefore escapists at their core. They look for rescue and redemption from above as white or brown Jesus swoops down on his white horse to right all wrongs and to save the day for the elect. Working to improve conditions on earth is therefore counterintuitive for the Bible literalists who believe that crises and disaster are nothing more than harbingers of the glorious appearing of their great deity and Saviour.
Escapist theology unfortunately ill prepares its adherents for the reality that is facing the human family. Bible literalists are some of the most strident deniers of global climate change. White evangelicals gave their support to the anti-environmental crusade launched by the Trump administration. These are just the latest examples of Bible literalists being on the wrong side of history.
Christians generally have an unflattering record of enabling some of the darkest forces in history. Catholics played a not so insignificant part in the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. After the signing of the Concordat between the Vatican and the Nazis the Catholic Church turned a blind eye as the Nazis implemented their final solution against European Jews.
Catholics and Protestants alike joined in the orgy of violence and exploitation directed against the people of the African continent and their descendants in the New World. Social justice was never going to be high on the priority scale of religionists who were sold on the idea that their deity would fix all things at his own time and place. Christian abolitionists and anti-segregationists were literally going against the grain of long established tenets in Christian theology.
In these trouble-filled times, people of African ancestry can ill afford to be mentally handicapped by escapist theologies that sublimate our creative energies. The challenges of the future require all hands on deck to combat the multiplicity of problems converging on us from every angle. If the gods finally appear on the horizon to save the day we can rejoice and be exceedingly glad. In the event however that the gods remain conspicuous by their absence we are all that we have and we will be forced to work overtime to save ourselves and the pieces of the planet assigned to us.
Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center.