I’m not interested in sliding back into a comfortable silence after a funeral.
Reflecting on the events 2 weeks ago in Charleston, I have become convinced that both the systemic oppression of people of color and the increasingly common mass-shootings in the US are problems into which the Church, and only the Church, can breath fresh life.
While all other outlets seem to have reached an impasse, the solutions to America’s problems flow easily and necessarily from the most important truths advanced in the New Testament. And its time for us—especially pastors, writers and culture shapers—to speak boldly into the spaces our culture is in deep pain and looking for leadership.
We Believe in the Cross …
Christianity is the single most diverse movement in the history of our planet, and there is not a close second. Due exclusively to our view of God, Christians span the globe and grow within vastly different societies, utilizing countless languages and ways of expressing our faith.
Empirically, Christians embrace a philosophy that, when believed, magnetically draws together the most diverse kinds of people while insisting on their diversity. The reason is clear. The Bible tell us that the Creator God has paid each human soul—no matter status, race, gender, or past—the ultimate complement by dying to save them from the reign of sin and death. As is often said, “the ground is level before the cross.” For the Christian, Jesus’ cross alone determines—now and for all time—the unsurpassable worth of each human person. Corporations, nations, continents will all pass away, but the human being connected to the living God will thrive forever.
No other philosophy compares.
Neither Plato or Aristotle offer a foundation for human equality (in fact they affirm the opposite). Jefferson makes all kinds of ungrounded assumptions about human telos and value, and postmodernity has taken no new steps beyond the easily dismissed claims of the Enlightenment. On the flip side, philosophies like Buddhism that make unity primary cannot make sense of our praiseworthy distinctiveness, our personal identity, or the value of our race and heritage.
Not so Christianity.
Because of the cross, we know that those people who look and act differently than us have inexhaustible value in the eyes of God. Because of the cross, Christians can be the first to traverse a room and introduce our selves and families to those of a different color. Because of the cross, we can be the first to advocate and defend those who in all physical and historical respects are vastly different than us—and yet are our potential kin and co-heirs of God’s future.
Because of the cross, white Christians like myself can be the first to say boldly, “Black lives—embracing a unique culture, heritage, and future—matter, because the Son of God considered them worthy of his one and only life.”
… and Resurrection
Christians believe in the risen and ascended Jesus, and as such we have permission to live without fear. We believe the gospel—the grand truth that Jesus is Lord over all things—and as such we may follow the guidance of the Spirit of God into dangerous and self-giving places knowing that our lives are in the hands of our King.Because nothing on earth can harm us beyond the will of God, why would the Christian place his faith in Mars? Why lean into the protection of Ares? The gods of war lack the power to not only save our souls and restore the Earth, they often insist we sacrifice our own lives and the lives of our children for generations upon their gruesome altar.
In the face of such paganism, John of Patmos unveiled a grander truth. “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the Accuser has been hurled down. [The saints] have triumphed over the dragon by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony. They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice you heavens and you who dwell in them” (Revelation 12).
Celebrating and living in the light of Christ’s enthronement often means suffering in his name, in proclamation of his rule. God has defeated the reign of sin and death and has empowered us to go and exorcise the remaining demon in his name—but no one can serve two masters: either we will defeat evil with the weapons of Christ or the weapons of “the one who came to kill.” And I will not be the first to point out that it’s very difficult to pray for God’s grace upon your enemy and at the same time target them with a high-powered scope.
Guns lack efficacy and are nothing more than idols set up to the bloodthirsty gods of the past. And because we believe Jesus is in control of his world, Christians can be the first—individually and collectively—to destroy all weapons designed to kill other human beings. Such weapons have no place in God’s future (There will be no AK-47 in the New Creation), and as such they have no value in the lives of Christians now.
For this we should thank God. The Creator has made the world such that our battle is not against flesh and blood and we never have to experience the dilemma of whether or not we should slaughter our enemies or love them.
Friends, it’s time for a new posture. Some may call these lines of thinking naïve. But of course the wisdom of the cross is foolishness, not to those who are alive, but to those who are perishing.
Christianity in our culture is stagnant at best, and it’s time to become relevant again. The shooting two weeks ago was not uncommon yet in the hearts of many of us, it represents a tipping point. Let it be a tipping point for the gospel of the crucified and risen Son of God.
Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of Everything New: Reimagining Heaven and Hell (Subversive 2012). You can connect with him at everythingnew.org and @jeffvcook.