There is hardly a single person in America who has not heard of the horrific violence and murders suffered against the black community not only at the hands of white supremacy and racists, but at the hands of the system that is held in place by our own country. This past month after the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Geroge Floyd have come to light in the media across our society I have watched so many people, so many Christians, speak out for the first time against this kind of racial injustice. I have watched people for the first time demand change over the racial inequality and injustice. I have watched so many people, for the first time, acknowledge the issue of racism and violence against the black community. However, this is not a new problem. This is a very, very old problem that has been going on for a very, very long time. I think it is very relevant to examine why so many have been blind to this problem for so long and what we, as Christians, can do about it now that we are here.
“The Prophetic Imagination” by Walter Brueggemann, is one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. I am going to be explaining some of it’s concepts and using it as a reference a lot in this blog post and in this time where so many are being awakened to the reality of social injustice, I want to recommend so much to every Christian that is wondering what their role and the role of the church is to read this book. Allow it change the way you think of the world around you and what you can do about it. Especially because as I try to muddle my way through explaining it, it will be nowhere near as thorough and in-depth as the book itself.
Racism is entirely opposed to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God requires compassion, it requires inclusion, and it requires criticism and intolerance of injustice. As the body of Christ, we are supposed to make the Kingdom of God known on this earth now, we don’t worship on the mountain, or in the temple, we worship and exist in the Kingdom right now (John 4:19-24). That is where Bruggemann’s concept of the prophetic imagination comes in. It is our job as Christians to see the world as if the Kingdom was already here and act within that imagination. A nice little practical tool to do that would be, in a situation, ask yourself the age-old “WWJD?” Does Jesus care about the skin color of a person? No. Did Jesus take the eye for an eye or did he reattach the ear of the guard who was taking him to his death sentence? Did Jesus act out of prejudice or hate? No. Jesus loved indiscriminately. When we choose to see the world through the prophetic, we see a world with no place for racism because the Kingdom of God is too busy being a place of inclusion.
Racism instead, is a part of the “royal consciousness” described by Bruggemann in his book. Royal consciousness is the mindset or “reality” of our society, it is anything that is contrary to the function and community of the Kingdom of God. Bruggeman asserts that there are three main pillars that exist and continue to allow the system supported by royal consciousness to thrive: the economics of affluence, politics of oppression, and religion of immanence (Bruggemann, 30). Instead of going into this really in-depth I’m going to give us what is practically a “Message Bible” translation (paraphrase). Basically, we as people benefit more when there is someone who has less, we benefit when the marginalized are silent, we benefit when we are provided for above the needs of others. For us to continue benefiting from this means we have to ignore the needs of others, it requires us to ignore injustice, it requires us to become numb to mistreatment, death, and grieving. That’s why not only is racism so prevalent, it is why it is so largely ignored not only by our society and our government, but in our churches as well. Even Christians benefit from supporting the royal consciousness. We are better provided for when someone else is getting less, when someone else is getting ignored, it means more for us and it means we don’t have to depend on God for it either.
So how do we use the prophetic imagination in our everyday life? How do we set ourselves free from the bondage of royal consciousness? Walter Bruggemann offers a wonderful dissection of this topic, but today I want us to focus on what I think is most needed, is most necessary for us today: we need to mourn with those who mourn and grieve with those who grieve. Don’t wait for all of the facts to come out. Don’t wait to move your heart to compassion. Don’t wait to decide whether or not someone deserves your tears or your grief. We have brothers and sisters who are hurting, who are voiceless, who are oppressed. Don’t withhold your grief from them. Don’t hold up excuses of details and technicalities to put a wall between you and their hurt. Don’t be numb to death, to pain. When we grieve with our brothers and sisters, when we grieve with the oppressed and we acknowledge their pain as real, we also acknowledge that the injustice is real. We give credibility to their pain and their experiences. We express a failure within our society and declare the desire for an ending to it. This creates the space for God to create a new beginning and do something new.
So, for those Christians who are new to this fight and feel powerless in your privilege and are wondering what to do, let’s continue to “un-numb” ourselves. Let’s grow familiar with pain and grief. Let’s grieve loudly and publicly with those who are so hurt, broken, and afraid right now. We need to acknowledge that the pain is real, the injustice is real, and we need to admit the need for an ending. We need to free ourselves to imagine the world as the Kingdom of God in the right now and act and move in that imagination. Even Jesus wept when faced with the death of a friend (John 11:35). Jesus knew what we as flawed humans have to relearn all the time, “that weeping permits newness. His weeping permits the kingdom to come” (Bruggemann, 57).
If we want to see the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, we first need to reject earth as it is on earth. Let’s mourn and grieve with those who are mourning and grieving to make room for the new beginning that Christ came to build. We hear so often in churches and in songs the phrase from scripture that prays “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). That prayer should be given in even more earnest from each and everyone of us now. There is no room for racism in the Kingdom of God. There’s no room for prejudice. So, yes, God, Your Kingdom come.
“The Prophetic Imagination” by Walter Bruggemann
If you’re interested in reading the full book of “The Prophetic Imagination” (which I fully recommend and encourage you to do) you can click the button below and buy it on Amazon! (def not sponsored)