Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Apocalypse

"Apocalypse" is a Greek word (apokalypsis) that is not synonymous with "catastrophe" or "destruction."  Apocalypse actually means "revealing" (it literally means "uncovering," as in lifting the cover off of something to reveal what is inside).  Oftentimes, though, things get revealed as a result of catastrophic or tumultuous events.

For example, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's devastating effects upon Houston we saw a revelation of neighbors sacrificially helping neighbors--reenacting in myriad ways Jesus' story of the good Samaritan.  Churches and mosques and
synagogues and homes and retail businesses opened their doors to shelter people.  One of the most inspiring stories I heard was of a business called Gallery Furniture, who invited evacuees to come and stay at their two Houston-area stores (plenty of mattresses, sofas and recliners).  As Hurricane Harvey approached Houston, the owner of Gallery Furniture posted a video on the company's website inviting people to come and shelter at the stores.  He gave out his personal phone number in case people needed help.  Gallery Furniture even sent their delivery trucks out to pick people up and bring them to the stores.  Hundreds of people have been sheltering at the stores.  Consider the loss of revenue to Gallery Furniture as a result of having stores full of new furniture turned into stores full of used furniture by refugees from the storm.  But that's what neighbors do.

Contrast Gallery Furniture (and the many similar examples) with Joel Osteen's 16,000 seat Lakewood Church.  Rather than pre-emptively preparing and getting the word out that the church could be used as a shelter, Lakewood Church appears to have kept its doors closed and only grudgingly opening to shelter its neighbors after being shamed on social media.  Initially the church claimed that they remained closed because their building had experienced "severe flooding" but now Osteen admits that "we were blessed to not have flooding here."

The apocalypse in this case is that it was a furniture salesman, not a popular preacher, who demonstrated Christianity.

Another apocalypse came this week in the form of the "Nashville Statement," a just-released document signed by over 150 evangelical leaders (including John Piper, Francis Chan, Wayne Grudem and John MacArthur) which denounces LGBTQ people and those who support LGBTQ people.  It is revealing that what motivated these leaders to come together and make a public statement was not the violent racism that manifested in Charlottesville or the threats of cataclysmic war of late or the corruption at the highest level of our government that is becoming increasingly evident.  No, their rallying point was to "affirm" that gay and transgender people should not be afforded the same dignity and rights as everyone else.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, Jesus warns that "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’"  What is the "will of the Father" that Jesus referred to?  Elsewhere in the Gospels (and throughout the Christian and Hebrew scriptures) it is made quite clear what God would have us do: care for the poor, feed the hungry, shelter those in need of shelter, welcome the stranger, speak up for the oppressed and speak out against injustice, make peace, practice humility and mercy and kindness and fairness, etc.

The apocalypse in Jesus' time was that so many religious leaders completely missed the point.  The apocalypse today is that they still do.


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