Based on this article, and the presuppositions that Jesus and Paul were believers in an apocalyptic myth, that the Christianity out of which the Unitarian Universalist movement arose was profoundly affected by the Manichaean gnostic apocalyptic myth through Augustine, the reality that such a myth powerfully animates the view and actions of leaders worldwide and given the failure of the political liberal “politics of inevitability” (according to the works of historian Timothy Snyder), a UU ministerial colleague recently posted these questions in a Facebook group: What is our theory of change (transformation), and based on what evidence? And then what is our alternative theology as well as action? Or is theology irrelevant?
My initial thoughts:
In this sense, Christianity’s apocalyptic ideals would be akin to the “politics of inevitability” – founded in the belief that everything gets better in the future with the removal of that which is in opposition to our subjective values (and per the teachings of the Apostles and Jesus: some measure of divine intervention). Whereas those with the worldview stemming from Snyder’s “politics of eternity” have the belief that things were better in the past and are doomed to get worse, such as with climate catastrophes, wars, social structures, etc.
Blind faith in either case scenario lessens one’s sense of personal responsibility and accountability to what we bring to any given situation, and to Life itself. Leading potentially to one merely drifting along in anticipation of a savior, or, alternately, existing in a nihilistic mode of coping. And, having crisis of faith when either worldview/theology is proven false, or even fractured.
I wonder if then theology becomes relevant when rather than living based on either hope or despair, we are alert to present possibilities?
A Theology that is founded in and acted upon with intentional focus on meaningful and measurable transformation. An accountable “reap what we sow” theology. Perhaps like the Hindu principle of “karma” based on actions.
I was next asked this question: What for you evokes that Paul’s and Jesus’s apocalyptic might well be in the “politics of inevitability” category?
I had to take a moment to consider that. I see how Paul’s and Jesus’s apocalyptic views could potentially be dualistic. But when I try to follow the reasoning back, it stops before the threshold of Eden.
Primarily because the experience of Eden was not a collective experience. And, also, perhaps more importantly, because Eden was not equivalent to the prophesied post-Armageddon full-scale peaceable paradise promised.
The Eden experiment ended before it was shared and before it reached the completion of its goals.
It makes me think of this month’s Soul Matters Sharing Circle theme of “Possibility.”
The Eden story to me is very much about unrealized potential/possibility. Eden was never made manifest to what a true paradisiac Earth could be. Even at an entry-level test of safety it failed, for it was breached by Satan, the then greatest of all threats to humanity. The New Testament assures readers that the future paradise will be completely safe from such malevolence.
So, all the above thoughts gathered together, I am back to “politics of inevitability” because the past never comprised what the future will offer and as such the focus of their messages was on the singular solution of the yet-to-be-ever-realized perfect conditions God’s new world order will bring.
Rev. “Twinkle” Marie Manning
Note: The original article is written by: activist, UCC, and practical theologian, Peter Laarman.