The power of reimagining
At the heart of our incessant productivity is the hope and belief that things will get better, mostly for ourselves in the pursuit of upward social mobility. The result though is that Millennials (those born from the early 80s) are the most burned-out generation, according to Anne Petersen, culture writer and researcher. The trend seemingly does not trail far behind for members of other generations. If you are reading this newsletter, it means you have the scarce luxury of time, and if you intend to read it to the end you even possess such fortitude of those in good mental health. Before you think I am deriding you for your lifestyle and good intentions to provide the best for your family, I too find myself often too busy to read any article fully, usually resorting to the ‘clickbait’ that offers a few catchy points that means I only have to read the paragraph headings. Obviously, the algorithms of Google have picked up on this readership trend.
During this year’s Lent course, we looked at the theology of economics and how our desires have been captured, unbeknown to us, making us the very products on sale for social media advertisers. Maximizing our self-interest through endless competition has damaged our sense of Self to the extent that high levels of anxiety during peacetime is more common than ever. Pressure on adults and youth are so high that the Great Resignation is an actual societal movement. Becoming more aware of how advertisers subconsciously persuade us, the result, as discussed during the Lent course, is to fundamentally reimagine and reterritorialize our desire for its true intent. Jesus frequently liberated people from systems of oppression, freeing them to perceive the world differently, and living with sustained joy.
The account of the Resurrection is a tradition of reimagination enshrined in the Christian faith. Therefore, the Reformers advocated that all Christians, lay and ordained, should live to the standard of all committed holiness and self-giving. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) that we recall on the Day of Ascension, concluding the season of Eastertide, is not a task to ‘work’ for God, but an invitation to see the world in communion, like when God was an abiding presence for humans in Eden. Easter signals the rebirth, recreation, and reimagination to communion, the place where we find ultimate fulfillment as humans. Before you say that is a rather primitive view of societal development, consider the psychological effects lockdown had.
If the church, i.e., the people, were to again live in such communion as the early church, it would exemplify the Good News. It requires vulnerability though. If we truly want to reimagine the world and ourselves, it asks of us to become less individualistic and greater civil participants. It asks of us to question the fundamental systems in place that control our society. However, you do not have to be a revolutionary to show such care and hospitality that it draws the attention to the means and reasons of our labor. The Resurrection was in fact a political event before it was a religious doctrine. It sent shock waves and fear throughout the Jewish and Roman governing bodies at the time. Similarly, Christians have cared for the sick when nobody else wanted to, advocated for the abolition of the slave trade when it was bad for business, and called for the end of Apartheid.
When we become political or socially orientated as Christians, we can easily be caricatured as being leftwing, moreover as those who interpret the Gospel so rationalistically that it merely becomes a religious worldview for moral or spiritually conscious living. In such an instance we would be nothing more than postmodern, post-material citizens that contribute to an increasing pluralistic and anarchic society where, in reality, aggressive political correctness lead to deeper societal divides and nationalism in response. In my opinion, it is the other way round. Our response to the Resurrection would spontaneously and intentionally result in a reimaging of our world in which communion is our spiritual inheritance, attainable now. To live missionally is to abandon our exceptionalism, tribal thinking and loyalties when they conflict with God’s vision for the world – A world where every ethnic-linguistic people group experience the opportunity for reimagining. Before you say I am being intolerant, consider simply how the Resurrection could offer and meet the anthropological aspirations of being fully alive, set free from rigid ways of thinking, and living in communion with God, the source of all being, the eternal Wisdom, and the Spirit.
I wish you a blessed Easter that will inspire you to greater communion with God, neighbor, and creation – Rev Eben