Where are we in terms of talking about death in our Christian communities? Are equipped for these conversations?
The dangerous phenomenon of nihilism taking place in postmodernism is evident in the way we no longer see or talk about death. It is time for a large-scale recovery of the conversation, and this task needs to be taken up by Christians. Death Positive is a growing secular movement aimed at redefining death and it has already started the conversation. While the movement displays noble and practical goals, it is empty of any acknowledgment that God is the One who is completely sovereign over death. There is a direct correlation between seeing death and the stability of our faith. If death is a reality we choose to deny, then our faith in healing will be at risk. When the ability to see death is taken away, in the context of the great commission Jesus gave to his followers, we should ask, "With our faith, how were we not able to raise the dead?” (Matthew 10:7-8).
It is critical for the Church and the world that contemporary ministries of healing speak about death. Christ’s healing ministry, which we witness through the Scriptures, is eschatological, and it cannot be separated from God’s mercy and forgiveness of sin. The in-breaking of God’s Kingdom on earth has already begun, and we are to be expectant of this reality permeating our experiences now. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s eschatological plan for creation provides a future beyond death.
Today’s theological treatises must take into account the present reality of Identity Politics, which I believe, is a detriment to the Church. Many Christian teachings are being confiscated by inaccurate theology in attempts to assuage the truth about the fallenness of humankind. The emergence of victim identities as a means of outsourcing the sin of the human race to other groups based on their identity curtails the Church’s mission of spreading the good news of the Gospel. All persons find their hope in Christ alone. Politics cannot replace God’s coming justice. The emerging theological discourses based on identity politics are found in Contextual Theologies of Liberation. These theologies give rise to voices that are considered to be marginalized in the Church such as women, people of color, gays, transgender individuals, and so on. Finding hope in the Christian message is imperative for marginalized groups and individuals, and it should be celebrated that the gospel is reaching into the deepest wounds of every community in the world. Within these emerging theologies, something to watch and discuss is the removal of Jesus Christ as the TRUE Scapegoat who bears the sins of the world. Critical Theory lies behind these theologies, and they are quickly taking a prominent position within the field of eschatology.
The eschatological commitment of Contextual Theologies of Liberation is also concerned with the present relief of God’s in-breaking Kingdom of Heaven. I believe it is important to make an effort to discuss how my theology is similar in this important matter. Along with these theologies, I promote an eschatological “Now” theme as the underlying emphasis behind healing and relief. Eschatology “Now” opposes a disembodied future tense of relief only in the heavenly realms. Liberation Theologies heavily critique the Reformation’s prevailing emphasis on the effects of grace in the lives of sinners. I refute this critique because God’s creative love is for both the oppressors and the oppressed.
I recently spent two years in seminary where I learned there is considerable pressure to succumb to Identity Politics emerging within theology. I will analyze these theologies and share two stories of experience at the deathbed of a poor Black woman and a gay man with HIV-related cancer. In seminary, I was publicly called out twice for my orthodox views suggesting I was racist and homophobic. I made a formal complaint to the seminary but never received an apology from either student. Still, I did not fold to the theological pressures placed on me by the faculty and students, and I am quite sure that I was the only student in the school cleaning out buckets of vomit, rubbing feet, praying, anointing, and facing the fear of death with a dying person after-hours. True work in the gospel is not academic — it is hands-on. This is what it means to serve as a member of the body of Christ.