I've been thinking about systemic sin lately. I've been thinking about why we get loud. Why we tweet. Why we blog. Why we do all of this.
On Monday, I went into a bit of what I was told was just a rant on Twitter, the whole of which you can read here. I hesitate to call it a rant, though, and I resent the tendency we have to excuse what we say as somehow not as serious as we meant it to be, as if claiming, authentically, that we actually do believe certain things is somehow dangerous. We call them rants to soften the fact that what we may actually have been doing was singing truth and freedom and Gospel.
It wasn't a rant. It was a moment of watershed, of realising that I have the freedom to be honest about theological things that concern me. When someone tweeted a glib response that passive-agressively questioned the salvation of Catholics, I decided to not only respond to the problem of that reasoning but also to a larger attitude in the Church as I've experienced it, and the larger Church as I know it thanks to the diversity of readers who comment in this space and who keep in contact.
I laid it all (well, a lot of it) out: I said women were equal, that conservative theology needs to love LGBT members better, that a consistent ethic of pro-life doesn't mean abortion but capital punishment and war, too, that Calvinism makes God a monster, that the earth is not 6,000 years old, that we should be grateful when bloggers stand up and call child abuse wrong and the systems that enable that abuse evil.
That last one, given the news around evangelical circles lately, that was a sticking point.
I've been in an incredibly uplifting and challenging Bible study focused on the book of Ephesians this semester and, having concluded it last week, I went back and read the epistle as a whole on Monday morning.
What struck me, what stuck in me, what became a thorn in my side, was this, from right near the end:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in fthe strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against ithe schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against lthe cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
See, this is why we blog. This is why we tweet. This is why we get loud or we rant. Because we're responding to this present darkness.
There's a trend in some Christian circles to play the unity card. We're not supposed to ever rock the boat---doing so introduces discord into the Body of Christ, which means that the person who raised a red flag of awareness is secretly trying to usurp the Kingdom of God. I have enough emails that I get daily to promise you that people play this tactic often: calling something problematic publicly or engaging a public comment with direct criticism is really a move designed to shame the Kingdom of God.
Unless, is it a recognition of what Paul is saying in Ephesians, that what some of us are concerned with in the Church is not just about individual sin? Is it that while individual sin matters, what matters too is collective sin, cooperative sin, sin that infects institutions, sins that create systems of demonic power, systems that oppress, systems that contribute to this present darkness?
I'm beginning to have a hard time engaging theology that has decided that all that matters is eternal destinations. The Gospel is bigger than that. It includes it, but it does not end there. The Gospel is larger, wilder, louder, and it's going after institutions that enable sinful people to keep on sinning, it is going against the forces of this present darkness, our present darkness:
the darkness of patriarchy
the darkness of slavery
the darkness of racism
the darkness of war
the darkness of poverty
the darkness of hunger
the darkness of sexism
the darkness of transphobia
the darkness of homophobia
the darkness of classism
the darkness of disabalism
the darkness of ecocide
the darkness of exploitation
... and so many more. Darkness is bondage, friends. Darkness is enslaving hearts. And these institutionalised sins are running wild in our world.
We sometimes think God's biggest concerns are reducible to whether someone can check the box YES on their will I go to Heaven? membership card.
What if, beyond that, God cares about dethroning the demonic forces of this world that keep women in captivity, that make children slaves, that threaten victims with violence, that hate based on identity, that destroy the good creation?
What if God cares about all of it, all of us, the whole damned-becoming-blessed thing?
What if some of us are called to be a little bit louder, to speak a little bit more directly?
To call out the hell in the midst of us as much as the Hell that may await us?
What do we fear?
I think we fear that we'll start losing our power.
I think we fear that we may be dethroned.
I think we fear that we are more part of this present darkness than we realise.
But then again ...
... this is just a rant.