Table of Contents
This is an excerpt from an essay I am working on about finding my prophetic voice in today’s religion. This means it is a work in progress and I would love feedback on what you thought and felt. If it is anything like the last essay, I worked on it will become a book. ???? It was inspired but Walter Brueggemann’s work in Prophetic Imagination. You can check that out below.
Some background to catch you up on the essay
Millennials armed with the vast technological capabilities stand at the forefront of the coming shift in power. This shift has a variety of outcomes some of which cannot be foreseen, but many of which can be guided. For not the first time in history, American millennials are wealthy enough along with a technological shift to change the course of history. For the first time, a group of young people is actually wealthy and knowledgeable enough to ask and perhaps answer the elusive question why are we here?
After surveying the entire array of historical powers and receiving the education on the rise and fall of a near infinite number of empires, principalities and governments, we turn to religion.
Seeking the Spiritual
The Millennial is highly spiritual or complete atheist. We have no time to dabble or flip flop. We work from one position or the other. I am not an atheist, so I shall not speak to their intentions, beliefs or practices except to say that they are not the villain the Church makes them seem to be.
What is interesting and has been written about at length is that millennials are spiritual but not religious.1 What is not spoken about enough though is that millennials seek the spiritual for human rights, not unlike the American hippies of the 1960s. Why the young men and women of the 1960s pulled away from the church provides groundwork for why a similar phenomenon occurs amongst millennials.
Pulling away from the Church
Ask a young person what was wrong with the Church in the 1960s and they will say something about all the rules, stereotypically while high on their drug of choice. They weren’t wrong but the answer wasn’t deep enough. Millennials are much deeper in their reflection (maybe because we aren’t stereotypically high). If you asked a Millennials, the rules will be cited because it has worked as an argument in the 1960s and it works now. There are simply more “rules” in Church than outside of it.
However, if you dig a little you will find that Millennials dislike the hate spewed in many churches about human rights issues. Millennials have no tolerance for hate about human rights issues. They will leave and never come back. Why? Because the Bible shows us that we should be consistently for the downtrodden and oppressed. God says that on numerous occasions through both prophet, priest, and apostle in both the New and Old Testament.
Millennials have the least tolerance for hypocrisy I have ever seen in my studies of history. Perhaps we feel we have the least amount of time of anyone in history. We have to go to work, change the world, have a family, and still get through those Netflix queues. The amount of content to sift through is incredible. Thus, we have no time for duplicity (the nice way of saying hypocrisy). Hypocrites are fundamentally untrustworthy and therefore not worth a Millennial’s time.
Issues of hypocrisy seen in the church today rival that of the pharisees in Jesus’s time and the time of the kings of the Israel Monarchy. We trust God, but we aren’t about to tear down our idols the church silently assents. This duplicity is derived from what Walter Brueggemann calls static religion.
Static religion, as defined by Walter Brueggemann in his work Prophetic Imagination, is a religion that is part of the dominant culture being used by the state to legitimate the work or desire of the state through religious means. Spirituality is bound and worked into the state so that state may become religion itself. Brueggemann credits Solomon with this work in the Old Testament though Solomon was certainly not the first or last. The American President Trump is the latest in the tradition. In his case using Christianity, along with the
This culture is referred to in the Old Testament prophets as Babylon. In the New Testament it takes on the name of Hellenism preceding Christ, 2nd Temple Judaism during the time of Christ, and of Roman culture after Christ.Static religion is a religion that is being used by the state to legitimate the work or desire of the state through religious means. @WaltBrueggemann Click To Tweet
Brueggemann contrasts static religion with the freedom of the Mosaic prophetic voice which counterpoints the empire we live in today, that of Pharaoh in Egypt. In coming full cycle, we (millennials) look to the gods of Egypt and their response and we see a reflection of Christianity in America. One in which God is dead, useless and offers no justice. Static religion is controlled by the state and the state holds religion. It works to subjugate God just as the Ancient Greeks sought to do with their offerings.
The interesting thing is that most Americans offer nothing. We use the gospel of grace and reconciliation as an excuse to offering nothing to our imprisoned god. Prosperity comes to the believer in our nation because it is a nation of believers. We are only just realizing that we believe in America more than we believe in God.
Since religion and the state become so intertwined in static religion. It follows that religion cannot move forward without the state’s approval. Since this is the case, we can infer that Jesus is no longer Caesar, but the American President is for those who follow the static religion. This bold nationalism exhibited only stands to proclaim further the hypocrisy of the Christianity. All know that Christ treats all men and women as equally saved sinners under grace. There is no separation by border. There is no separation between church and state for Christ. Christ’s bride is the church and Jesus is head of state. Jesus cared not for Jewish nationalism of his day. He would not care for American nationalism either.
We are not doomed to repeat the cycle of the kings of Israel or of the dark ages following the Roman collapse. The American collapse is inevitable, but it can be taken in a different direction.I don't want to be a chaplain to the empire. I want to be a prophetic voice. @BrianZahnd Click To Tweet
Hope and Hapiru
The prophets of the Old and New Testament proclaim God is for us. God brings freedom and free will to all mankind. God is for the least of these just like Jesus. So why don’t we see God like we see Jesus? Most of us have been taught that the times of the kings of Israel were a time of great prosperity in Israel and the times of the judges were of great turmoil. From my reading it seems to me that both times mirror Israel’s infidelity. Nevertheless, God continues to assert a life-giving presence among Israel. The prophets often state how Israel is a weak and small nation without honor and God will be their honor. In a way Israel will always be God’s chosen because of inherent weaknesses. This gives us hope. If God choses Israel because they are weak this must mean that God must always be present for Israel to succeed or to continue. When God’s presence leaves Israel, they suffer when God is present, they thrive. God only leaves when they oppress and steal and cheat others. Things which were done to them when they were oppressed.
Hope of God
God has always asserted something quite odd for a god. Yahweh asserts from the beginning of the Hebrew text through the time of Jesus that God is for the living or God is alive.2,3 What an odd thing to perpetually express. It is almost as if God knows the fight against static religion is ever present in the presence of a broken world. God proclaims his presence often. Yahweh expresses is mobility and presence among other nations frequently throughout the text. God is not a god of a particular land though people often mistake him for such. God is freedom. That freedom results in spectacular breaks of everything humanity knows. The sea cannot be parted, water cannot come from rock, battles cannot be won with vastly fewer men and lesser technology (Gideon), men burn in a furnace, oil runs out, men do not walk on water or feed 5000 with a few loaves. God is not bound. God is free and if God is free then God is alive. Alive and mobile is the opposite of static.God is not a god of a particular land though people often mistake him for such. God is freedom. Click To Tweet
Hapiru of God
Hapiru is an ancient term for a nationless people living at the edge of society that are both threatening and threatened by society. Hapiru are named and created by societies and they are the downfall of those societies. Hapiru are by definition poor and oppressed. In Rome the Hapiru were the German barbarians. In ancient Egypt the Hebrews were the Hapiru.
Today America names its Hapiru those refugees who seek to cross our border from the south. These people, not migrants or thugs or refugees but people, from Central America
The Hapiru are God’s chosen though. “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nu
The prophet tells us that God is alive and will act again as God has acted in the past. In their proclamation, they criticize us for even creating the Hapiru but give us energy to change and to be free as God is, generous, spontaneous, joyful, empathic – alive, in a way that we may have long forgotten in America.
Which will we choose?
Millennials are at a precipice just as Constantine and Solomon before him. Do we allow our knowledge and power to continue the move of static religion or do we revive it from the margins as Moses did liberating the Hebrews?
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