Our Cosmic Cop
God sees and knows all our thoughts and deeds. And in IFB culture, he also judges them. Every moment. Like the stars in the night sky that God showed Abraham, sermons on that theme are beyond number.
Morgan Guyton often addresses public spirituality. But his recent piece on a string of police killings holds insights that are singularly brilliant. He postulates that there is a strain of Christianity which:
has a toxic conception of authority that shapes how we respond to incidents in which authority figures do evil.
Beginning with the cross, Mr. Guyton asks exactly where God’s authority lies in Jesus’ crucifixion. Then he offers this:
How we answer that question determines where we see God in these police shootings and how we understand the way forward.
After making observations about Peter’s Pentecost Day sermon, Morgan notes two responses to the proclamation of Jesus. One was from Jews in the Temple on Pentecost. The other was the Sanhedrin’s response to Stephen’s address. In that order, we read:
‘Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do”‘ [Acts 2:37]?
‘But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them’ [Acts 5:33].
So Jesus’ blood proclaimed either dissolves our resistance or hardens it.
Morton says the church must consider whether it today responds as did the 3000 in the temple, or as did the Sanhedrin. In other words he asks:
‘Are we softened or hardened by Jesus’ blood?’
Bloodlust or Gospel
Here, Guyton gives the church a great gift. Police kill daily, and courts grant them immunity to do so. As we face the fact that this more and more will be the norm, Guyton gives us words and imagery to preach the gospel in today’s context. He writes:
‘It makes sense that Christians have been unable to let a crucified man be our God. It’s far too disruptive to the logic of our worldly systems of power to kneel before a bloody, convicted criminal who couldn’t breathe.’
This aligns a ‘bloodthirsty God hellbent on self-vindication’ theology with the same worldly systems of power that crucified Jesus. It sees Jesus in lifeless, unarmed bodies of the poor, gunned down by the same worldly systems of power which also convicted and crucified Jesus.
Shaping the Gospel for Today
Morton’s alignment of an angry, IFB god with earthly systems of power, and his identification of Jesus with poor and helpless people killed by militarized police is a profound contradiction established theology and social policy. It is a radical proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If the church frames and preaches Jesus Christ in such terms in this present context, the upheaval in faith and socio-political discourse could be unlike anything seen since the Revolutionary War.
The truth is, the gospel of Jesus Christ is always revolutionary and radical because it always stands in utter contradiction of the principalities and powers of this age. But not every generation perceives HOW to shape the timeless, changeless gospel such scandalous ways that it becomes truly good and truly news in that time and place.
So long as Fundamentalism retains the theology of God as a cosmic cop, it cannot preach the gospel. Nor can it in any way be ‘separated,’ because it remains thoroughly aligned with the principalities and powers of this age.