Popular depictions of both a Christian and a secular apocalypse – fire, brimstone, ghastly creatures, a barren Earth – have made the concept frightening for many. For Catherine Keller, apocalypse and by extension counter-apocalypse evokes something else entirely. From the Greek words apo- meaning un- and kaluptein meaning to cover, Keller invites us to explore a time and a place of uncovering or unveiling. In a theological context, apocalypse may give hope that after the destruction of evil, restoration can occur. Ending oppression is our uncovering.
The Rev. Dr. James Cone, known as the father of Black Liberation Theology, wrote extensively about reconciliation, forgiveness and racism. Cone’s work can be and often is viewed as a road map for what is required if true reconciliation is to ever occur between Black and white people in the United States. In this post-election era it may appear that we are further away from that reconciliation than ever, not only between white and Black folks in this country but with other identities as well. And yet, the Movement for Black Lives is a sign, according to Cone, of a necessary precondition of reconciliation – liberation. However, in the United States, in order for liberation to occur for all oppressed people there must be an end to white supremacy.
The leaders of the movement define the terms of reconciliation, a requirement outlined by Cone, rather than allowing the movement to be defined by those who control the systems responsible for our oppression. Ending oppression does not call for the destruction of white people, nor does it seek to return the favor of anguish endured, as a literal reading of the Christian text might suggest. Rather, ending oppression and uncovering Black lives embodies the call for justice and end to the destruction caused by oppressors. The Moment for Black Lives’ policies and actions give those who benefit from white supremacy an opportunity, in Keller’s framework, to convert and denounce white supremacy and to fight against oppression alongside those who have suffered because of it.
Whether you believe in a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation or a more liberationist approach, it is clear that the #BlackLivesMatter movement demands the reign of a new era.
The destruction of white supremacy is a requirement before there can be reconciliation between the oppressed and those who have furthered and benefitted from white supremacy. But destroying white supremacy is not enough. In the unveiling of Black life, the movement of the Spirit is both the demand for justice by the oppressed and the recognition of the injustice and violence participated in by the oppressor. Only from here is room created for reconciliation – only through collaborating for justice can reconciliation amongst those who share in the collective experience of oppression occur.
Catherine Keller tells us that a “nonviolent intensity of protest rages up from the creativity at the heart of the world. It bursts out of a joy deeper than anger, deeper than grief, deeper than judgment.” In a society where the marginalized have been made to assimilate to the images dictated by those in power, we are in a moment where millions of people are saying, “no more!”
In the destruction of the evil that is white supremacy, the movement of the Spirit says that those at the center of the uprising can resolve to be co-conspirators in their own liberation. The iteration of this fight has just begun and it does not appear to be losing traction. The fervor and growth of the #BlackLivesMatter movement follows the pattern examined by Keller, and employs prophetic voices to evoke fiery transformation. The unveiling has begun and white supremacy (Babylon) must fall, a truth revealed by those at the helm of the movement, those most impacted by the oppression, and those who have joined the fight to denounce the system from which they benefit(ted).
God’s people will not stop until they have been restored to God’s self. Whether you are religious or not, believe in a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation or a more liberationist approach, it is clear that the current events of the #BlackLivesMatter movement demand the reign of a new era. We cannot wait for some unknown time and some unknown life beyond this one, regardless of religious affiliation. We must meet our uncovering now, where there and only there, can we be healed and whole.
This post is part of the Black Futures Month blog series brought to you by The Huffington Post and the Black Lives Matter Network. Each day in February, look for a new post exploring cultural and political issues affecting the Black community and examining the impact it will have going forward. For more Black History Month content, check out Black Voices’ ‘We, Too, Are America’ coverage.