In Name Alone

The Apostle Paul can be an asshole. But I think I’ll give him a hearing on this, of all days (from a remarkably apt passage in the first chapter of the Letter to the Romans).

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.

[Translation: The God of creation, of human flourishing, and the common good, the divine presence who seeks the renewal of all things knows exactly why you refuse to take polygraphs, or allow an FBI investigation. Just because you suppress the truth, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Just because you deny the truth, doesn’t mean the truth won’t one day be made free].

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

[Translation: The commander in chief claims to be a Christian. If he says it, it must be true. I’ll take him at his word. It must be plain to you, because God has shown it to you. So what game are you on about anyway?].

Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.

[Translation: Where were you in the beginning? Your power is meaningless, this latest affront, another example of your impotence. The truth is speaking. God is speaking. That eternal power and divine nature, seemingly invisible have shown up in the testimony of one who has nothing to lose, one who will sacrifice self and reputation to call on the truth to set a people free. Just because you ignore it, enslave it, abuse it, suppress the truth, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s plain to see. God’s power and divine nature are there, plain to see. It’s not that hard to understand, and yet…]

So they are without excuse.

[Translation: President Trump, Legislators of the United States of America, Members of the Republican Party, people of the United States, citizens of the world, we are without excuse].

For though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.

[Translation: We have failed to honour the one who created all things in love, who sustains all things in love, and who will reconcile all things in love. We have failed to honour God, the proof in our failure to honour each other. The proof in our failure to listen to the one, the millions upon millions who men have raped to hold onto power that was never ours in the first place. Our thinking has become futile, our actions betray our inability to see all created beings as beloved. Our senseless minds have been darkened by dehumanising systems and individual actions that corrupt our planet and all who live here, each and every day.]

Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

[Translation: We’ve traded the glory of God for the almighty dollar, the art of the deal. We’ve traded God’s wish for flourishing humanity for the power we experience when instead we honour the eagle, the donkey, or the elephant.]

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

[Translation: Not wishing to impose Divine will upon them, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity. A Christian nation in name alone.

A nation in which it has always been pure religion to worship the AR-15, the defense contractor, the Wall Street Investor, the polluting industrialist. And (not so coincidentally) the old white man rapist.

A nation in which it has always been pure religion to sacrifice Indigenous people, people of African descent, Latinx folks, Muslims, and Jews.

A nation in which it has always been pure religion to sacrifice children, and women, those who are Gay or Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, those who are Queer, people of diverse Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities.

A nation in which it has always been pure religion to worship the rapist.

A nation in which they have not known the goodness of the Creator, but used his image to distort our affections, and call us to become – with them – the children of the lie.

But there is One.

There is One who is Creator, who is Creating, who is unleashing beauty and mercy, and a brand new day.

And that One is the only One who is worthy to be praised, and blessed forever].

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

Andrew serves on staff at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC as Director of Ministry Innovation, with primary responsibility for St. Brigids, an emerging Christian community where questions are honoured, faith is nurtured, and discipleship pursued.
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