These feel like apocalyptic times. The streets that surround my apartment in Brooklyn are quiet. These streets are rarely quiet like this. Bars and restaurants are closed. The New York City schools finally closed. The “city that never sleeps” has slowed down so much that even young children, whose parents have shielded them from the news, realize something is off when they go outside for a walk. These are just the surface-level indications of a much more apocalyptic reality where people are losing jobs, the most vulnerable are impacted worst by this virus, our government is failing to act with appropriate speed and magnitude.
In Greek, the word “apocalyptic” (apokalypsis) means “unveiling.” This pandemic is unveiling the inequalities that have already been true, the consolidation of power and wealth in the hands of a few that has already been true, the financial precariousness that many live in that has already been true. This pandemic is just unveiling in new and more urgent ways what was already true.
With the unveiling, though, comes new opportunities for change. We have new opportunities to think collectively rather than individualistically about our health, wealth, and well-being; new opportunities to redistribute wealth, to work for and vote in candidates who will help implement universal healthcare, to connect and care for each other in new ways.
Progressive Christians have often thrown out the book of Revelation because it’s “too apocalyptic” and has been misused to scare people into converting to Christianity. But this apocalyptic text shows us that understanding the evil we’re confronting can help us move into something new. At the end of the book, the angel shows John “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life” with enough fruit to feed the world; “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore.” May this unveiling moment help us work together to dismantle the systems that divide us and oppress many–racism, capitalism, colonialism, and more–, and may we work together to make this moment into a turning point toward the healing of the nations with clean water flowing and access to food and healthcare being the new landmarks of our communities.
An extension of this piece is found at The Resistance Prays.
Emily Brewer is the executive director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, a nationwide network of Presbyterians and other Christians committed to using creative and strategic nonviolence to change the world. PPF’s current areas of work are accompaniment of human rights defenders and partners in Colombia and the US-Mexico border, advocating for divestment from fossil fuels, preventing gun violence, and building a network of Peace Churches in the PC(USA). Emily is a 1 on the enneagram, loves good coffee, and lives in Brooklyn (but will always consider East Tennessee home).