This time last year we were blissfully unaware of what was bubbling underneath the surface of the thoughts in Christian churches and in the mindset of many Americans. We hoped it wasn’t true, and even though there were signs over the last decade, the last four years has shown that what we had hoped were merely isolated thoughts of bigotry, racism and elitism were actually more pervasive than we thought.
In 2020 it seemed like we were living in the apocalypse.
Using biblical language like that might sound like histrionics or exaggeration, but it is actually pretty accurate. The word apocalypse is from the Greek apokalyptein, or “to uncover, disclose, or reveal.” If anything, it feels like this last 12 months not only uncovered a lot of what we feared, but revealed a lot about America and its people.
Jesus favored poor, not privileged
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the lack of support we provide for our health care infrastructure — including health care workers — on a local, national, and global scale. Furthermore, the uprisings for racial justice after the killing of so many Americans such as Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have revealed how systemic racism has only continued to grow in this country, not abate. The aftermath of the 2020 presidential election has revealed just how divided this nation truly is — with nearly half of the United States believing that facts and published reports are merely fake or just “a hoax.”
The “Apocalypse” has been thrown around Christian circles for millennia, and while there were a few Christian voices that have been loud over the course of 2020 speaking out for justice, fighting for the poor and marginalized, and standing alongside those who have been disproportionately impacted by racism and a justice system that criminalizes their own existence, many Christians failed to speak out, or even speak up, at all during this new apocalypse. The discourse seemed to be coming from a few vocal Christians who chose to not fight for the marginalized, but to uplift an administration that contradicts what Jesus taught us about how to treat others.
We may seem like an unlikely duo to write about this topic. After all, one of us is the granddaughter of the late Billy Graham, and the other is a director for an LGBTQ advocacy organization. Yet, our own discovery of just how disparate the narrative seemed to be from the Jesus we know helped us realize how much our values are in alignment with each other.
In the biblical apocalypse there are false prophets claiming the voice of God. Similarly, today there are those who claim the same while simultaneously trying to put the lid back on what others have revealed to be the truth — that is, that Christ favored the poor and the marginalized over the mighty. Yet this message has been buried by some of our most prominent Christian leaders who seemingly have been seduced by the trappings of power, privilege, and prestige.
Those who suffered the most this year as their existence and rights were threatened helped us to recognize this truth. African-Americans, immigrants, those in the LGBTQ community, the poor, and the handicapped helped remind us for whom the gospel of Christ is meant, and when they voted in November, they showed that the power was truly in their hands, not the privileged.
Press for justice and fix what's broken
Those of us who claim to follow Christ have an opportunity, if not a responsibility, to fix what is broken and to help bring back a kind and just society that honors every person as a beloved child of God. Let us not use Christianity as a way to advance our own agenda, to fill a stadium or to raise money, but rather to be like Jesus in (and for) a broken world.
As Christians, we have a choice: We can either emerge from our quarantined lives wanting to return to pre-pandemic normalcy, or we can use the knowledge revealed during the pandemic months — of health care system failures, systemic racism, and transgender violence to name a few — to lift these groups and others up to Christ and saddle up next to them in solidarity.
We are therefore asking Christians of all denominations and sects to follow the call that we’ve all been given, and to fulfill the words of Isaiah “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” To do this means calling out racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and ableism, and then doing something to eradicate those sins in our lives, in our churches, in our communities and, sometimes, even within our own families.
Let’s then claim our faith unabashedly. Let’s live out our calling, so that people will know we are Christians because of our love for others. Let’s cry out for justice like John the Baptist and the prophets once cried out in the wilderness. Let’s call upon both the newly-elected and incumbents in office alike and remind them that our faith compels us to advocate for the poor and marginalized, those who are impacted by climate change, and those who endure harassment and discrimination just to earn a paycheck.
Maybe then, more will be revealed to us. Maybe then this apocalypse won't be something to fear, but necessary to bring our faith — and our faithfully-informed politics — back into line with the message of the gospel in which we claim.
Jerushah Duford (@jerushahruth) is a wife, mother, evangelical author, and a member of Lincoln Women, a coalition of women within the Lincoln Project. Ross Murray (@inlayterms) is senior director of education & training at The GLAAD Media Institute, founder and director of The Naming Project, and a consecrated Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.. He produces the "Yass, Jesus!" podcast.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How the crises of 2020 have revealed failures we need to work on