Day Thirteen

(Dis)Comfort. II Peter 3:11–13

Jessica Vazquez Torres (aka JVT) returns as our guest contributor, a coffee drinking, craft beer loving, BBC watching, overthinking 1.5 generation Queer Cisgender LatinX Woman of Puerto Rican descent who cooks when not traveling around spreading the gospel truth about white supremacy: IT’S EVIL!


Discomfort

When did comfort become our gospel?

Let’s not deny it. American Christianity has been trading its soul for the latest growth strategy for decades. The numerical decline in the white mainline church sparked a trend of turning to strategies of church growth, featuring a collection of white heterosexual cisgender men who promised to turn our congregations around, just like they were in decades past. But growth would come at a cost. To grow was to embrace comfort, distancing the church from prophetic ways of being that challenged the racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic status quo. This status quo was presented as God’s desire for God’s people. The outcome of this longing for the past has resulted in a church where charity is camouflaged as justice, “spiritual renewal” masks uncritical orthodoxy, and the fear of losing our status and privilege dominates what and how we speak to these turbulent times.

11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness…

What kind of people should we be as Christians? This damn question, this incisive query, cuts through the bullshit. It is harder to answer than it may appear. This is a question about identity and values.

Holiness and godliness cannot and ought not be reduced to simplistic prescriptions of moral behavior for life. The world we live in is too complicated, interconnected, and fragile for simplistic answers. Like those the text addresses, we live in confounding times. Harming others has become a normal consequence of our comfort and security. We have become practiced at turning our heads away, so we will not see what we collude with as Christians. Some believe our use of profanity in the #FuckThisShit devotion says more about our moral character than does the death and destruction created by our church investment portfolios, our tax-free buildings, and our conflation of American hegemony and Christianity.

12 … waiting for and hastening [earnestly desiring] the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?

We have no idea when the Messiah will return. Confident doubt-free believers will tell us with assurance that although we may not know the day or the hour, Jesus will definitely return. I am not sure on this 13th day of waiting we call Advent that the Risen Christ will return. I look at the world and all I can say is “Shit. Why return?” We have proven to be a species more than willing to play god, destroying lives and creation in order to preserve and consolidate our power. Why are we worth saving?

Please don’t pepper me with the evidence all the ways people are good. I know there is evidence.

But that evidence looks weak when this U.S. presidential election season resulted in looking the other way as Muslims are terrorized, immigrants are met with hateful xenophobia, reports of hate incidents grow rapidly, LGBTQ people wonder about the endurance of the laws that protect them, white supremacists are legitimized, and those appointed to run our government look more and more like a military junta each day. And let us not forget what we have done to the earth, to our climate, in order to make sure that our way of life, our jobs in coal and gas, our cars, preserve our levels of consumption and pollution. Shit, why return at all given the evidence we would rather live in comfort than live in the discomfort the good news creates in us?

11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness…

The truth is I have no idea what who we are supposed to be. So I am going to err on the side of love. I am going to err on the side of being the sort of people whose love for God and the creation gives us the courage to face the uncomfortable reality of our sinful complicity. I am going to make myself believe that we can be the sort of people that reject evil and all its ways. To me, this means that we will live woke lives unafraid to call out evil wherever we see it. I hope that we might be so fearless that we would be willing to let go of our buildings, our money, and our structures, if those things were holding us back.

13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

So I Wait. I join in the liminal space between our broken reality and God’s promise of a new heaven and a new earth. I come full of doubt. Not doubt in God. But doubt in us. Doubt in a church that time and time again chooses comfort over discomfort. Do we have it in us to be proclaim a realm that demands we get uncomfortable?

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