Almost a week ago Wipf and Stock offered me some ‘really cheap ebooks.’ This was not the first email last week to extend mercy of free or nearly new books. The title jumped out at me – how do we respond as the church body to disaster.
Chapter by chapter I will be writing here the ways church has responded to disasters and how we could respond to current disaster – after it is over.
For me, a congregation has a soul. A unique indicator of their relationship with God, self and other. How that soul responds to being in a crisis and how it recovers afterwards is of primary interest to me in this present climate. The body of Christ reflects theologically and through the lens of Jesus at current culture and disaster politics.
How do individuals respond? – with compassion or selfishness or a mixture of the two. How does the church respond? – with compassion or selfishness or a mixture of the two. How could we respond? What are the irreducible minimums of missio dei that we can bring into the “after the disaster.”
I listened to many sermons on Sunday because I wanted to appraise how church leadership was responding in this our first week of social distancing. Many sermons spoke of Psalm 46, that incredible song from which we get the words “Be still and know that I am God.” They talked about disasters and knowing God, letting go, increasing our weakness so he can show his strength, releasing the burdens so that we can be still. All good theologically sound material. Some included a call to those who don’t believe, some didn’t. Some was helpful and some was not. What does the body of Christ do and be in the light of a global pandemic?
Back to soul. A congregation could lean into their own self-understanding. What makes them tick? What makes them move? What moves them? What are their primary motivators? The self-knowledge of the identity of the congregation is crucial to self-understanding. All the important things of personality and character of the individual are just as vital for the shared soul of a congregation.
A disaster is an event or series of events that rocks the cultural and material world. A trauma occurs, that needs intervention from an outside source at the same time the traumatised people attempt to restore without external intervention. As the imagination of the world is looking at imminent planet wide suffering it seeking to blame, to point the finger and to turn in on itself.
Disasters signal the massive destabilization or destruction of those material bodies that most crucially mediate the narratives of collective existence.Santos, Gabriel A.. Redeeming the Broken Body: Church and State after Disaster (Theopolitical Visions Book 2) . Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The ecclesiastical body cannot meet, cannot gather and for the foreseeable future this is unlikely to change. Those in power who are looking to normalise by the end of March or even April are looking at the wrong models. There will be people who do not return to the church building weeks, months maybe even years after this disaster is over.
What will be our response?