Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bring Forth the Kin-dom of God

The lectionary reading this week from Revelations describes a fantastical image of what it will be like when God’s new creation is fully realized on earth. The author describes a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The holy city of Jerusalem descends adorned as if for a great celebration; death and mourning, crying and pain will be no more. God will dwell among creation and all things will be made new.

This utopic vision of a future without sorrow or suffering, a future when God and creation will be one, is the same vision that Jesus witnesses to throughout the gospels. It is a vision of a time of peace and justice, love and mercy, a time when all the “should-s” and “ought-s” we hear described in our faith stories are made real. There is no more discrimination, no inequality. There is no more vengeance or violence, no hunger, or poverty, or hate. It is a time when the fullness of God’s desires for the world are fulfilled and all, creature and Creator alike, dwell in peace everlasting.

This vision is often referred to in scripture as the "Kingdom of God. " Yet, this naming of God's vision of peace and justice as a "kingdom" is not without problems. Our Christian tradition having grown up in a feudal and hierarchical system appropriated the images and notions of their secular world in an attempt to describe their relationship with the Divine…just like we do today. The images of "king" and "kingdom" were familiar for they matched the very system under which many of our faith ancestors lived. However, the problem is that these images of kingship and lordship no longer match our understanding of God’s relationship with the world.

All relationships change…even our relationship with God. I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly at work trying to teach us new things about God, the world, and ourselves. As we learn, we gradually come to understand that sometimes old ways of thinking are no longer appropriate to describe the present reality.

There are two reasons for not using the regular word employed by English bibles, “kingdom.” First, in suggesting the image of king for the Divine it presumes that God’s gender is male and male exclusively. But if as scriptures tell us we are all, male and female alike, made in God’s image, the vision of God as male becomes extremely problematic.

Second, the concept of kingdom in our world today is both hierarchical and elitist – as is also the word “reign.” The very words themselves become hindrances to communicating the vision God has for the world. We stumble over images that reinforce a hierarchy in the midst of a vision that calls for the destruction of all such forms of inequality and injustice. It becomes difficult, doesn’t it?

Ada Maria Isasi Diaz, a mujerista theologian, coined the term "kin-dom" as a way of re-appropriating or re-naming God's vision for the world that better communicates the nature of that future. The word "kin-dom" makes clear that when the fullness of God becomes a day-to-day reality, we will all be sisters and brothers - kin to each other.We will indeed be the family of God, dwelling together in the "kin-dom."

* For more on Isasi Diaz's notion of the "kin-dom" see her book, Mujerista Theology (Orbis Books, 2001).

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