Strengthen What Remains: Queer Apocalyptic Hope

By Cody J. Sanders

“I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God” Angel of the church in Sardis, recorded by John of Patmos Revelation 3:1b-2 (NRSVue).

When did you first realize that the world had ended? 

Was it when you heard the bomb had dropped on Hiroshima? Or was it when you experienced either first-hand or through video footage the carnage of war? Was it when you first learned the name of Three Mile Island, or Chernobyl, or heard that an earthquake and tsunami had severed power at Fukushima? 

Was it when an unknown virus started showing up in your circles of gay friends, and one-by- one you watched them die, wondering when – or if – anyone would ever do anything to help fight AIDS?

Or did the world as you know it end when the COVID-19 pandemic finally reached the place where you live, and stories from the ICUs of the world started to appear on your phone screens and occupy your dreams? Or was it two months into lockdown? Or perhaps when Covid deaths surpassed a million? Or two million? Or six-and-a-half million? 

Or were you finally pushed to the edge of the world you believed you knew when you turned on your television on January 6 and saw the U.S. Capitol being overrun by your fellow citizens trying to overturn an election through an organized insurrection, encouraged by the sitting president of the United States? 

For others, it happened when white sails of European ships appeared on the horizon, portending the end of the world. Or similar sails off the West African shores, absconding with people who would never again know a day without chains and enforced labor. For some, it was the day when no more bison could be found on the plains, or when ancestral lands were left behind in a compulsory march toward the setting sun.  

The world is always ending for some. 

It has ended resolutely for many. 

And it is ending for us.

We are living the apocalypse, or perhaps more aptly after all that I’ve just named, we are living in the post-apocalypse.1 The sooner we realize this, the better we’ll be able to cultivate life in the aftermath of the earth’s numerous endings and edges. 

So, I ask you to let your eyes be opened – an “unveiling” in the truest meaning of the word “apocalypse” – to the times through which we are all living and dying. Potentials for life and care and community abound for those not tied to pasts that we cannot relive, or futures in which we were never meant to survive.2

That is the realm of apocalyptic imagination. Where many of our siblings of faith get it wrong is in attempting to predict when the world will end, rather than recognizing the signs of endings all around them. They imagine ways of escaping the “end times,” rather than living faithfully at the end(s) of the earth as we know it, right now. Apocalyptic imagination is a way of living in time; time that is filled with endings and new beginnings. It is not about a time to come in a linear future, but a time that is always upon us – pasts and present and futures enfolding onto one another. A circular, cyclical, spiraling time. 

It is queer time. As José Esteban Muñoz presses us to see: 

We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain. Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present…Queerness is that thing that lets us feel that this world is not enough, that indeed something is missing.3

The comingling of vanished pasts, the precarious present, and desires for future possibility is also the realm of hope. Because there is no need for hope if you do not first know its absence. As Baptist ethicist Miguel De La Torre argues: 

We embrace hopelessness when we embrace the sufferers of the world, and in embracing them, we discover our own humanity and salvation, providing impetus to our praxis, for hopelessness is the precursor to resistance and revolution.4

Optimism, then, becomes the enemy of hope. For if we believe with all our hearts that things are going to be just fine, then hope is displaced by the idols of optimism and progress. And if the futures we seek are only slightly tweaked versions of the present, then there is no room in our imaginations for hope, which always yearns for surprise, or revolution. Or, as the Apostle Paul said it, “Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what one already sees?” (Romans 8:24 NRSVue). 

So, these are our three realms of exploration: apocalypse, queerness and hope. All three fraught and contested. All three bound up with up with futurity. And we have many able queer guides to led us into the realm of futurity. 

After her untimely death following a fall at the age of only 58, one of her obituaries described Octavia Butler as possessing “vivid intelligence and [a] powerful work ethic,” lauded her for being “a pioneering figure in the white, male-dominated field of American science fictions.” And described her as “a famously reclusive lesbian.”5

A student once asked this foundational figure of Afro-Futurism, “Do you really believe that in the future we’re going to have the kind of trouble you write about in your books?”6

The student was referring to Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, published in 1993 and 1998 respectively and opening their narratives in 2024 and 2032. The books are near future dystopias in which an extreme wealth gap exists between the rich and the rest, drug abuse is rampant, public education is a thing of the past and illiteracy the norm, U.S. government is in fascist shambles, infrastructure in disrepair, and the onslaught of climate collapse is made harrowingly manifest. 

Butler replied to the student, “I didn’t make up the problems. All I did was look around at the problems we’re neglecting now and give them about 30 years to grow into full-fledged disasters.” 

I took Butler’s method seriously a couple of weeks ago, not as a matter of fiction writing, but as a matter of church leadership. As our church’s moderator and I planned for our annual congregational leadership retreat, we developed three scenarios all set just about a decade into the future, centered on our City of Cambridge.7 Each scenario takes the political, economic and climate realities we are facing right now and developed them just a bit further into the near-future, only working with what we know is happening at this present moment, and not delving into any fanciful works of fiction. 

One scenario developed along a trajectory of Trumpism gaining further political foothold in the coming election and played out the implications just a few years out, including its impact on women, LGBTQIA people, immigrant and racial minorities, “Jim Crow 2.0,”8 the federal targeting of sanctuary cities, and a union at risk of dissolution. 

Another scenario took our current economic situation and our city’s affordable housing crisis and developed it just a bit further for our church and city. Rampant economic disparity, constant supply chain breakdowns, food insecurity, and the inaccessibility of basic healthcare shaped the reality of this near future. 

A third scenario looked at the realities we are facing with the climate and imagined beyond the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-2 °C threshold being crossed, and the increase in wildfires and water shortages and desertification, an influx of climate refugees, and the complex, cascading, and difficult to manage effects of climate change in the coming years.9 

I was a little apprehensive about this retreat. We’ve already lived through a difficult few years. How would folks respond to amplifying those difficulties? At first, a dismal pall of silence fell over the groups reading these scenarios. One of the group’s notetakers began her notes: “Initial response from everyone: bleak.” 

After an hour or so of talk around the tables about what kind of church we were being called to become in such precarious futures, I started to hear engaged conversation around the tables, punctuated by laughter and the signs of people having a good time together. 

I had to go around to the groups and be sure they were still talking about the dismal scenarios I had given them and, oddly enough, they were

They were discussing questions like: Whose life is made most precarious in this near future? What are the gifts and graces and assets of our congregation that would be life-sustaining offerings in this near future? In what ways do we need to develop as a congregation in the next decade to faithfully face the challenges of this near future? Who do we want to be as a congregation in a future like this one?10

Even in Butler’s extraordinary bleak near-future in which a fascist leader is running for president with the slogan, “Make America Great Again” (remember, she was writing Parable of the Talents in 1998), and the only safe places to live are in walled communities, and any social safety net that ever existed has now disappeared, somehow her characters form life-sustaining community, experience the richness of relationship, share resources, have sex, make one another laugh and live meaningful lives together at the edge.

At the end of Butler’s conversation with the questioning student, the student asked for her answer to all of the problems she presents in her novels. 

“There isn’t one,” she replied. 

“You mean we’re just doomed?” he asked. 

“No,” Butler said. “I mean there’s no single answer that will solve all of our future problems. There’s no magic bullet. Instead there are thousands of answers–at least. You can be one of them if you choose to be.”11

And I want to ask you: Among the thousands of potential answers to all of our future problems, do you want to be one of them? 

Now you’ve entered the realm of the apocalyptic. You’ve made an ethical choice – a commitment – to being one of the answers at the ends and edges of the world as we know it. Because the “apocalyptic” is not about the cataclysmic end of the world as we’ve so often been led to believe. But it is about catastrophe and endings and edges through which we find ourselves living and dying right now. As Catherine Keller notes of the larger discourse of “eschatology,” “eschatos means ‘edge’…[a] discourse of hope in the face of horror, a hope that recognizes injustice as such and meets its awesome power with confidence in a radical transformation.”12

And the words that prompted this talk tonight are contained in that eschatological, apocalyptic vision of John in the Book of Revelation, when the angel of the church in Sardis speaks: 

‘These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:
I know your works; you have a name for being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is at the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.  (Rev. 3:1-4 NRSV)

I had never really paid much attention to the church in Sardis in the Book of Revelation. All the other churches have some major problems over which they’re thoroughly chided by their angels. Like the church at Laodicea, perhaps the most famous: “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot…So…I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15). 

But the church at Sardis doesn’t get much in the way of specifics from their angel. It’s a chiding of sorts, but it feels a lot like “you know what you did.” Or, perhaps, “you know what you’ve failed to do.”13 Sardis is a city of history and beauty and wealth but, as Sigve Tonstad notes “reputation and reality do not match” for the Sardis church.14 “Believers in Sardis are in a state of denial, far removed from reality, in part because society applauds them.”15

And looking at the church of Sardis in the Book of Revelation can be like looking in a mirror for us – Christians in a place of beauty and prominence and wealth and history and yet, being in a state of denial, having a reputation for being alive, but in reality being at the point of death, a state of sleepwalking our way through the post-apocalypse. 

It is the work of apocalyptic imagination to rouse us from our sleep, to keep us awake to the possibilities that exist beyond the world-ending status quo.

But if we’re going to take this notion of developing a queer apocalyptic hope seriously, there’s a warning we need to heed: Apocalypse is almost always misunderstood when it is interpreted through centering the lived human experience of the privileged and the comfortable. We haven’t known how to handle it, so we’ve erred in one of two major directions:

For many of our conservative siblings in faith, the error is literalizing apocalyptic discourse and seeing every detail of an apocalyptic message like Revelation coming to life in the world around them. For many of our more liberal siblings in faith, the error is in ignoring the apocalyptic material in scripture because it embarrasses us. 

Apocalyptic imagination cannot be undertaken from the centers, but only by foregrounding experiences of endings and edges taking place at margins. From the center, it becomes a project of identifying those who’re “in” and “out,” “good” and “evil,” and firming up the boundaries. From the margins, apocalyptic imagination becomes a project of possibility and even revolution – the way things are are not the way they have to be, nor will the status quo be here forever. 

Wake Up

And the first step in the apocalyptic imagination is to WAKE UP! To wake up to the realities of domination and destruction. To wake up from the dreams that are killing us.

Historian Michael Rawson conveys the story of a group of environmental activists who traveled into the Amazon rainforest in 1995 at the request of the indigenous Achuar people on the border between Ecuador and Peru. The Achuar elders and shamans had been having visions since the 1980s suggesting that their land and culture were coming under serious threat. Western oil companies were advancing, and environmental and cultural disruption were rising. When the activists arrived, they expected to be recruited to help in the local organizing efforts against the oil companies and other threats to the environment and culture of the Achuar. Instead, the shamans and elders asked these activists to go back home and “change the dream of the modern world.”16

We’re all caught up in dreams – some our own, but many are the dreams of another – dreams that we don’t even know are dreams. Deleuze warned: 

The dream of those who dream concerns those who are not dreaming…Because as soon as someone else dreams, there is danger. People’s dreams are always devouring, and threatening to engulf us; the other’s dream is very dangerous. Dreams have a terrible will to power and each of us is a victim to the other’s dreams…Beware of the other’s dream, because if you are caught in the other’s dreams you are done for!17

To name just a few of the dreams of others that have become devouring and dangerous, we’re caught up in dreams of human supremacy over an earth that is filled with “natural resources” for the taking, rather than our more-than-human kin with whom we are in inextricable relationship. This is a dream built upon extractive capitalism in which leaving fossil fuels in the ground means a lost future potential revenue, which is, for some, a worse proposition than the sure collapse of the climate portended by continuing to extract it as we are plunged more deeply into what we now blithely call The Sixth Mass Extinction.18 

It’s been just over a year after the warning of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the world has only until 2030 to take drastic action to reduce CO2 levels by 45% to avert irreversible climate-driven disaster. With over 6,000 scientific references, the 2018 IPCC report warned of catastrophic consequences if the global net CO2 levels do not quickly fall by that drastic measure. This is a feat that would “require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”19 

We’re caught up in an especially virulent dream of White Christian Nationalism that is threatening to engulf the entirety of the nation. In their book, The Flag and The Cross, Philip Gorski and Samuel Perry argue that white Christian nationalism is not just a set of erroneous beliefs about America’s past. It is a set of unconscious desires about America’s future.20 

And while many who ascribe to Christian nationalist values don’t actually practice Christianity or belong to a church, Gorski and Perry explain that in the movement, “the word ‘Christian’ remains the right’s most effective signal to white conservatives that ‘our values,’ ‘our heritage,’ ‘our way of life,’ and ‘our influence’ are under attack, and ‘we’ must respond.”21 “To follow Jesus and love America is to love individualism and libertarian freedom, expressed in allegiance to capitalism.”22 

These desires are all connected by what Gorski and Perry describe as a “deep story.” And much of the ways we understand what is of ultimate concern is through story. They say: 

What makes deep stories “deep” is that they have deep roots in a culture. Deep stories have been told and retold so many times and across so many generations that they feel natural and true: even and perhaps especially when they are at odds with history. In sum, a deep story is more myth than history. More precisely, it is a mythological version of history.23

It is the “mythological versions of history” that apocalyptic imagination is especially good at puncturing with an alternative vision and a call to committed action. 

We’re living amid the cis-heteropatriarchal dreams of others evidenced by an increasingly militant anti-trans political movement, the overturning of Row v. Wade, and the portent of things to come in that decision rolling back recent gains in LGBTQ rights. In particular, in the last couple of years, we’ve seen state legislatures taking aim at trans youth with obscenely cruel legislation, attacking their access to medical care and sports teams. Emergent debates spurred by white panic about history curriculum in schools addressing race run alongside renewed efforts to remove LGBTQ+-affirming content from school libraries.

And every one of these insidious dreams is now compounded by “cyber-enabled information warfare” that “undercuts society’s ability to respond.”24 Because we each live within our own algorithmically tailored dream-world, feeding back to us our own desires and reinforcing our conspiratorial fantasies. 

“Beware of the other’s dream, because if you are caught in the other’s dreams you are done for!” Deleuze warned.

And being caught up in each of these dreams with their overlapping borders doesn’t mean supporting these visions of a future. It can simply mean being apathetic or unaware of them. This is often the situation into which apocalyptic visionaries shout the words, “Wake up!”

Umair Haque aptly names what we’re experiencing in our slumbering inattention as a pathology of the soul: “American[s] appear to be quite happy simply watching one another die.” He says, “They just don’t appear to be too disturbed, moved, or even affected by…their kids killing each other, their social bonds collapsing, being powerless to live with dignity, or having to numb the pain of it all away.” It is our widespread indifference to these realities around us that he points to as evidence of a society in collapse. Our failure to “be aghast, shocked, and stunned, and…moved to make them not happen” is the pathology of soul in what he terms a “predatory society.” He explains further the mundane nature of predatory force:

A predatory society doesn’t just mean oligarchs ripping people off financially. In a truer way, it means people nodding and smiling and going about their everyday business as their neighbours, friends, and colleagues die early deaths in shallow graves. The predator in American society isn’t just its super-rich — but an invisible and insatiable force: the normalization of what in the rest of the world would be seen as shameful, historic, generational moral failures, if not crimes, becoming mere mundane everyday affairs not to be too worried by or troubled about.

Haque says that these social pathologies of societal collapse are so out of the ordinary from what we’ve ever seen or experienced that “it is like the meteor that hit the dinosaurs: an outlier beyond outliers, an event at the extreme of the extremes. That is why our narratives, frames, and theories cannot really capture it — much less explain it.” He argues, “We need a whole new language — and a new way of seeing — to even begin to make sense of it.”25

Strengthen What Remains 

But once we are awakened by the apocalyptic unveiling – and our churches are not yet all awake to these dreams of others that threaten to undo us – but once we are, our apocalyptic summons is to STRENGTHEN WHAT REMAINS and is on the point of death through effective acts of resistance and revolution.

Apocalyptic discourse – far from simplistic catastrophizing – involves an incisive critique of the present powers and their ability to catch us up in the dreams of another. But they are also a call to action in the here and now, not in some distant future.26

This is the part that you need to practice within your own communities of faith and the partnerships you’re developing in your local communities. And it’s the part that I can’t provide much direction on, aside from a few general invitations.

The first came by way of a South African Methodist minister named Trevor Hudson who said something that has stuck with me for 10 years now. I don’t remember anything about the talk he gave to this group of ministers except for this one line that haunts my ministry like an apocalyptic warning. Hudson said, “Disorganized good is no match for organized evil.”,sup>27

It’s easy to look around us get so caught up in our fear that we get busy with a haphazard smattering of peace and justice projects without cultivating the stillness to hear the voice of the Divine returning us to a sacred centeredness of purpose and mission, and the critical attention to understand the complexity of the perils we face. Organizing for justice gets harder by the day in this political landscape. But “disorganized good is no match for organized evil.”

A second important lesson I want to pass on to you is one I learned from some of my students about the necessity of grief as part of this work. Last January, I taught a course at Chicago Theological Seminary titled, “Speculative Futurist Theologies of Care: Constructing Spiritual Care at the End(s) of the Earth.” In the first hour of the week-long, eight-hours-a day intensive, I laid out the course materials, explained the readings and topics we would engage – from the present and future of racial injustice and violence, to the rise of fascism and White Christian Nationalism, to the coming crises of climate refugees and the decreasing livability of life on the planet. We were going to ask together, “What shapes do practices of ‘care’ need to take in these probably near-futures that we and our faith communities are living and dying into?” 

At the end of the syllabus review, one student raised her hand and said, “Professor, do you think we could have some time during each class to grieve together?” Other students nodded and verbalized their agreement over the need to grieve what we were facing together. So, the students all started volunteering to lead grief practices and rituals throughout the week. They were some of the most profound times we shared together in the class, each student demonstrating their own abilities – some of which they didn’t know they possessed – to help a community face the ends and edges of the world in which we are living and dying.  

Another potent lesson I received from one of my congregants just recently. In the congregational leadership retreat a few weeks back, confronting the possibilities of several bleak near-future scenarios, one young woman in the congregation shared a phrase that has become meaningful to her recently: “Resist & Rejoice.” She said that this phrase had helped her to see the need to both show up for one another in times of injustice, doing the necessary work to confront injustice, and also to care for one another’s souls in the process, to make joy together, to rejoice while we resist. Nothing could be truer to the apocalyptic rhythm of Revelation than the unveiling of the Empire’s violent mechanizations punctuated by rejoicing song.

I wrote her later to ask her for an attribution for the phrase so that I could properly cite it. She wrote back saying that she didn’t know where the phrase originated, but that she had seen it in a beautiful mural painted on the side of a cinderblock wall in New Orleans and had never forgotten it.28 This speaks to the power of art as an ally in cultivating apocalyptic imagination and methods of strengthening what remains and is at the point of death. 

And if I had to add a third “r” to the list, I’d amend it to say, “Resist, Rejoice and Rest.” None of us are doing anyone any good by burning ourselves out. Black women activists have always been our greatest teachers in this regard, and one I’d commend to you is Tricia Hersey and her organization called “The Nap Ministry,” examining the liberating power of naps and developing a “rest is resistance” framework for activism.29

And finally, what may seem a bit old fashioned, a little out of touch, too-little-too-late, perhaps is the importance of prayer in apocalyptic imagination. And there’s one apocalyptic prayer that you all already know, even if you’ve never seen it apocalyptically. And it’s possible, as we look back over this old prayer – this staple of the Christian liturgical tradition – that we’ve never really recognized it for what it is. “Our Father-and-Mother who art in Heaven…”

Thy kingdom come.” Has a familiar ring to it doesn’t it? The coming kingdom of God – the reign of the Divine in our midst – was a theme replete in Jesus’ teachings. And in Luke’s version of the prayer, there’s no “our,” no “who art in heaven,” no “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and all that flowery stuff that make our prayers sound more full and complete. Just a simple, stark, direct petition: “Your kingdom come!” 

We don’t often connect this tame little prayer said the world over every single day by children to the message of Revelation, but it’s strikingly similar to the way that the entire New Testament ends in the Book of Revelation:

“The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen” (Rev. 22:20-21).

“Thy kingdom come” – we may not have given it much thought over the course of our lives as we’ve prayed this rote little line, but it’s an eschatological prayer for the ages. 

“Give us each day our daily bread.” We can be sure, because this is the Gospel of Luke, that there is a very practical concern for the daily food of the poor bound up in this prayer. Luke always holds a concern for the poor. But there’s more to it than meets the eye: another plausible translation of this phrase, “daily bread,” is “bread for tomorrow,” not signaling a penchant for planning ahead, but another eschatological allusion that Fred Craddock says might very well mean “bread from heaven at the final coming of the kingdom.”30 Not just “give us what we need to survive the next day,” but “when thy kingdom comes, give us the manna from heaven that will sustain us in the final hour.” 

“And do not bring us to the time of trial.” “When your kingdom comes, spare us the final time of trial,” or as Craddock says again, “the final thrashing about and agony of evil before the end.”31

This from a man who had “set his face toward Jerusalem,” the text says just a chapter or so before – headed straight for what could only be described as his ultimate “the time of trial,” when the world of his disciples would come crashing down around their heads.

The world is always ending for some. 

It has ended resolutely for many. 

And it is ending for us.

Heard in this way, even at the very heart of the Christian tradition in words known by nearly everyone, Jesus may very well have been teaching them – and us – a prayer for the end of the world as we know it.32

Cody J. Sanders is Associate Professor of Congregational and Community Care Leadership at Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota.  His most recent book, co-authored with Mikeal C. Parsons is Corpse Care: Ethics for Tending the Dead, published this year by Fortress Press. This presentation was given at the Inaugural Fall Lecture of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists (AWAB) at St. Luke’s Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 26, 2022 and was updated and offered to readers of Christian Ethics Today by the author.



[1] Horvat argues that it is more apt and more helpful to name the state of our lives as being in the post-apocalypse. Srećko Horvat, After the Apocalypse (Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2021).

[2] Head helpfully argues that if we misdirect the work of coming to terms with rage and grief into nostalgia for a lost paradise, we also disable constructive engagements with our future. Lesley Head, Hope and Grief in the Anthropocene: Re-Conceptualising Human-Nature Relations (New York: Routledge, 2016).

[3] José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 1.

[4] Miguel A. De La Torre, Embracing Hopelessness (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017), 140.

[5] Kodwo Eshun, “Octavia Butler Obituary,” The Guardian (March 15, 2006),

[6] This story comes from Neo-Griot, “HISTORY: Octavia Butler Gave Us A Few Rules For Predicting The Future,” Kalamu,

[7] At the time of this lecture, the author was serving as pastor to Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

[8] A term of Philip S. Gorski and Samuel L. Perry, The Flag + The Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy (New York: Oxford, 2022), 125-7.

[9] Luke Kemp, Chi Xu, Joanna Depledge, et al., “Climate Endgame: Exploring Catastrophic Climate Change Scenarios,” PNAS, August 1, 2022,

[10] The congregation was primed for this discussion through several explorations over the last three years, including a congregational book discussion in 2019 of Margaret J. Wheatley, Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity (Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2017).

[11] Neo-Griot, “HISTORY: Octavia Butler Gave Us A Few Rules For Predicting The Future.”

[12] Catherine Keller, Apocalypse Now and Then: A Feminist Guide to the End of the World (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), x.

[13] Tonstad writes, “Where the other messages deal in specifics and hyper-specifics, the message to Sardis does not specify. Whatever evidence there is for the indictment, it must be found at the level of self-evidence. This, in turn, will be evidence that can be accessed only by introspection. God and the believers together will have to sort this out, and they will have to do it against a societal verdict that gives the believers every reason to feel good about themselves.” Sigve K. Tonstad, “Revelation,” Paidea Commentaries on the New Testament, ed. by Mikeal C. Parsons (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019), 89.

[14] Tonstad, “Revelation,” 89.

[15] Tonstad, “Revelation,” 89.

[16] Michael Rawson, The Nature of Tomorrow: A History of the Environmental Future (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021), 1. Rawson notes that this is a foundational story for the Pachamama Alliance (see

[17] Gilles Deleuze, “Beware of the other’s dream,” YouTube, May 11, 2017,

[18] See Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2014).

[19] “Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments.” IPCC. Accessed January 21, 2020.

[20] Gorski and Perry, The Flag + The Cross,  26-7.

[21] Gorski and Perry, The Flag + The Cross, 28.

[22] Gorski and Perry, The Flag + The Cross, 40. Interestingly, when they accounted for religious commitments – attending church more often, praying more often, considering religion as important – these factors actually moved people away from concern over the economy and liberty over the lives of the most vulnerable and increased a sense of being able to put oneself in another’s shoes (37).

[23] Gorski and Perry, The Flag + The Cross, 4.

[24] “Closer than ever: It’s 100 seconds to midnight.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Accessed January 23, 2020.

[25] Umair Haque, “Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse: The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State,” Medium / Eudaimonia & Co. (January 25, 2018), online:

[26] See Anatheea E. Portier-Young, Apocalypse Against Empire: Theologies of Reistance in Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), and Thomas B. Slater, Revelation as Civil Disobedience: Witnesses Not Warriors in John’s Apocalypse (Nashville: Abingdon, 2019).

[27] Trevor Hudson, plenary address given at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Leadership Institute, Fort Worth, Texas, June 20, 2012.

[28] I am grateful to Dana Drosdick of Old Cambridge Baptist Church for this image and for teaching me the phrase, “Resist & Rejoice.”

[29] See

[30] Fred Craddock, “Luke,” Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed. James L. Mays (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009), 153.

[31]  Craddock, “Luke,” 154.

[32] I would like to thank Zachary Bay, Holly White, Keith Menhnick, the congregation at Old Cambridge Baptist Church, and my 2022 “Futurist Theologies of Care” students at Chicago Theological Seminary for helping me to work through some of these ideas. I am grateful for the invitation of Philip Browning Hessel’s to present a paper at the Williamson Conference at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 2022 where some of these ideas were discussed among colleagues, and to Zachary Moon who invited me to write a chapter in his edited book, Doing Theology in Pandemics: Facing Viruses, Violence, and Vitriol (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2022), where several of these ideas also got their origin.


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