Last week I discussed the two different theologies of the creation story. Those theologies were “creation ex nihilo,” or something from nothing and the theology of “cosmos from chaos,” or order out of disorder.
Today in the final installment of this series I want to illustrate some deeper reasons why the European theology of “creatio ex nihilo,” can and has led to some dangerous outcomes.
The theology of “something out of nothing,” is not only a bit presumptuous but has led to an attitude or even mindset of individualism that has saturated the national psyche.
The Horatio Alger myth of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is an outgrowth of a theology of “something out of nothing.” The notion of “American Exceptionalism,” is also an outgrowth of the “something out of nothing,” theology. The idea that an individual person can by himself make progress, achieve any measure of success or overcome gargantuan odds, alone, is a myth that separates people from other people and falsely embeds in a person the thought they really don’t need others to help them achieve their dreams.
It is the same mindset that proliferated throughout the 2012 Republican National Convention where the theme was “we built this.” That theme was a parroted policy platform to genuflect to big business and corporate America.
CEOs of billion dollar corporations and shareholders of those corporations created the media spot light around these myths because it helps them acquire great sums of wealth off the backs of line workers, and the working class.
The business entities in this nation thrive on this notion of “something from nothing,” “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” individualistic mentality because it drives people to spend their lives chasing more money individually rather than investing in the wealth of human connections and cooperation to create sufficiency for all.
The saying that many people spend their lives “making a living rather than making a life” is another result of this toxic mentality and theology. This myth is not even true for those who have created a narrative of “something from nothing,” for their own stories.
Bill Gates did not just drop out of college, and work in his garage on his dream. His parents gave him large sums of money and his mother used her connections to hook him up with executives at IBM which catapulted his career. Mark Zuckerberg borrowed $100,000 from his parents to start Face Book and the list goes on and on.
Our society almost worships high profile celebrities who we are told, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps when in reality they had help all along the way.
Nobody, achieves success or even lives this life without the help of others.
This theology and the mindsets of Horatio Alger, “we built this,” individualism robs people of the miracle and magnificence of being in community, and in particular for this article, the Christian community.
In the words of Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., “There are NO Lone Rangers in the ministry of Jesus Christ.”
A Lone Ranger mentality is the opposite of the message of Jesus Christ.
Regrettably in the Church of Jesus Christ too many believers in Jesus Christ are influenced by the “something from nothing,” “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality which has caused competition rather than cooperation in the church and among churches. Many churches will not work with other churches because of different doctrines yes, but mostly because of the arrogance of thinking that one church has more of Jesus than other churches and can do the work of Christ all by itself.
The power of the Black church has always been in the collective mindset where differences don’t make one deficient and where all enjoy the joys and pains of building a beloved community.
The South African proverb that says “I am because we are and because we are I am…A person can only be a person because of other people,” not only celebrates the creative power of community but best embodies the egalitarian ministry focus of Jesus of Nazareth.
It was Jesus who said in the New Testament speaking of himself “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
He came to serve others and bring people together on one accord in order to create a just society, or as the New Testament writes it, to create the kingdom of Heaven right here on earth.
In fact the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand with two fish and five loaves of bread is that the people shared with one another which created a bountiful buffet for all to enjoy. No one was more important than any other and no one claimed to feed themselves all by themselves. It was a community effort through faith in the words and will of God through Jesus.
It is the example of Acts chapters 2-4, where all the people had all their needs met because they did not see themselves individually but as community, and cherished helping each other in community where no one was more important than another, and all excelled because they depended on one another.
Beloved Theology Matters!
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.” Contact the church by email at [email protected] or by phone at 219-944-0500.
Rev. John E. Jackson
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.”