Growing up, our church loved to talk about the end of the world. From pew to pew, everyone believed that they would be saved from the destruction to come. I didn’t know for sure. I had doubt. Downtown, a man held a sign high into the air, “The End is Near.” I was terrified. I thought I was going to get left behind. When we got back home, piles of clothes haunted me. Every time I saw the assortment of fabrics, I just knew that God called my parents to heaven and they left their clothes. On more than one occasion, my mom found me thrusting her clothes into the air screaming, “Why did you leave me?” With a long history of being haunted by bad eschatology or discussion of ultimate things, I am the last person one would expect to be arguing for expansion of the conversation. However, I believe our greatest contemporary affliction is a failure to discuss ultimate things. Currently, we speak in sound bites about temporary ineffective solutions with no idea of what love perfected looks like. Sometimes in the midst of our yearning for love, an apocalypse of greater revelation finds us.
Like much of the nation, my eyes have been trained on South Carolina for many weeks now. The murder of churchgoers at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston shook me to my core. How could God allow folks to be murdered in their place of worship? I began to doubt that anything other than chaos was possible. When South Carolina took down the Confederate Flag, I experienced a little bit of hope. Was it possible that a better way was creeping through the bullshit? Reality struck back. The violent images of white supremacists marching and taunting black people were beyond disturbing. Downtown Columbia looked like Nazi Berlin. Just when I thought that hope was lost, I experienced the Apocalypse.
Photographer Rob Godfrey’s image found me. Within the small frame, came the apocalyptic revelation of God. While marching for hate, an older white racist clad in a swastika-adorned black shirt (advertising the supremacist National Socialist Movement) started experiencing symptoms of a heat stroke. In the hour of the racist’s distress, a black police officer named Leroy Smith showed him love. The photograph shows Officer Smith helping the white racist to safety. In the hours of our lives where we are as evil as the white racist, Jesus leads us to love. I don’t think Jesus will ever stop. Officer Smith refused to allow evil to block love. God does the same.
The Apocalypse is the moment of greatest revelation. Is love not the greatest revelation? In this photograph, I see the inbreaking of God into the world. Love is the Apocalypse. In my youth, I never would have imagined that God is black.