Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage* (I Corinthians 15:20-28) transports me to my adolescent years of the mid 70s, when fantasies of destruction came in the form of heavy metal music and mid-Atlantic championship wrestling matches. It was the era of KISS’ Destroyer album and the fearsome threats of the masked Super Destroyer in the squared circle. I was right up at the stage when the Destroyer tour brought KISS to the Civic Center; I even got some of Gene Simmons’ fake blood on my t-shirt, as he belted out God of Thunder. My school notebooks that year were filled with doodling attempts at drawing the KISS faces. And while I don’t remember Don Jardine’s masked Super Destroyer being at the Civic Center any of the times I went to cheer on Johnny Valentine and Rick Flair, I saw him plenty on the Saturday afternoon tv. He amazed even the fans who hated him whenever he would walk across the top rope, and he instilled fear in his opponents with the dreaded Iron Claw. His feuds with Paul Jones, Wahoo McDaniels, and Jack Brisco were the stuff of legend. So, between the heavy metal influences of the Destroyer album and the menacing influences of wrestling’s Super Destroyer, it’s quite a wonder that I maintained faith in the gospel of peace and love.
It’s quite a wonder that Paul maintained faith in the gospel of love, with all the persecution and beating and jailing he endured at the hands of the powers that be. All because he preached Christ crucified and gave hope of resurrection life. And yet, I think it’s fair to say that Paul had his own fantasies of destruction swimming around in his head, alongside the gospel words of grace and mercy and reconciliation. Here in his letter to the Corinthian church, he envisions an end to all the persecution, a day when Christ will destroy every ruler and every authority and every power and then hand the Kingdom over to God. All his enemies will be under his feet, including the last enemy, death itself. Every ruler. Every power. Was Paul speaking spiritually here, of the principalities and powers of the air, or was he envisioning an end to all flesh and blood rulers and authorities? Or both?
Much is made these days of the menacing “Dominion” theology that is supposedly behind the masks of many religious politicians. There is quite a bit of wailing and teeth gnashing over the prospects of a particular strain of Christianity taking over all the seats of power in government, exercising dominion over the earth. I don’t bother too much with all the efforts to “unmask” the politicians who are influenced by this theology. I figure most everybody who has an interest in governance has some kind of dominion theology going on; everybody wants their particular world view to occupy the seats of power. The problem I have with the Dominionist folks is that their brand of Christianity doesn’t seem to have much Christ in it. But if I’m to take Paul seriously, I don’t have to worry about that, either. The hope is that one day the power of love really will take over. Grace and mercy really will triumph. And every power that compels us to hate, every authority that inspires us to fear, every ruler that influences us to engage in violence, all these spirits of destruction will themselves be utterly destroyed by the ultimate Super Destroyer. By love. Through grace. And that’s when we’ll see the hope we sing about in Handel’s Messiah fully realized – and the government will be upon his shoulders. When the true God of Thunder takes the stage, Paul’s vision will be complete – every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Love rules. Shout it, shout it, shout it out loud.
How about you? Where does this Pastoral Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.