Where There Is No Imagination There Is Blood

    America seems to learn it's lessons in blood. The Civil War is still America's bloodiest war. God sent America countless messengers to bravely challenge the system of slavery and tell America to repent of its evil crime of enslaving other humans, but the lack of reception to God's plea culminated in a bloody field of war. Many historians point to three instances that shifted public opinion on segregation one is the torture and murder of Emmett Till, the second is the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the brutal death of five black girls, and the third is the televised attacks on youthful protesters with water hoses, dogs, and billy clubs. Not too far from where I live there is an intersection that needs a stoplight, but that stoplight will not come until someone dies. My father has roots in Columbia, South Carolina all my life as long as I can remember there has been protests, marches, and speeches against the Confederate flag waving at the capitol building in South Carolina. The flag's removal did not occur until nine black churchgoers lost their lives by a white supremacist on June 17, 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Why must America learn its lessons in blood?

    Today I read an article in the New York Times titled, “Florida Gun Control Bill Passed by House, Defying N.R.A.” This event occurred on the heels of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14, 2018. But, why did it take seventeen children's murder to prompt the Florida legislature to take action? One can also ask, why now? There have been countless other school shootings and public shootings, why did this one prompt action? There is a natural breaking point a straw that breaks the camel’s back sort of speak, but one could also say it was the media attention, the national outcry, the demographics of the victims, but one thing for sure is that blood spilling prompted action.

    So, how come America requires blood spilling to prompt righteousness I am arguing this is due to a lack of moral imagination. Philosopher Mark Johnson defines moral imagination as “envisioning the full range of possibilities in a particular situation to solve an ethical challenge.” [1] When there is no moral imagination society can learn only in pain and brutality. Theologian Walter Brueggemann couches this language as Prophetic Imagination. Using Moses, he writes that he utilized a prophetic imagination to imagine a new community centered on God’s freedom, justice, and compassion, a whole new social order. [2] The ability to think beyond the construct of your reality, or societies reality, is imperative to imagine and an orienting of a moral community.

    In our times many churches struggle with purpose and direction. Churches can find hope for a mission in becoming centers of moral and prophetic imagination, a place that imagines new communities that are free and liberated from the than vain ideologies and philosophies of group narcissism, bigotry, greed, hate, and idolatry of all varieties. In this era where there is a profound lack of creativity and imagination, the church can serve a critical role in imagining the community of God. Blessed are the peacemakers.

About the Author
Lawrence W. Rodgers

Lawrence W. Rodgers