Escapism theology. I didn’t know it had a name until a short time ago. Escapism has been around a very long time, however. Some credit Billy Graham for popularizing it by giving it a nod. So, what is Escapism theology? In a nutshell Escapism is waiting out our time on earth so we can go ‘home’, meaning heaven. The ‘this-is-not-my-home theology is quite popular in mainstream Christianity; we hear it from the pulpit, in Christian songs, from well-known evangelists so often we don’t give it much thought, we may even agree. Yet, Escapism isn’t simply believing in a heaven beyond death.
Buying into Escapism allows us to ignore the social ills of our world. Evangelism becomes the focus. Board as many people on the heaven-bound train as possible by leading them to repeat the “magic” words guaranteeing their salvation, their ticket through the pearly gates, while the world around us goes to hell in a hand-basket. Get the neighbor ‘saved’, and our responsibility ends there. Yeshua (Jesus) taught about heaven, true, but He spent more time teaching about living within the love of God from whom all creation springs thereby bringing real change to a hurting world. Unfortunately, those involved in Escapism are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. Living with our heads in the clouds leaves little time for us to work toward the greater good.
Jesus was all about relationships; with one another and with God, not merely blindly following the letter of the law. We need to examine our motivations for everything. We are to be the positive energy here on earth. We are here for a purpose, each has a calling and a thread to contribute to the overall tapestry, and to fulfill our purpose we enter into relationship with others, we need to be engaged with others in the here and now. Meaningful relationships resulting in collectively working toward the greater good of all requires us to be healthy before we can help anyone else. We must journey inward with God to uncover the hurts in need of healing, to examine our motivations toward others and toward our purpose. Understanding and forgiving self first affords us the ability to understand others, and when we understand more fully we are able to forgive more fully. Escaping means we will bide our time in the present in favor of focusing on our future “home”, and ignoring the role each plays in bringing about the greater good today, in this moment. Seems like such a waste! I see no purpose in waiting around for the moment I pass from this life to the next. It serves no one, including God.
The popularity of Escapism is also how many choose to deal with the difficult questions of life. We fear death, which is really just another way of saying we fear the unknown. We want to know what, if anything, happens beyond our earthly lives. Is this all for naught, or is there a bigger picture, a bigger purpose? We all want reassurance our lives do not end with death. Those who choose New Age philosophy or Spiritualism over mainstream Christianity seek out psychics and mediums for the same reason, to be reassured. We want to know those who have passed on are pain-free, happy, and in a loving place. Believing loved ones are still with us in spirit gives us hope, we too, will live on beyond our lives on earth. I have lived too long and had enough interesting life experiences to doubt the tangible of our earthly existence is all there is. An active, vibrant realm surrounds us, and I believe this to be the realm of passed loved ones and angels. In teaching about a spirit life beyond our earthly lives, Jesus showed us the evidence of the spirit life; the Transfiguration, raising the dead back to life, and the piece de resistance, the Resurrection. Do we need more evidence?
Some in religious circles are blaming Escapism theology for mass exodus from the church. Personally, I believe any exodus from organized religion goes much deeper than running from Escapism – which, if you think about it, running away from Escapism is quite comical, all by itself! Anyway, one would think escaping the responsibilities of the world, social ills, and the like, in favor of a heaven-bound mindset would be appealing, but apparently it isn’t. Innately, humanity knows we are meant to pursue a greater purpose important to this life, and to one another. Standing in the train station waiting on the Heaven-bound Express isn’t fulfilling, meaningful, or empowering. The struggles of life, although uncomfortable, serves our growth spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Overcoming obstacles is empowering when we realize it is possible to come out of the fiery furnace stronger, more confident, and better equipped to live to fight another day. Growth is our goal. When we cease to grow we stagnate, we march in place until the Heaven-bound Express stops by and lets us board.
Jesus instructed as many as would believe to go into the world and teach (the gospel). Again, I think man added to the ‘gospel’ for his own purposes, nevertheless enough meat exists within the scriptures we can still get a clear picture to work with. If we are to just hang around and wait until heaven rolls around there really isn’t a lot to teach. Get saved, then sit in the train station. People were drawn to Jesus because He offered substance over the superficial, relationship with the Divine, wisdom, knowledge, and purpose. I also believe He taught Eden theology, my name for describing the return to living from the spirit instead of ego dominance. The Creation story takes on new meaning when we view it from the standpoint of analogy, or explaining a concept in story form. The reason why people are leaving organized religion begins to make sense; we are seeking substance, wisdom, and purpose. Our spirit-selves are whispering there is meaning and purpose to this life beyond toiling by the sweat of our brow, scraping by, and waiting for St. Peter to call our names. Adam and Eve lived from the spirit in close relationship with God, for a time at least. They were our first example.
From the church-life perspective, there is relationship with God beyond memorizing more scripture, attending services every time the doors are open, and responding in rote to prompts from the pulpit. I believe God is calling us to think outside the box, to pursue wisdom and knowledge, to seek growth as we collectively work to bring about the greater good for all of creation. Our spirits were not designed to seek escape…..