pall hangs over many Americans since Trump has taken office. One sign
of this dark cloud has been an uptick in dystopian novels. Classics
like George Orwell’s “1984”, Aldous Huxley’s
“Brave New World,” Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t
Happen Here,” and my favorite, Margaret Atwood’s
“Handmaid’s Tale,” a drama web television hit on
“Hulu” are now all horrifyingly prescient. Our devouring
of these tomes is a search for answers to potentially a frightening
example, Kellyanne Conway’s use of the Orwellian phrase
“alternative facts” to corroborate with then-White House
press secretary Sean Spicer’s fallacious claims about Trump’s
crowd size at his inauguration signaled to Americans that facts and
the truth are inconsequential in this administration.
as there has been an uptick in these dystopian classics, there has
also been a steady stream of queries about the afterlife. The
afterlife refers to an individual’s soul or spirit living
beyond the life of their physical body. Also, there is the belief
that in the afterlife one’s moral choices and actions in life
can result in their soul residing -based on divine judgment - in a
place of reward or punishment, known as Heaven or Hell, respectively.
Many - religious and non-religious - folks feel if there is indeed a
Hell Trump will unquestionably be going there directly. However,
thoughts about the afterlife can be a search for answers to
potentially a frightening new normal, too.
Trump appearing to be both unstoppable and invincible- in his
erosion of fundamental freedoms and protections to various
disenfranchised, vulnerable, and historically marginalized
populations in the country and immigrants, his nativist spirit of
patriotism and isolationist rhetoric to “Make America Great
Again,” and now his SCOTUS nominee that can potentially shape
future generations - questions about the afterlife not only speak
about social anxiety but, sadly, they also speak about hopelessness.
As a minister in this Trump era, I’ve been receiving lots of
queries about the afterlife.
want to ask you, what do you believe will happen in the afterlife?
Are we as the human race going to be okay? Should I worry about
what's going to happen to me after death? My girlfriend who believes
in God but struggles with what to believe in exactly, is she going to
be okay? I’m terrified right now, and as one of the very few
looking past religious dogma, I need your help, or at least some
insight into what I should be doing, praying for, anything.”
religions create theologies with elaborative and fictive narratives
of reward and punishment systems as a form of social control, like
the Christian concept of Heaven and Hell. I don’t think after
death one is likely to go to Heaven or Hell in an afterlife. Sadly,
Trump gets off the hook of going to Hell.
do, however, believe that crushing setbacks, grinding poverty,
racial, gender, sexual orientation and religious profiling, to name a
few, that many Americans, like myself, confront and navigate through
daily, is unquestionably a living Hell.
belief in an afterlife, in my opinion, can create complacency and
indifference to present social justice issues and crimes against
humanity like the Holocaust, American slavery, lynching, and the
immigration crisis presently at the U.S. - Mexico border.
example, in the case of enslaved Africans, the belief in an afterlife
was passed on to my ancestors as an intentionally Christian
theological concept as a form of social control to maintain the
status quo of perpetual servitude. The indoctrination of an overjoyed
and jubilant afterlife wasn’t to make them better Christians
but instead obedient, subservient and God-fearing slaves.
African American slaves, however, the belief in an afterlife was a
coded critique of an unfulfilled life denying them of life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness in this life. The belief in an
afterlife functioned as an eschatological hope and aspiration that
their future progenies would indeed have a fulfilled life that they
could only purportedly experience in death.
- across the country as well as the world - have taken to the streets
in protest. Social justice and pro-democracy organizations are now
employing intersectional approaches to stem the deleterious and
regressive laws of this administration.
it brings to the fore the now urgent need to speak up like Rev.
Martin Niemoller, a Protestant pastor who was an outspoken public foe
of Adolf Hitler. Many know his world renown quote - “First
they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I
was not a Socialist…”-
Wu, executive director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
(GLAD), wrote in his article “Resistance and Solidarity in the
Era Trump” in Boston Pride Guide 2017 a remake of Niemoller’s
famous verse. In speaking out against the normalization of hate and
prejudice, Wu, like Niemoller, is letting us know who are today’s
they come for immigrants, they come for LGBTQ people. When they come
for women, they come for LGBTQ people. When they come for Muslims,
they come for LGBTQ people. And the inverse is true: when they come
for LGBTQ people, they come for everyone.”
many Americans might feel fatigued from the daily dramas emerging
from the White House and feel hopeless with thoughts of an afterlife,
we can alter the dystopian pall Trump has cast by living in the
present moment fighting back optimistically.
while there are now a plethora of materials evident of the afterlife,
like the New York Times bestseller “Proof of Heaven” by
Harvard-trained neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, MD., I feel the concept
- real or imagined - can potentially deprive us of living fully
present in this life - missing small miracles, random acts of
kindness, and the beauty of a sunrise and sunset in a single day.