Escapism or Empowerment?
“When we aaaaaaall see Jeeeeeeesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” If you know that song, you probably understand the deep significance it has in the lives of people of faith.
My parents and grandparents know this song as one that was sung very often throughout their upbringing. For them, celebrating the future of the afterlife was a reminder of the “reward” they received once journey on earth had come to an end. It was a reminder that, despite hardships, God was going to bring about a new “Kingdom” for those who were loyal to “Him.”
In 2023, living in a tempestuous time with regard to spirituality and religion, one might say that thinking about Heaven and the afterlife is “merely escapism,” attempting to divert oneself from unpleasant life experiences. Some might say that it is empowering, giving confidence to people of faith. Seriously, which is it?
Both. It’s complicated. It’s nuanced. It really depends on a couple things:
- Your Social location
- Your attitude toward the concept of Heaven and the “Kingdom” of God
First, let’s talk about social location.
As with most concepts we can debate about in our lifetime, the social location of each person matters significantly. Take, for example, a Black Woman who has experienced oppression as a part of her daily life. For many folks in Black culture, especially Women, the burdens of life have been weighed down on them from the get-go. To think about Heaven is to think about a place, a time, a moment, a glimpse of hope in the midst of sorrow and heavy amounts of systemic racism.
Take some mountain folk in Central Appalachia who believe that their life is supposed to be focused on raising their children — many of which are plagued by health concerns that the family can’t afford to manage. For those low-income Appalachians, dreaming about Heaven when they die perhaps is one of few joys they catch a glimpse of during their week.