Narrating Catastrophe, Cultivating Hope: Apocalyptic Practices and Theological Virtue

23 Jan 2019

Apocalypticism has been widely denounced as a framework that devalues the world and its history, funding moral dualism. While this is certainly true of many forms of apocalypticism, it is not an accurate understanding of ancient apocalyptic texts. This article establishes a framework of theological virtue ethics drawn particularly from Herbert McCabe, in which human rationality and Christian morality are understood as political, linguistic, narrative, bodily and sacramental. From within this framework, Anathea Portier-Young’s work is considered, relating early Jewish apocalyptic to trauma theory and describing how these texts narrated socio-political catastrophe in order to open up possibilities of resistance and hope. These considerations point us towards a constructive understanding of apocalyptic imagination and praxis within a political, linguistic, narrative, bodily and sacramental framework. Contemporary employments of Afro-pessimism in Black theology, particularly in J. Kameron Carter, then interrogate the proposed apocalyptic imagination, asking whether Christian apocalyptic praxis can cultivate hope in the face of the catastrophe of modern racism.