There are two kingdoms. They are rivals. There is the kingdom of NOW, and there is the kingdom of the Future, or to give it its full title, the kingdom of the Present-and-FUTURE. The rule in the kingdom of NOW is of gratification now, without delay, of welfare without limit and of the instantaneity of all communication and consumption is life. All considerations of what else life could be, are ruled out. Thinking about what good life consists of can only mean delay, which cannot be tolerated. Life at all costs, and our present standard of living at all costs, but do not bother us with questions of how difficult this is going to make the future. It is a Now which seeks to make itself permanent, and is just as rapacious as it has to be to maintain that claim.
Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of the Present-and-FUTURE, or the NOW-AND-NOT-YET. But Christians live surrounded by the people of the Kingdom of NOW. Christians are not NOWists but they live with them. Christians always hold out to the NOWists the prospects of a future not confined by this NOWism. Christians are critics and sometimes opponents of the Present Dispensation.
Those who hold power are always narked by Christian caution and refusal to join in, and they respond with ridicule. Christians, alone sometimes, represent a refusal to believe. We are the dissidents and unbelievers. We do not place our trust in the Present Dispensation or subscribe to the myths the Present Regime creates about its authority. We hold out against over-inflated accounts of the Powers-That-Be, and insist that they are not beyond challenge. We point out that when you imply that you have no need to give an account of yourself, you raise yourself above the rest of us. When you insist that you have authority but you give no account of that authority, you are claiming an entirely different and superior status from the rest of us. You are making a claim to divinity. You present the regime you identify with, and you yourself, as the centre towards which the rest of us must turn. You may be making these claims only implicitly, and when challenged you may deny them. Nonetheless, you are setting your regime up as an object for our devotion and obedience, and so as a form of god.
We call this temptation to present yourself as determinative for us, and as the image around which we should gather, ‘idolatry’. We see this as an attempt to take away from us what is real and replace it with what is fake, and so to rob us. Moreover, we consider that any time anyone attempts to rob or harm us, they are also doing an injury to themselves, and the best thing we can do for them is resist them by insistently pointing out that they are also hurting themselves. Every crime diminishes us, shrivels our habits and character, both of those who commit it and those who do not oppose it, making it more difficult for all of us to do what it right. So for their sake and for our own we vocally and publicly challenge and defy those who do not wish to be called to account. We are not defined and constrained by the Present Dispensation and Regime. We are not slaves in the kingdom of NOW. We are all members of the much larger kingdom that stretches forward into the FUTURE