Thursday, January 31, 2008

Competing Imaginations

One of the blogs I regularly "hit" is by a guy named Jason Barr. At An Absolution Revolution, Jason issued a challenge in his post titled, “[I] had been living inside their imagination.”

Here is my response to his very thought provoking questions.

1. In what ways are your community, whether it’s a faith community or simply the community of your neighborhood/apartment complex/residence hall, being dreamed by the corporations, by the government(s), or by other oppressive forces that seek to exploit or control you?

We are told we live in a free country and that lives were sacrificed to make it so. But this freedom has strings attached. We are all numbered so the government can keep track of us. We are statistics for market research. We are told by both government and corporations what we should and should not eat, drink, what substances are good and what are bad. We must pay taxes on our property and obtain licenses to build upon it. Our teens are not allowed to join the workforce and help with the family's income, but are held back from economic maturity. We cannot choose alternative fuel without being rich and filling out mountains of paperwork. We are being watched and filmed at every turn. We are not free to make economic decisions on a personal level, but must go through countless middlemen, insurance agencies, etc. We must submit to every whim of control freak policemen or risk being tased. We are blocked from every side when we try to make a living from a family farm, or other small scale venture, by the competition and lobbying power of the mega-businesses. We cannot feed or house the poor, visit prisoners, or adopt orphans, without shelling out lots of money, going through agencies, wading through red tape, or risk treading on zoning laws and other city stipulations. We are hemmed in on every side by rules designed for our "protection" but in reality stifle the good we might do. And we are constantly bombarded by stories of heroism and Americanized virtue to keep us sending our dollars to Wal-mart, and our children to the public school machines, and the military brainwash establishments.

2. In what ways are you as an individual being dreamed in the same way?

Some of the above are my own concerns, some are my friends' and some of other people I've read. And yes, I am a consumer. I use electricity to heat and cool my house and pump water from my well, run my washing machine, oven and water heater, vacuum my floors and power my cfl's. I use gasoline to fuel my car to go to the grocery store, the library, or to a friend's house. I use the phone lines for local calls and internet, and have a cell phone. It's not that I think these are wrong or anything, but I wish these services could be controlled on a more local, personal level. They would be managed better, and make earth friendly options more readily available.

3. What things you experience in your own life, whether in person or vicariously through reading or other media, give you the tools to begin living out of an alternative imagination?

My husband first got me thinking and challenging popular Constantinian Christianity. I now see Jesus and the State as competing allegiances. N T Wright, Stanley Hauerwaas and John Howard Yoder have all three helped to shape my imagination as I try to discover and recover what the Christian vocation is in the midst of the Empire. The Internet has also been an invaluable resource in the struggle to disentangle myself from the morass of state/ corporate slavery. From Christian Anarchist sites and blogs, to other sites that challenge the status quo such as Lew Rockwell, as well as those that give inspiration in more practical areas, such as Mother Earth News.

4. Does faith fuel your resistance? If so, how? If yes, why (or if no, why not)?

I have an incurably optimistic eschatology. I believe we are living in the Messianic age now, to the extent that we realize and implement the implications of Jesus being Lord and the Kingdom being here, today. It helps me to imagine a world where the nations "beat their swords into plowshares" and where every man dwells beneath his "own vine and fig tree", and thus to work towards that ideal in my own tiny way.

5. What is something you can do to begin resisting in a new way, right now?

Right now I am trying to make friends with my neighbors, and be a good mother and wife, and to nurture a spirit of gentleness in all my comings and goings. And I'm always on the lookout for ways I can reduce our family's consumption and expenses, and make use of the resources in our own locale. But it is only the practice of love that will tear the walls down.

As an aside on that last question, remember that Lent is just around the corner - what an amazing opportunity not just to “give up” something out of some misguided sense of obligation, but rather to deeply examine your life to find a social/thought practice or consumptive habit that is not in line with the values of the basilea of God, to nail it to the cross with Christ, and to celebrate the breaking of its power over you with the resurrection?

I have been thinking about this, incidentally, and am planning to cut way back on the time I spend on the internet, as worthwhile as that might be, because I need to work on putting into deeds the stuff I am always reading about. How much of a limit, I haven't yet decided on. I'll probably set a certain number of hours to allow myself per week, and stick to it. Maybe I'll blog about the "Things I Did While Not Online." So stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just a Little Rant

For my own record. I am so confused. Why is the "free market" so tabooed amongst most emerging/anarchist Christian discussion when it is the "not-so-free-global-state-capitalist-market" that is ruling the roost and not a laissez-fair model by a long shot? According to experts, we haven't even had a free market for 150 years! This is not really a huge deal for me, I really don't know much at all about economics, but if achieving social justice was mankind's chief end, I'd say the libertarians were on the right track. Get the government out of the way so we can work out our differences on a personal level. It might be "dog eat dog" in some cases, but at least it won't be Tyrannosaurus Rex eat puppy. However, I don't think social justice is our chief end. I think justice is something God will do if we, his people, are faithful in our individual and communal callings, and are content to suffer injustice ourselves for righteousness' sake. That leaves a lot unsaid, but I'm tired and need to get some sleep.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Editing Note

I have edited my blog a little, because I have been counseled to not be so negative and critical, and I humbly apologize if any articles or comments have seemed a little too abrasive. I am not afraid to say what I believe, but I do not want to hurt anybody or turn them away from the gospel of nonviolence by being too free with my sarcasm. I want to keep digging for the truth, and sharing what I find, but I want to do it in a loving manner.

The God of Americanism

Here is an excellent arricle by Dr. James K. A. Smith, associate professor of philosophy at Calvin College.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


I have been reading "The Politics of Jesus" by John Howard Yoder (yay! my husband got me the perfect Christmas gift.) and am in the middle of the third chapter, which is about the implications of the Jubilee in Jesus' ministry. Here is a concept that really excites me, although I probably should wait until I finish the chapter to comment on it, but I wanted to get down some thoughts and questions while they are still fresh in my mind.

I thought it most interesting that in Matthew's account of the Lord's Prayer, the word used for "debts" in the petition for forgiveness specifically meant those of the material, monetary kind, while in the following verses, when Jesus requires that we forgive others if we want God to forgive us, the word is different, specifically meaning transgressions.

To the first century Jewish audience, who longed for "thy kingdom come", the two concepts were very much connected. The poor longed for the restoration of their homes and ancestral lands, which was one of the provisions in the Law for Jubilee, while on a nationalistic level, the Pharisees and zealots longed for the day when the Roman occupation would end, signaling God's forgiveness of the nation's sins that first sent them into captivity. For Jesus to proclaim these Jubileean ethics was in essence quite the same as announcing the inauguration of the long awaited kingdom. Thus the gospel is Jubilee.

Sooooooo, my questions are................

1. Exactly how was Jubilee realized in Jesus and where do we fit into this story? It wasn't just "spiritual" or even symbolic, the resurrection forbids that interpretation. The resurrection was proof, to the first century Jew, that God really had chosen Jesus to be the Messiah, the King of the new creation, the second Adam of the new humanity. As believing Gentiles we have been elected into this new humanity and are thus fellow partakers in everything Jesus accomplished. Israel's story becomes our story.

2. To what extent and in what way do the provisions for the Year of Jubilee in the Law inform our ethics toward those within and those outside of the church/kingdom and to the rest of creation? Was the Law a foreshadow of the things to come? If we are living in a greater age, how far do these ethics reach? Are we to be in perpetual Jubilee? In what ways? Forgiveness of debt? of sin? of crime? A gift economy? Cyclical rest for us and for the land? Fair economic redistribution?

3.What kind of social implications does this have for the church and how we define it as a political entity?

Well, I guess I'd better read on....