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.


Jason Barr said...

I enjoyed reading this. Thanks so much for the engagement, it's obvious you've really wrestled with the questions and not only that, that your answers are part of the journey you and your family have been attempting to undertake for some time now.

It's a pleasure and an honor to be your fellow-traveler. Keep the faith!

- Jason

Sara said...

Thanks, Jason. You really got me thinking, although it seems I've only just scratched the surface. I was really captivated by Cavenaugh's revelation of the power of imagination, (and by Wilder's satire). It is not a vain pursuit. It is the power of empire, it is also its weakness if a greater story can unseat it.