Thursday, April 7, 2011

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

What strategies are Christians to employ, living as we all do, in the shadow of Empire?


reneamac said...

I think this is a great question. I think whatever our individually specific strategies are, Jesus' instructions from Mt 10 are a good place to start; an over-arching guide:

In Matthew 10 Jesus is sending out his apostles, and in his instructions to them he tells them to 'Show ‘em how to live life to the fullest as we were always intended to live it (“preach the Kingdom of God”)! Do creative and redemptive works in their lives (“heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons”). And in all this remember, “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”

We tend to be one or the other, shrewd or innocent; we're called to be both.

Joshua said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, some popular ones seem to be:

Ultimatum evangelism - where we present a choice. And this is a particularly bad one. Choose Jesus or burn in hell.

While I think ultimatum evangelism is a proper strategy under an Empire, it needs revamping so as to more properly forward the agenda of the KoG and less as fire-insurance. In this way it can simultaneously reignite the Church as well as a comfortable society who has good reasons for ignoring the gospel and is casually comfortable with sin.

High view of volitional model of choice - Instead we should be focusing on cultivating our emotional selves to maturity.

This in particular becomes complicit with empire notions of freedom, which shift blame onto the very folks we are called to love. It misdirects our energies into choice, rather than caring. It's all round bad. I'm not exactly sure "emotional" maturity is the best way to phrase this countering strategy, as much as it is focusing on our hearts mirroring God's.

On the flip side of a high view of volitional model of choice is the determinism which becomes an excuse for not responding appropriately to our circumstances. Learning to rely upon the strength of God, reorienting ourselves to his divine purpose, and encouraging one another in faith. There's a danger of this being glib, but I believe it significant as a corrective nonetheless.

A renewed interest in the social gospel. Indeed, I'm not sure how we can develop emotional maturity without investing ourselves in the lives of others.

Of course their are more: developing sustainable community, an ethics of hospitality, etc. But all of these are in light of following God's redemptive framework via love.

Greg said...

Thanks. Excellent response. Typical tendencies are often polarized, if they exist at all. Your mention of MT 10 is significant regarding the KOG and its proclamation to the lost sheep of Israel at that point in Jesus' mission. As the Jews continued to be in exile and facing oppressive powers, the need for the apostles to be aware of Empire among and then because of their own, is quite striking. Being both shrewd and innocent was and is no doubt a highly tensional task.

Greg said...

Thanks. These are particularly helpful suggestions.

Revamping for the sake of the KOG is much needed in our formulating of the gospel.

How about spiritual maturity, which would include the emotional, but go far beyond it?

So true how the illusion of freedom in Empire is idolized, while the KOG shapes this in a new way that is de-idolized and connected to responsibility.

The social gospel, as an investment in others, and the other points you mention are surely significant strategies to be employed and lived out.

Joshua said...

Spiritual maturity definitely, but singled out emotion, as it seems that often times is a false dilemma between things being a "choice" or a shallow emotion such as "infatuation" or "idealization". (I wish I could remember that lecture on Love at L'abri, but...). In trying to bring our inner disposition in accord with our outer disposition, I think the value of emotions gets downplayed in the role of will, which is important of course for aligning it with God's. And I might be completely off as I'm thinking through psychology; I actually like this articulation much better which focuses on desire.

So yes, I definitely agree with spiritual maturation, and tactically that in my mind means the incorporating traditional means of religious activity (i.e. read the Bible, prayer, and most importantly worship) and the transformative process which occurs, as well as their anti-empire roots. But in relation to choice, recognizing the role that emotions play to facilitate a holistic commitment to obedience.

Joshua said...

And if you think I'm emphasizing emotions too much, I always pay attention to your nudges.

Greg said...

Yes, I like these thoughts and agree - the relevance of emotions often gets buried by will or reason, but of course there is an emotive connection to all of who we are. Compartmentalizing will not be a helpful strategy for the Christian life in the shadow of Empire.

Greg said...

I don't think that you are over-emphasizing emotions and am glad for you bringing them in, but I was just trying to formulate a way to keep them in the configuration, without the risk of being reductionistic.

I hope to post something on Empire living a little later today.