I was talking with a friend today. She relayed a conversation with another friend. The radical, change-the-world kind of friend. The kind of people I like. (Well, most of the time…)
They had been debating the ethics of destruction of property when the target in view is the bad guys: the animal torturers, the people killers.
Why not demonstrate that there is power arrayed against them?
I was reading a book the other day. It embodied a deep critique of male-dominated religious literature. It put starkly before my eyes the ways that the women in the Bible were assumed to be desirous of whatever man they were given to, that they were treated as appendages to stories and commodified for the boys’ power games.
And it put starkly before my eyes the ease with which we can take up the power we’d been excluded from and turn it on our oppressors. It’s easy to retell the story by reassigning the roles in the same script.
I was watching the Syria situation unfold. It was a situation of horror (actually, it has been for quite some time before chemical weapons were used).
Then we decided to get involved. Someone else was killing and torturing with weapons that we’re not allowed to use. Unless you kill and torture people in another hemisphere while seated in the comfort of Nevada, you’re not allowed to act that way.
So we were going to kill and destroy and torment. Not even for the purpose of changing the characters in the script, but only for the purpose of momentarily playing, “More able to kill than thou.” That was the intended message.
In each, the story of imposition of will by show of force was affirmed as the story by which value, virtue, and place are determined. The narrative of “if I can blow you up, destroy you, I will secure my place and the world be better off” seeps into every crevice because it’s the very water of the ocean in which we live.
When Christians place the cross at the front of our sanctuaries, it is supposed to be a reminder of those great words of Jesus:
It Shall Not Be So Among You
The cross was Rome’s little way of saying that it had sufficient force to keep its power.
The resurrection was God’s little way of saying that God has a different story to tell. God has a power story that overthrows the power stories of the world by refusing to retell them in God’s name.
In a beautiful refusal to play the “I can blow you up” game, the earliest Christians created a new standard of power: walking the way of the cross.
In a stunning escape from the “I can blow you up game,” they did not fall in the colonized people’s trap of striving for the same power and means to power but with themselves in charge.
They surrendered that game to Rome, and claimed different rules altogether. They blew up the narrative of blowing things up.
They saw in Christ the inscribing of a new narrative, and called others to join it: in faith, entrust yourself to God, even to the point of death. See our hopes fulfilled by the God who gives life to the dead.
The Christian calling is nothing if not a relearning in every generation how to tell the story of the Crucified in our personal lives, in our life together, and in the public sphere that will always, it seems, strive for its place by the power of the sword.