catapult magazine

catapult magazine


A call to subversion


Jul 14 2006
04:08 am

Hi Grant,

Haven’t been in touch for quite a while. Hope things are ok with you?

I am concerned that thinking of Christianity as subversive sometimes seems to lead toward anti-culturalism or technophobia.

The exilic stuff in the book doesn’t play a major part, in what I’ve read so far, but it is an excellent book. My concerns are that as Christians we always gravitate to the Exile as an analogy of what we are experiencing now, but I can’t say that I agree with that. Subversion can only come by our engaging with contemporary culture, not through [i:a31653913a]anti-culturalism or technophobia.[/i:a31653913a] (But I understand your concerns.) For me it is an interesting anomaly and surely comes from an under-deveoped worldview, you could say un-scriptural worldview, but would be consistent with some of the mis-readings of scripture as being a call to remove yourself from the world.

The book however, doesn’t go this way, nor the counter-cultural way. Their view of the Colossian church is that it is situated IN the Empire of Roman excess and not somehow removed from it. The subversion takes place through interacting with the edifices of this Empire, through commerce, politics, religion, family and community – to name a few aspects -and not through ceasing to function in any of those areas. This doesn’t make it counter-cultural, but [b:a31653913a]normative[/b:a31653913a] in Cal Seerveld’s view and I’d agree with that.

Walsh and Keesmaat do point out that in the Gospel of Luke, Luke locates Jesus at the centre of Empire Life, naming political rulers etc, as a way of contextualising the Kingdom of God. It’s the same for us, otherwise the KIngdom of God is contextless, meaningless. After all what is the appeal of living in the wilderness? John didn’t call people to the wilderness to live, after they were baptised they went back home! I think this kind of isolationist theology stems from our cultural impotence and isn’t a sign that we have become impotent by being too worldly! Maybe we appear impotent because the Kingdom has no meaning for people in their everyday lives. After all, who wants to be saved, just to go to church???

My big worry, is that we continue to mis-read the time we are in; what Seerveld has called ‘reading the cultural time’. Such reading is not only a point of location, but also an understanding of how we are to act in the given moment. If we mis-read the cultural time, we will act inappropriately, we will dis-locate. I think the accent on exile reveals something of our sense of dis-location, but it isn’t because we have been carted away to a foreign land. This land is God’s Land, all of it under the Lordship of Christ and I wonder if Exilic Christians have lost that view of the Lordship of Christ as being total, not limited to the Sabbatical, or the Christian Ghetto. Our compulsion to hide, is deeply distressing!