Posted by: Dan | July 17, 2005

Conversion

In the middle of a world given over to extravagance, desire and consumption I don't think the Christian response is to just try to learn to live a little more simply, give a little more charitably, or demonstrate a little more integrity.

In a world maintained by structures of evil and death I don't think the Christian response is to just try a little harder to do good.

Christianity is not about about improvement, it is about conversion.* That means Christians should have little interest in improving structures that are inherently flawed. That also reveals how most Christian discussion about “moral issues” completely misses the point. Generally such moral discussions miss how involved (and committed) all parties are to operating within the broader narrative(s) of the nation-state. By seeking to be less offensive Christians have discarded the language of conversion in favour of the language of moral improvement — and as a result they have given themselves over to a story that is not their own.

The first thing Christians must do is learn how to live within their story, speak their own language, and create their own space. This does not mean creating some sort of Christian state (as if such a thing could exist) but it does mean beginning to imagine time and space differently.** That, after all, is what is entailed in conversion. It means moving out of one story into another. Which also means that all of us, despite the language of tolerance that dominates public religious debate, are in the business of converting others. Because our foundational narratives govern our actions, we are all actors in one story or another and — depending on how we play our roles — we will either attract or repel others from our story.

____________
*I am indebted to Willimon et al. for highlighting this distinction; cf. Good News in Exile.
**This is what Cavanaugh attempts to do in his book Theopolitical Imagination where he confronts three myths: the myth of the state as saviour; the myth of civil society as free space; and the myth of globalisation as catholicity. The nation-state of the USA tells a particular story that imagines space and time in a particular way. Cavanaugh argues for a Christian story that imagines space and time in a subversive manner.

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