Posted by: Dan | February 26, 2007

Subversion Rooted in the Biblical Narrative

There is another way in which our practice needs to be better buttressed by our reading. For example, we often claim that our practice of nonviolent direct action is grounded in the symbolic action of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, but rarely does our biblical study demonstrate how exactly this is the case.
~Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus, 12.

Myers, I think, points out one of the greatest weaknesses of Christian involvement in subversive socio-political and economic action. Simply put, Christians who desire to live counter-culturally too often uncritically adopt already present models of subversion, or protest, without thinking through those actions in light of what it means to live within the trajectory of the biblical narrative. Myers challenges us to think about how exactly the biblical narrative leads us to adopt counter-cultural action.

The catch is that most of the available models of subversion, protest, and transformation from the margins to the centres of power, are only a little more meaningful (if that) than most of the available models of trickle down productivity and reform from the centres of power to the margins. Myers wrote his book in 1988, but in 2007 we can see the ways in which the “counter-culture” has, in fact, become “popular culture.” Moreover, we can see how much of the counter-cultural movement has, at its core, not really been counter-cultural at all.

Therefore, Myers' wish for us to examine how the biblical narrative under-girds our action becomes all the more urgent. We cannot simply use Jesus and the prophets as proof-texts for already present models of “nonviolent direct action” (which, by the way, seems to be the mistake that Jim Wallis has fallen into lately). Rather we must allow our study of the biblical narrative to tell us what exactly constitutes counter-cultural activity.

When we engage in this form of bible study, then I suspect that we will discover that celebrating the Eucharist regularly is far more subversive than writing letters to members of parliament, that living in community with one another is a far more meaningful protest than rallying outside the American embassy, that reading the liturgy is far more counter-cultural than reading Adbusters, that suffering alongside of the homeless is more powerful than donating to a soup kitchen, and so on and so forth.

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