The Style of Subversion
There is a great series going on over at Jesus Manifesto written by the founder and editor, Mark Van Steenwyk. I have some great admiration for this guy, and all of his writing is really good, but this is some of his best. Here are the links to the three part series:
Counter cultures are not a threat to empire because the global consumer capitalist system commodifies everything. Music and language and style and anti-consumer rants can all be commodified. Practices, however, are harder to commodify. So, if you want to have a faithful witness in the midst of empire, you need to embody an alternative.
Is my counter-cultural values a sign of the Kingdom or simply a move towards hipsterism? Is my counter-culturalism identified by the buttons on my messenger bag, the road bike in my bedroom, the Christian thinkers/pastors I attach myself to, or the books on my self? Is my counter-culturalism identified by the bumper stickers on the car (and skateboard), the songs on my iPod, or the posts on my blog? OR is my counter-culturalism defined by the actions I take in every area of my life? I cannot spend my way to counter-culturalism. I cannot surround myself with counter-cultural “identifiers” and assume I am counter-culturalism. These things are mainstreamed, are co-opted by my consumer capitalism, one of the very things I want to rebel against. It’s all just a worthless hipsterism movement if it is not rooted in a REAL counter-cultural lifestyle. I think it will be a long time before selling your car (although that may be on it’s way), dumpster diving, buying nothing, working less and spending more time with people, and living radically hospitable lives will be co-opted by the consumeristic mainstream.
When the Church embraces a pattern of life in conformity to the Kingdom of God, it can never be co-opted by the Powers. When we trade that pattern of life for a counter-cultural facsimile, we are in an era when we can much more easily become co-opted.
We need to embody the Kingdom and as much as Mike and I want to… as much as we strive towards this in our lives, it’s really really hard to do without a community behind you. And so we’ve been talking more about the New Monastic movement and the desire to live in a new monastic community. If you are going to really live out the counter-cultural and not just pick up the co-opted symbols of it in our own lives, then we need to do it in the community of the Church.
And finally, I leave you with Mark’s (the author of the series) list he gives in part 3 of ideas that can help build a communal life of loving resistance to the Empire. Some practices for living your life conformed to the kingdom of God:
- proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ
- tithe relationally
- discerningly engage in civil disobedience
- confess your sins to one another, and proclaim forgiveness
- live communally
- establish regular rhythms of prayer with others (here’s a nifty and free resource)
- thoughtfully participate in the Lord’s Supper
- be family with people that are in a different socio-economic and/or ethnic situation than you
- get in the way of violence
- plant a garden (for extra credit, practice guerrilla gardening)
- spend less money
- spend justly
- or just don’t spend money at all
- ride a bicycle or take the bus
- draw attention to the sins of society
- lovingly challenge the sins of the Church
- invite strangers to dinner
- have a guest room open to those in need
- practice mutual submission
- read Scripture in community and struggle together to put it into practice
- practice communal discernment
- embrace a sense of place in ministry
- learn the stories of marginalized people…especially your brothers and sisters in the developing world
- pray for political authorities
- share good things with the poor
- give the wealthy (including yourself) an opportunity to divest of their wealth
- remember, in all things love
Thanks for the list and the posts, Mark.