I firmly believe that my responsibility as a person of the Christian faith is to stand in opposition to empire. To speak out openly against every use or mis-use of power by one over another that leads to marginalization or oppression. I do this because the Master that I choose to follow was very clear that the Kingdom of God that we long for is characterized by the end of authority, power, and the rule of any group or individual over any other. The chief metaphor for this in the language of my faith is the story of a God who poured God's own self out completely to become incarnate in the flesh as a powerless human being in an insignificant backwater and was murdered by the state for proclaiming love as the new ordering principle of all human relationship.
In fact, the entire lens through which I view my faith stories is one of a struggling people who had chosen to have a human King rather than be ruled by the God who covenanted with them and struggled over subsequent generations with the fallout; a prophetic tradition that calls out the privileged for their complicity in marginalizing the poor; and the teachings of Christ about the re-establishment of God’s holy reign. One characterized by non-violence, humility, mutual self-giving, justice, mercy, and love.
I’m not sure at all if I am any good at living this vision or standing against the blasphemy of empire. Standing in witness against acts great and small by the powerful and privileged that leech the dignity and humanity away from the oppressed. But I try. I have faith that what I think pleases God does in fact please God. And hope that I live in integrity with my faith. And I have to believe that Christ's commands to love will bear fruit or he wouldn't have given us the new law.
Christian witness in opposition to empire and all of its false idols is a terribly challenging way of life. We are so entrenched in the mechanics of power — state/nation power, economic power, military power, cultural domination — that anyone who stands against it is seen as out of touch or deranged. Peculiar. Oppositional. And yet, we fail to note that in nearly every case we have been taught that the right laws, with the right punishments, or the right people holding the reigns of power will be a solution to whatever we perceive ails us. Our solution to power is almost universally, always, more power directed in opposition. And it doesn’t take too close a look to see how dismally this has failed…is still spectacularly failing! The Crucifixion points out that this use of power is a great lie. For beyond it, the Resurrection demonstrates that power is destroyed by a God who completely abdicated power and, in doing so, even overcame the power of death.
There is no greater blasphemy than a Christian who supports empire - the waging of war, the punishment and retribution of our criminal “justice” system, the systematic denial of human dignity for those that its system of racial and economic privilege has marginalized and oppressed, the worship of money and power. This idolatry is the greatest of sins. It flies in the face of a loving Christ who overturned the money changer’s tables and the hierarchy of power dynamics in communal relationships by proclaiming that in the Kingdom the first shall be last and the last first. The business of domination belongs to the Devil. Dominion is death.
Faithfulness is characterized by self-negation. Self-sacrifice. I am nothing without God. In Christ, I have no power that is my own. I may have courage, humility, patience, and love. But these do not originate in me or my power as much as they are given to me by Christ so that I may be a vessel to pour them out for God’s work in the world. Why? Because I reject any power I may claim for myself knowing that it will ultimately be used by me to - willingly or not - make subject another human being. My husband? My neighbor? A whole population of people who disagree with my social positions or views on justice? The “other” side that the politics of power always convinces us is responsible for our anxieties. Even that “other” side who is convinced to persecute me and mine because they are taught by empire to be afraid.
Be not afraid.
You may be one of those people in my life who hasn’t the foggiest notion as to what moves me. Where on earth my views on politics and power come from. And like I said, I may not actually be very good at following this path to the negation of power and opposition to empire, but it is what motivates me. As a Christian, my highest desire is God. And it is to see the world made whole by God’s grace and love. And to see the flourishing of human freedom, dignity, and peace when we cease to destroy one another and our fragile planet through our violence and subjugation. And to await the day when the love of God will gently guide all things to glorious renewal and re-creation.
For now, I renounce the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. Chief among them, the empire which strives always to separate us from the love of God. Thank goodness we are also promised that this is impossible.
Soli Deo Gloria