The first part of this reflection (see previous post) spoke mainly to the “why” of a Christian’s duty to oppose empire. In fact, it spoke to the sinfulness - even blasphemy - of a Christian’s unequivocal support of the state as opposed to the Kingdom of God. But, I didn’t speak much to the ways in which a Christian might do this. This post is not intended to be prescriptive. How a faithful Christian seeks to stand in opposition to empire is an individual matter. But here is a framework of thoughts in support of Christian witness against the abuses of empire, and perspectives a Christian might cultivate that are congruent with the Scriptural witness and the prophetic tradition of our faith.
1. A Christian’s duty is to remain in the world while not being of the world. In other words, you are citizens of no country but the holy Reign of God. Perhaps more accurately, citizens of the Kingdom, but residents of the world. This means that no flag, no leader, no nation or government holds higher allegiance than God's Kingdom. It also means that Christians have a primary responsibility to live WITHIN the world at peace! So the world may see your good deeds, not your ill behavior and self-righteousness. Not at war…because it is contrary to the will of God that we should exercise violence in the world even to achieve what we believe worthy. No violence ever. Rhetorical, psychological, physical, or otherwise. It is not our place.
2. Stand in opposition to any attempts by states, nations, powers to war against other nations. War in an abomination. The language of war is abomination. The committing of it should be off limits to all Christian people. Just War Theory is an absolute fraud. Using metaphors of war and militarism (such as the War on Drugs, Intelligence Czar, Security state) is a demonstrable form of psychological violence that inures us to the realities of militaristic violence.
3. Stand with those who are most marginalized by the prevailing culture. Do not countenance the denigration of the poor or the dismantling of our societal obligations to care for them. Follow the Scripture’s mandate to treat the alien and foreigner with dignity. Follow Jesus’ example to treat women with respect and help to see them empowered. Work for the end of racist policy. Work for restorative justice rather than state supported retribution. See capital punishment for what it is…state sanctioned murder.
4. Do not let the state divide you from one another. Do not let the state keep you in constant fear. Do not let the state convince you that someone else has less value or dignity than you, or that anyone indeed has more! Wealth is a stumbling block to grace, not a sign of it! God doesn’t countenance hierarchies of value among his beloved children, unless of course it is by making the least into the first. Neither should you. Every human being who ever lived, who lives now, who has yet to be born, is of immeasurable and precious value to God. Treat them accordingly.
5. Remember that the world is broken by sin. And that the Ruler of this world desires conflict and destruction. Bear witness always to God’s call to love, justice, mercy, and forgiveness. And trust that these will one day prevail. But we must be faithful.
6. Accept no violence! No matter how “worthy” the goal of said violence, it is more often likely that violence is the means of the state to secure more power for itself. And that always comes at the expense of God’s beloved children.
7. Strive always for right relationships between people, seeking healing rather than division; freedom rather than imprisonment; safety for all rather than mere security for some. Strive for right relationship between people and the creation we inhabit. If God created and blessed it, who are we to destroy it?
8. Never let the state reduce your value to what you spend, how much you consume, or how much you produce. Economics is no judge of human value or dignity. Remember the Widow’s mite. Learn the word “enough.” It is not a Christian duty to spend money to help bolster an economy that has been destroyed by the state’s pre-disposition to war. Or that has been ravaged by the greed of the wealthiest class that profits from war. A Christian's duty is to call for all people to have what they need in accordance with their human dignity.
9. Become informed. Educate yourself. A Christian duty is to see the world the way it is. Not to retreat into some foolish wishful thinking or fantasy. God gave us minds to think, and commanded that we should love God with them, as well as with our hearts, our souls, our strength. Retreating into a primitive worldview robbed of scientific discovery is to miss the chance to see God’s majesty and blessing unfold in ever new awe inspiring ways. Jesus heals the blind man. Precisely so that he could see and glorify God. Don’t let your answer to his question “do you want to be healed…” be “No.”
10. Reconcile yourself to death. Lose the fear of it. This is a Christian’s greatest duty besides the call to love. Empire loves to leverage our fear of death to extract our compliance with nearly every abuse it commits. From war to state sanctioned violence, to criminalization and incarceration of those who the culture “others” so that we remain fearful. These rely on our fears to be given the freedom to expand without accountability. Resist the fear by becoming familiar and at ease with the inevitability of your death.
11. Remember….there is absolutely no such thing as a Christian Empire or even a Christian nation. The very idea is nothing more than an idolatrous creation of human sin whose aim is to subvert God’s Kingdom. It is a shadow facsimile that appeals to our sinful nature. We cannot create the Kingdom on Earth. That is God’s work. Ours is, like John the Baptist, to call the faithful to prepare the way.