"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Convert Us to Foolishness, O Lord

"Even on Christianity's most joyous day, Pope Benedict XVI lamented the 'continual slaughter' in Iraq and unrest in Afghanistan as he denounced 'the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion.'

"Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and instability," Benedict said. "In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees."

Compared to the experienced experts who calculated the benefits of control over the world's oil supply through war in Iraq and ignored those whose lives would be shattered to seize this control, we Christians are fools indeed. We are the fools standing at the grave and believing in the risen Lord. Such people have no power in this world - psychologists will explain their deluded beliefs as wish compensation for their lack of power. But they do not lack another type of power. In the words of Jim Wallis, "That same foolishness is the only hope we have of breaking free from the present realities that so gravely threaten us. Only in the recognition of something that is more real can we see their authority as unreal. The greatest threat to any system is the existence of fools who do not believe in the ultimate reality of that system. Indeed, the first step in making new realities possible is to break free from the grip and the authority of the old realities. To repent and to believe in a new reality - that is the essence of conversion. We join the body of Christ whose purpose is to make visible this new reality in the world."

By not believing in their power, the powers of this world are emptied. Ultimately they rest on belief, the mythologies of redemptive violence, the theological absolutes enforced by bombs and artillery. We are foolish enough to doubt, which is why the Romans called the early Christians atheists. Indeed, we are atheists to the domination that would rigidify us into caricatures of humanity.

Jim Wallis again: "Without the resurrection, the defeated followers of Jesus would have simply faded away. He would have been just another prophet who was killed. But the resurrection vindicated the cross and validated the way of Jesus, establishing the authority of his Lordship. At the same time, the resurrection invalidated the authority of the system. It showed the world's way to be a lie. The world's definition of reality crucified Jesus. His resurrection proved that definition of reality to be false. Our system, too, has its definitions of reality - national security, economic expansion, political realism. The way of Jesus is thought to be as foolish today as it was in his day. His kingdom is totally alien to the present world order."

The purpose of mainstream media is to make the world's definition of reality entertaining where possible and compelling if necessary. This kingdom is one where quantities of eyeballs are first calculated precisely and truth is measured in units of political influence. Proudly, we raise our irrelevant eyes above the all-consuming tube and glory in our lack of influence.

Jim Wallis has the last word: "We stand before the world as fools. We are foolish enough to believe that Jesus' way is stronger and more true than the way of the world. We rest secure in the knowledge that he has, and will, overcome. We are called to be fools for Christ, a people saved by his cross and converted, finally, by his resurrection.

May God convert us to such foolishness."

O Christ, thou Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, thou Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, thou Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us they peace.

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