Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


Joyful Subversives

It is not a ground-breaking thing for me to say that American culture is non-Christian and thoroughly secular. It most certainly is not Orthodox. Instead, American- Western- culture is often openly hostile in the face of Christianity, and even when it is not, Christ never enters into the question or the answer. Ours is a society that at best grudgingly tolerates religion, so long as it conforms itself to the given standards and norms of secularized behavior. God is tolerable so long as He- like everyone else- molds Himself to our tolerant and diverse society. The radical, often uncomfortable God of Christianity is not welcome.

Living in the midst of this world of abortion on demand, entertainment drowned in sensuality, endless marketing and commercialization, and the call to fulfill my ego however it pleases me, it is natural to desire a radical change in our society. The world is horribly skewered, and I earnestly desire to turn it upside down. But the methods I would use are most certainly not the ones that Christ would endorse. I am tempted, like the angered Apostles, to call down fire from heaven; or like St. Peter to pull out my sword and fight until they cut me down (knowing full well that I would not get that far; I would end exactly as St. Peter did in the courtyard). Yet while Christ bids me put down my sword, He also tells me to go out and sell my tunic and buy a sword. What are we to make of it? He has come, He says, not for peace but for war.

Indeed He has come, and He stands in opposition to the world, and to its tyrannical prince. Herod was right to fear the little child in the manger: He comes to work justice and righteousness in the earth. Yet how does He achieve justice? He comes to liberate the captives and slay Death itself, yet He does not raise a rebellion of spears and clubs, but is Himself beaten and killed.

His very coming into the world is a perfect example of how Christ wrecks kingdoms and razes cultures. He does not gather angry zealots with swords and spears at His cradle; He does not send out angels with bullhorns or petitions. Instead, He sends out a choir to herald His coming to simple shepherds. These are the first witnesses of the revolution; they are the first initiates into this social inversion and radical change. What do they do when they find Him? They go forth into the city, rejoicing. Herod is only a shortly ahead in the narrative, and the kingdom and powers that he represents are being challenged, but not in the conventional way. The first counter-cultural agents of the true King, come back to claim His own, have no guns or bombs or leaflets. They have joy, they have the knowledge of their King. Come see the thing we have seen. Their message- and the message of the Church down through the ages- is not mere social protest, or anger at the injustices of the world. Certainly we must have those, and in Christ they are proclaimed loudly, but we offer alongside the negative appraisal of the world joy. There is a place, of course, for protest, and perhaps even for literal swords- St. Oswald and St. Edwin, among others, bore arms and used them- but even then our methods are not the same as the world, and we know that these are only temporal means. But even as we protest evil and seek justice, we have joy, and herald the Just Judge Who comes to save the world.

It would be absurd if we did not have a Savior to warrant it. St. Paul and St. Silas singing in jail is ridiculous; why should anyone be happy about unjust imprisonment? But they are not happy over imprisonment- they are joyful because they have met the Man of Sorrows, Who, having passed through the vale of sorrows, offers man the hope of the joy of God. The martyrs- the true revolutionaries of the Church- rejoice, not because they love death, but because they love the Crucified and Risen Savior more. Having seen Him Who defies, in His sacrificial death, the evil of the world, they too defy tyrants and all dark powers.

And so we are in the midst of a world that is anti-Christ, that is filled with sorrows and injustice. We are contra mundum, subversives, plotting for the downfall of tyrannts. We must turn and spit- spit!- upon the world, the flesh, and Satan, and keep our vows to renounce his works. And we do this in a spirit of joy, for we have met the King. We bear sorrow and joy, for we have seen both the evils of the world and the Savior of the world. Our joy in this Savior will prove subversive, for it beckons beyond the confines of corrupted culture. As we live the Gospel and speak the Gospel we bear witness to the this joy, and this very act goes against a world which denies the whole thing. We need not walk about with signs on our backs, but with carefully planted words and dangerous ideas, with actions in the love and joy of Christ. Let us be 'as gentle as doves, as wise as serpents'. Let us 'aquire the Spirit of peace, and thousands around us will be saved.' It is a declaration of war, and one that we must conduct in boundless rejoicing.


Post a Comment

<< Home