Collision. What a violent word. Right?
If you are a church goer who attends regularly in whatever discipline you have chosen, you have (hopefully) noticed that there is an evident collision between our world and theirs; ‘our world’ being the church, and ‘their world’ being, well, the world. You may say that you see no difference between the ways of the church, and the practices of the world. If so, you have probably been reading quite a bit of Yoder and Hauerwas, or, better yet, you have been paying attention to what the pastor says on Sunday (whether he or she expels this collision or embodies it).
I have noticed this collision especially in my time as youth pastor as I have served a group of young people who are being brought up in the Kingdom of America, while attempting to come to church and figure out what this alternative kingdom of God is all about. Among these young people, it seems there is always a struggle with what they see in the world and what we uncover in the words of Jesus. How does a child read, “Love your enemies” at church, and then go home to a family who condones the death penalty? How does a young student of the faith hear the message of the prince of peace at worship service, and the next day they open their history books to Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings which is deemed “necessary” by the writers within?
Putting it simply, our heart’s dedication to the church and what it stands for is at war with what we have been taught to be true and effective in the society we live in. Prosperity does not come from generosity in America; it comes from gaining an advantage over the next person in line. It comes from gaining the advantage over another, who, if we win, are consider weak because of our necessity to be strong. Their misery is simply an effect of the system with which we all live and we cannot escape. The simple requires survival of the fittest, and in turn, that survival requires us to be indifferent to whom we trample upon on our way to the top.
By listening and observing my students, I have come to question if Paul was mistaken when he said, “the law is written on our hearts” in Romans. From what I have seen, what is in their hearts are American values which have to reconcile the legitimacy of the Christian virtues before they will buy they inherent value and truth. Should it not be the complete opposite? Should we not judge America through the eyes of the bible, rather than judging the bible through the eyes of America?
I believe that we have come to believe that our convictions to the state are more immanent to our present situation than the suggestions of the church. I am convinced this is so because our reality is shaped by what we experience outside the church, rather than what convicts us within the confines of our faith. Thus, it becomes much harder to live as a Christian in America, that it is to live as an American is Christendom.
As I continue to babble and sort through my thoughts, John Howard Yoder speaks of how Christians attempt to live in America while also holding true to Christian values. Let me know what you think about his thoughts?
There is the patience of the “subject,” which the New Testament calls “subordination,” as it applies to the state or to any other super-ordinate power. We accept it as a fact, without accepting it as the best, that we live in a society ruled by the sword, in which, as long as the fallen state of things persists, the only alternative to being ruled by the sword of one violent party is to be ruled by the sword of another party whose power is greater and whose injustice may at best (we hope) be (at least marginally) less. We thus accept it, let it be, subordinate ourselves to the fact of the sword, without its being morally normative for ourselves, either in the sense of divine institution or in that of call to us to guide our discipleship. In this broad acceptance of what is in principle unacceptable, there is no formal or fundamental difference between the pacifist and the non-pacifist; it is only that the pacifist has had more occasion to think about it.(10) Neither the protestant “Radical Right” nor the “politically correct” postmodern left has wholeheartedly accepted this component of modern civility.
–From John Howard Yoder’s posthumous and unpublished writings. http://theology.nd.edu/people/research/yoder-john/documents/PATIENCE.pdf—