Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wrong Wholly And In Parts

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for blogger and former and future pastor John Meunier. It is with a great deal of sadness that I have to be quite public in disagreeing, in sum and detail, with this post. Where my hackles rose was the following line:
Whatever the sins of the United States, the nation is not an empire in the same way that Rome was.
Out of any kind of context, this sentence begs many questions, but should strike most careful, Christian readers as, at the very least, misleading. In context, as the beginning of a paragraph which attempts to unpack what Meunier means, specifically, it actually gets worse.
n Rome, the source of all power was in the person of the emperor. The closest analogy we have to the exalted status of the emperor is not the nation-state or the president, but each one of us. We exalt the individual. In our world, the ruler of all, the king, the lord is each person. You and me. We are the rival to the rule of God.
This is the marvelous, and false, illusion of the sovereign individual. Sad to say, we are - none of us - "exalted", except in the empty rhetoric of politicians who want our votes so they can rob us blind, literally and metaphorically. In reality, the United States is a collapsing Empire of horrid strength, with the potential for much evil as we go down. That the political is being superceded by the economic - most clearly expressed in the shift from "internationalism", a goal for nation-states, to "globalization", a reality for corporations - in no way belies the basic imperial nature of the project, or that its most powerful and important booster and supporter is the United States. Opponents of this historical movement are even now being trampled underfoot, the foot soldiers in this battle returning home only to become more casualties of the same war (which is why I support our troops; they are mercenaries in a war they would not, under other circumstances fight; the shabby treatment they receive at the hands of officialdom should tell any sensitive observer the truth).

While I agree with the sentence-paragraph that immediately follows this - "And the claim that Jesus is Lord is just as dangerous to us as it was to Augustus." - it sits there, within the context Meunier sets it, without either meaning or even relevance. To say as Meunier does toward the end that the real scandal is that Jesus is Lord of my life and your life is, really, not very threatening at all. To anyone or anything. No one would be crucified for such a statement; on the contrary, the folks who repeat this doggerel are also boosters of the very same capitalism that is destroying our republican values, democratic institutions, and bleeding parts of the world white to keep them in line.

The scandal of the cross is not Jesus' as Lord of my life. The scandal of the cross is that the power that grows out of the barrel of a gun is not the last word. That this continues to be the only power this world understands speaks to the continued need for the Gospel being preached and lived. Not because we are atomized, anomic individuals. Rather, because we are told we are this so that we may have no resources in our struggle against the powers and principalities.

Empire is alive and well. We, sad to say, live in the heart of the beast, are nurtured by the blood and toil, the hundreds of thousands of human sacrifices for its continued success feeding the machinery of death we cannot escape. We Americans who are also Christian must first confess not that Jesus is Lord of our life, but rather that Mammon is the Lord of our Empire, and simul iustus et peccator for us lies at the very heart of our self-identification as Americans who are Christian. It is this specificity, rather than any abstract notions of "individuality", that lies at the heart of our ongoing need for repentance and metanoia.

As I said, I like and respect John a great deal. That doesn't mean I can sit idly by when I read something like this.

Sorry, John.

Virtual Tin Cup

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