Friday, July 2, 2010

On this 4th of July, a thought from Walter Wink

So I'm finally entering into some theological training from Walter Wink. I know that some other authors that have influenced me, such as Rob Bell and Shane Claiborne, have themselves been influenced by Wink. I kept seeing his name in footnotes so often, I figured I'd better finally read him.
So I ordered three books from Amazon, "Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination", "Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way" and "The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium." You can see a list of his books on Amazon here.

After giving a great introduction, Wink comes out swinging in the first two paragraphs of the first chapter:

"Violence is the ethos of our times. It is the spirituality of the modern world. It has been accorded the status of religion, demanding from its devotees an absolute obedience to death. Its followers are not aware however, that the devotion they pay to violence is a form of religious piety. Violence is so successful as a myth precisely because it does not seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It is what works. It is inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. It is embraced with equal alacrity by people on the left and on the right, by religious liberals as well as religious conservatives. The threat of violence, it is believed, is alone able to deter aggressors. It secured us forty-five years of a balance of terror. We learned to trust the Bomb to grant us peace.
"The roots of this devotion are deep, and we will be well rewarded if we trace them to their source. When we do, we will discover that the religion of Babylon - one of the world's oldest, continuously surviving religions - is thriving as never before in every sector of contemporary American life, even in our synagogues and churches. It, and not Christianity, is the real religion of America. I will suggest that this myth of redemptive violence undergirds American popular culture, civil religion, nationalism, and foreign policy, and that it lies coiled like an ancient serpent at the root of the system of domination that has characterized human existence since well before Babylon ruled supreme. In order to get our bearings, however, we have to go back to the mythic source..."

That's a good thought for the 4th of July weekend. Here's our challenge as followers of Jesus - to respect our nation and those who pay the ultimate sacrifice for the interests of our nation while at the same time remembering our ultimate allegiance is to the Savior who died for his enemies, refusing to repay evil with evil. Our first question must not be "what actions are in the best interest of the US" but "what actions best align themselves with the teaching and example of Jesus." When those two align - great. When they're in conflict - we choose Jesus. We must never allow the flag to obstruct our vision of the cross.

I am now going to go hang my US flag outside, in celebration of Independence Day.

Update: I finished the chapter a few minutes ago. Toward the end, Wink gives this gem of a thought from the early Church Father, Origen. "Origen long ago warned Christians that the greatest temptation was participation in the national cults, which were nothing less than idolatrous worship paid to the angels of the nations as if they were God."

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