Monday, July 17, 2006

Continuation from Gathering in Light

This seems a little silly to put up a post that is a continuation from the comments section of another blog...but I feel this is something important to discuss.

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To 'John' a commenter from


I do think that you are right about the terms in question though. Many socialists/communists/facists have used the term and are at this moment trying to use ‘subversive’ means to bring down governments and political systems. But the violence that results from these tactics is far from subversive in the end. To ‘subvert’ means ‘To turn from beneath’. That’s the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary’s definition. Actually that’s the etymological root of the word—it’s origin in linguistical history. It seems that ‘corrupt’ is actually more of a secondary definition. But I don’t want to get into that too heavy—I don’t want to quarrel about words. You believe what you believe and I don’t think you are going to change based on this dialogue here.

I don't know if you have ever noticed, but most people do not change their minds or their beliefs based on a full frontal assault. This is why Jesus was so brilliant in the delivery of his message (among other reasons, not the least of which being that he was God). See, the reason why Pilate and Herod didn't take him for a subversive was that it wasn't plain to see. If he would have rode into town as conquering savior in the line of David, like what most people of the day were waiting for, he would have at once been opposed by the state as a supplanter. On the contrary, he used parables and stories and friendship to get out his very subversive (subversive to the established state and culture and ultimately all other authority structures besides himself) point that the rulership of the day was changing hands, that the government would now be upon his shoulders as prophesied. But, once again he couldn't just come out and say that without inciting a direct confrontation, so he told parables, which were like little ticking time bombs according to Eugene Peterson (the writer of The Message Bible paraphrase). Here is a quote from an interview that a Christian periodical called Mars Hill Review did with Eugene:

MHR: You've written a lot about being subversive in the pastorate and spiritual leadership. And you are a poet. Are poetry and the arts subversive?

EP: Yes--poetry and the arts are subversive. They come at things indirectly. They aren't usually frontal. They sneak in on you, and they're quiet.

Spiritually speaking, the self is constantly construing itself against God. That's the nature of our sin--we want to be our own gods. So we have all these layers of defensiveness that often take the form of pieties. Religion is the major defense we have against God. So how do you take people who are heavily defended against God by religion and get through the defenses? You do it by subversion. You get around the defenses. That's what a parable or a proverb does. Jesus did very little that was direct. People were always scratching their heads and saying, "What does he mean?"

On another, lesser level, culture develops ideologies to protect people from reality. So, how do you get past the ideology? Suppose someone says, "All black people are inferior," and you have been living that ideology all your life. How do you get behind that? You usually don't do it with argument or by being rational.

To be continued....


Anonymous C. Wess Daniels said...

The idea that poetry and art is subversive because it comes at us indirectly is a great comment and worth digging into deeper. McLaren talks about these things and the prophets and how they so easily fit together - if the church is going to be prophetic to the world - there will be a level of poetic and artistic witness that will call forth and point toward God's loving kingdom.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Nate R. said...

Wess, it's so true of the prophetic...I have been a part of the 'Charismatic' movement for about 10 years now, and I have always thought that I knew what was 'prophetic' until I recently read Walter Brueggemann's 'Prophetic Imagination'. I see it so differently now. I am a subscriber to the vision of artwork as a way of being for the church moving into the future. It really is about both pointing toward and somehow image-ing the kingdom of God. I feel that prophetically charged artwork is going to come to the forefront in the coming years...but it may not be or look exactly like we think/want it to. I actually wrote a novel a year or so ago that tried to dip into this...but of course it was a first try so it's kind of painful to go back and read if you know what I mean.


12:30 AM  

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