My fellow Radicals and Subversives in Christ: I am so very glad to be with you!
Why do I refer to you this way? I know that those words may make some of you uncomfortable. I assure you that that is not my goal.
My point is simply this: The One that we are privileged to follow was and is the greatest radical and subversive who has ever walked on the surface of planet Earth.
Did he support the socio-economic and political status quo of his time? Hardly. He taught and demonstrated a radical departure from the social and political systems established by human beings. He actively subverted The System of Empire. In response to his radicalism and subversiveness, he was captured, convicted and tortured to death by that Empire.
Why was he a threat to The Establishment? I suggest that his primary threat was in his challenge to their assertion that they were God. Jesus countered that only God is God and that no human political or military leader or system is any sort of god at all. That posed a major threat to their power base. Therefore “The System” moved to eliminate this threat.
What does this mean for us now?
We are called to follow Jesus. He didn’t ask us to adore him or worship him. He told us to follow him. How can we interpret this directive? We can follow his example behaviorally. We can do our best to act as he did. We can follow his teachings and do our best to cultivate an internal attitude similar to his and practice corresponding external behavior.
I believe that following Jesus means following his path of Radical Love. What is radical about his kind of love? At the Last Supper, he told his disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is his instruction as to how we are to love each other (and love ourselves). He did not direct them (or us) to love any old way. He specifically tells them (and us) to follow his example and do it his way.
So what does it mean to love the way he taught and demonstrated?
He tells us to love those who hurt us. He tells us to turn the other cheek to those who have hit us already. He tells us to love our enemies. Even as he is being tortured to death on the cross he expresses: “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.” He provides a live demonstration even as he is dying. His way of loving is so counter-intuitive, so alien to us. It would seem that he wants us to actively forgive and love everyone who hurts us.
When we use the words “radical” and “subversive” it’s important to ask: A radical departure from what? Attempting to subvert what existing system or situation?
I would argue that the radicalism and subversiveness of Jesus was and is this kind of “movement” away from the Violence of Lies and toward the Reality of True Love. It is the conscious subversion of the idolatry of worshiping The-State-as-if-it’s-God.
Does this mean that we are called to do likewise? I think it does. I think it means that we need to recognize the various ways that each of us is invited or coerced into deifying and worshiping phony gods in our everyday lives.
Who and what are these phony gods?
Who are the individuals that are promoted as heroes in the public eye? Who are those that are advertised as great and powerful that the rest of us are supposed to cheer for and adore? What are we repeatedly told to buy and buy into? What are we directed to glorify by those with materialistic power? What are the institutions and products that are endlessly marketed as “must have” if we are to be acceptable as human beings?
Who wants us to be afraid?
If we choose to follow Christ, we commit to the path that is a radical departure from the System of Empire and the lies that sustain it. We commit to a path that is a radical movement toward the Unity of Real Love. We express and accept the “Yes!” to who and what we truly are: Manifestations of Love.
If we choose to make this claim, we can expect to be labelled as “subversive” by the world of phony gods. If we take this stand, we should expect The System of Empire to react with violence of some kind. That is consistent with its philosophy. We must be prepared for this reaction.
No empire likes to be told that its “new clothes” are an illusion!
My fellow radicals and subversives, we have choices to make.
We can choose to conform to the System of Empire and enjoy the materialistic comforts that come with it. This option requires behavioral obedience to The Establishment as well as psychological acceptance of its worldview. We must do and think and feel as we are told.
There is another choice.
We can choose to follow Christ’s Way.
This means letting go of the Temptation Traps of the human ego. These are traps like: “I want what I want when I want it” and “I”m more deserving than you” and “Us vs. Them”. It means accepting discomforts we may be unaccustomed to and suffering rejections and criticisms from both strangers and loved ones. It means embracing a lifestyle of all-inclusive compassion and forgiveness. It is a matter of choosing what is real instead of a hollow fantasy. It is a matter of choosing love over fear, freedom over slavery.
It is the choice of redemptive nonviolence over non-redemptive violence.
My fellow Radicals and Subversives in Christ, we have choices to make.