When you read something- do you ever feel strangely accurate descriptions of the current event in your life? And try as you might, you can’t shake the feeling that this book was written especially for this moment…. And you realise you are being ludicrously self obsessed but still you just can’t shake it!
Well. Here are two synopsises of two books. On first glance they offer opposing options for us- us being the ones exasperated with some bits of the Army- but I've tried to mix n match.
Prophetic Imagination, Walter Bruggemann
Bruggmanne describes the process of Moses setting up his alternative community with an idea of a free God and politics of liberation, justice and democracy. This was opposed to the dominant consciousness/ empire of Egypt with their oppressive politics. Moses and his community’s role was to “act as a prophetic voice to the nations, and that the task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us."
As the alternative community became not so alternative and itself (after many many years) became an oppressive empire, the prophets then took over this role. And then, Jesus did.
An important concept is numbness- people are numb to the idea that the dominant consciousness is wrong, we need to pierce this consciousness, through pointing out the coming death of it all (why the prophets talk so destructively) and through allowing people to grieve the passing of the empire. Then we need to imagine with God the new way of things, the community that emphasises justice, liberation etc etc. We need to paint a true and genuine picture of hope. But this vision does need to replace the dominant culture. It is forming a distinct alternative community.
Under the Unpredictable Plant, Eugene Peterson
Here Eugene first describes his own denominational corruption (so he knows the sort of rubbish that goes on in big d.’s) but then goes on to talk about Jonah and Ninevah and Tarshish:
We will all have a Tarshish. A place that looks like the most exciting, right, just place to base our ministry even when God has called us to serve in stinky old Ninevah! The aim is vocational holiness not vocational idolatry - the idolatry of a career that we can take charge of and manage, perhaps. It is about sticking with where God calls.
Without copping out and compromising on either of the options, surely they can be united. The first option says we are not to be passive when the dominant consciousness is a wrong one, create anew! But the second says don’t forsake the place God has placed you to serve, even if you don’t like the idea of it.
If we are able to best serve God through the Army than this is where we need to stay, right? But we need to keep the vision up of a just, free organisational structure. We need to, in our own places, create something that reflects biblical, prophetic values all the while attempting to speak this into the dominant consciousness. I realise some people have been quietly doing this for years. But I think hand in hand with the living comes the talking, the writing, the appealing, the debating. We must have faith that God can transform Ninevah.