A Subversive Kingdom

Following on from yesterday and Peterson's comments on the subversive power of parable, his comments on subversion itself are worth noting:
"Three things are implicit in subversion.
One, the status quo is wrong and must be overthrown if the world is going to be livable. It is so deeply wrong that repair work is futile. The world is, in the word insurance agents use to designate our wrecked cars, totaled. 
Two, there is another world aborning that is livable. Its reality is no chimera. It is in existence, though not visible. Its character is known. The subversive does not operate out of a utopian dream but out of a conviction of the nature of the real world.
Three, the usual means by which one kingdom is thrown out and another put in its place military force or democratic elections are not available. If we have neither a preponderance of power nor a majority of votes, we begin searching for other ways to effect change. We discover the methods of subversion. We find and welcome allies."
(Again I've gone with his Americanisms, despite the protests of my spellcheck. I do love the word "aborning" though - I'd never come across it before, but having done so I will not shoehorn it into my discourses wherever possible!)

I suppose these comments registered with me in relation to the state of the world in which we find ourselves (and which I and others have commented on at length), both locally and globally...

  • A province that has no understanding of real peace because of the misguided pursuit of "peace and quiet" - an absence of conflict rather than the presence of justice on the part of our political and other civic leaders (including the church)...
  • A province riven by division - re religion, politics, culture, generations, income, social class... with political parties exploiting political and cultural divisions and churches either reinforcing or seeking to bridge religious divisions depending on their theological leanings, and no-one paying much attention to any of the other divisions...
  • An inward looking province that thinks that our problems are the most intractable in the world with an ingrained attitude of competitive victimhood, whilst the rest of the world is also in turmoil...
  • A world riven by ideological division - some religious, some political, some an unhealthy combination of both...
  • A world which is more than capable of feeding its current population but is not doing so because of self-seeking wrong-headedness on the parts of national political leaders and multinational business leaders.
  • A world in the midst of slow-motion economic meltdown, where the western capitalist consumerism is being shown to be completely unsustainable...
  • A world which is on the edge of environmental catastrophe... ignored by politicians and business leaders for the sake of short-term advantage, supported by theologies that are banking on the return of Christ in the next fortnight, just before the oil dries up and we're all huddling on mountaintops to escape the floods!


This world is a mess...  If God were a loss adjustor he would have written it off years ago... But he hasn't... However, the "new world" will not come about by that old one-two beloved of both the United States government and its emulators, as well as Sinn Fein/IRA and their emulators: physical force and/or the democratic will of the people... Might rarely establishes right... Nor is the majority always right... Indeed Jesus life and stories establish that...

Jesus often began his parables by saying "The Kingdom of God/heaven is like..." before offering an unusual, and at times very unheavenly story... And I think this is where Peterson resonates for me... He suggests that the tools for establishing the new world order, the Kingdom of God, are not primarily political, much less military, but are often artistic: parable and poetry and picture, music and theatre... Inspired subversion... changing hearts and minds subtly, gradually... Undermining the unthink of inherited political, religious, cultural and economic mindsets...

I suppose that is one of the things that attracts me to a project we are seeking to develop in the run up to Easter this year, while I'm on my sabbatical. It touches on my passion for politics, theatre and faith. I've been asked to stage a community passion play, setting the story of Jesus and the unsettling stories he told at East Belfast Mission's Skainos Development, on the Newtownards Road... A place of economic deprivation where there have been violent clashes over the decision to restrict the flying of the flag of the United Kingdom over City Hall... 

It will be interesting to reflect on what happens when the religious and political leaders in a provincial backwater of an imperial power are faced with someone telling stories of a totally new Kingdom... 

Subtle subversion? We'll see...
Shalom

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