"You can have your Bible back..."

I just started reading Marxist Christian and social activist Ched Meyers' Who Will Roll Away the Stone? So far, it's fabulous, and very challenging.

Meyers shares a story in the introduction that points to the devastating impact empire has had on Christianity.

Worst of all, we Christians have confused our Stories with the narrative of empire, thus allowing scripture to be expropriated into the service of oppression. Pablo Richard, a Latin American theologian, underscores this betrayal by citing an open letter sent by a delegation of indigenous peoples organizations to the pope on a recent visit to Peru:

John-Paul II, we, Andean and American Indians, have decided to take advantage of your visit to return you your Bible, since in five centuries it has not given us love, peace or justice. Please, take back your Bible and give it back to our oppressors, because they need its moral teachings more than we do... The Bible came to us as part of the imposed colonial transformation. It was the ideological weapon of this colonialist assault. The Spanish sword which attacked and murdered the bodies of Indians by day at night became the cross which attacked the Indian soul.

This is the judgment of history: When the church allows the narrative of the cross to be destroyed by the narrative of the sword, we become defenseless against the spirituality of empire and consequently complicit with its mighty evils.
(Meyers, xxi)

Whew. Gives me chills...

5 comments:

Wickle said...

Yeah ...

The worst thing is that we still celebrate it. Thumb through "The American Patriots Bible" and you'll see Columbus praised, Manifest Destiny called an effort to bring the Gospel to Natives, and such. It, predictably, ignores the role of Christians in promoting slavery.

Until we can confess the ins of Christendom, I don't know that we have any business expecting the rest of the world to care what we say. Don Miller's "Confession Booth" from "Blue Like Jazz" comes to mind.

Brent said...

While I would agree with the wrong of those who use the Bible as the bayonet at the end of their rifles. I see the blame game as fruitful as planting a dollar in the dirt and hoping to grow a fortune.

When am i going to focus on my individual hypocrisy and see myself separate from the church. Responsible to God alone. If I point my finger at what I think is a mass(Christians) I will forget the individuals in the crowd who are unique and have a freedom of there own. Why burdening them with the sins of others? Why accuse the broad when I really have no idea of each ones personal intents.

I think a positives of the decline of christian collective morals in the world is the ability of the individual christian to impact those nons with their own humanness and understanding of the loving God. what I can do is to be a christian that doesn't fit the perceived stereotype. Not by lieing but being true with others with who I am. That is the hardest thing for me but I'm starting to enjoy the challege.

Peter said...

Brent, I disagree. I think the blame game is deeply meaningful and powerfully redemptive when the blaming lens is pointed back at ME and anyone my own path has paralleled or emulated.

Deconstructing the structures, dynamics and beneficiaries of power is DISTINCTLY Christian because Christianity is a religious paradigm of reverse hierarchy: the weakest and least are the greatest.

Repentance is meaningful, not just as catharsis, but as reconciliation: there are billions of people in the world, and in our past, who are waiting to see the Gospel infiltrate our own rich, powerful, self-validated self-conceptions.

I'm afraid I'll keep planting dollars in the dirt, and I'll keep saying I'm sorry for all the ways I keep rejecting the crucified heart of Christ.

Brent said...

I don't see how blame does anything good. I see it being used as a manipulative technique in trying to force others to change. Or in a more passive since a person who wants to transpose his own bad decisions on something external. I would agree if you said we should RECOGNIZE the sins committed in the past by our fellow Christians. Or hold them responsible for what they have done. And strive to not make the same mistakes or some new ones in the future.

The only thing about your second paragraph that I might disagree with is if the weakest and least is being used as a manipulating paradigm of power in ones means to an end. Just as fighting the Indians by day and preaching to them at night are in stark contrast. Both are wrong if the heart is not in the right place. But if the heart is in the right place it will consistently try not to manipulate or force its own believe on another. But only to be the best reflection of what it believes. And if there is any healing or love in that heart maybe it might overflow into another. What, I would say is, a natural change, more of a pulling in than a pushing over. But maybe Christianity will only be truly expressed heartfelt when it is oppressed and persecuted in a freedom less society when Christians hold no more power to manipulate. Or maybe we could just start now!

3rd: agreed

sorry bad simile, I was in a hurry.

I guess the one think that strikes my dislike is the negative tone of accusing Christians for not being better. They are still just humans in the state of their humanness. While I recognize and understand the wrongs that have been rot. I see the Christians as individual people, all in their own stage of maturity. But if you blame the Christians in a mass since, it would fall short of seeing the whole picture. because while we see those in high position in Christianity in the past harm many. we don't know that all christian people as a whole agreed with them. They may have adamantly disagreed with them in their own being. And those leaders may have only been using Christianity for their own personal gain. I would say existential Christianity is a good definition of something that has happened in the individual all along. I can think of how separate and personal other believer thinking is from what the leaders in their church believe. There are complaints about what they did or didn't like. I just think people are more receptive to positive than negative. For me it hard to get tired of hearing positive things. But I'll reach with this and you can reach with that.

Maybe, we see it exactly the same but our communicative abilities fall short of filling the existential space between us;)

pastor mack said...

One wonders if the author was is a Christian first or a Marxist first. Of course, assuming the language of oppressor/victim is itself problematic (see Volf, Exclusion and Embrace), and not necessarily Christian.

I was a historian before I was a theologian, and I really believe that the "God" angle on the conquest of the Americas has been played up too much by the radical strain of Christianity today to further their own agenda. Not that the Bible was not used; but surely it was primarily abused, used as a scapegoat for already perverted desires.

This is beside the fact that secular modernity cannot bear the thought of mission work at all. I recall an essay by Dinesh D'Souza called, "Two cheers for empire," in which he expressed a moderate appreciation of British rule in India for the opportunities it afforded later generations.

It's also worth pointing out that, to some extent, "the narrative of the sword" is present in the New and Old Testament. This side of the eschaton, the sword has its limited, but necessary and God-given functions. Shouldn't even a Marxist Christian have eyes to see this? After all, Marx was all for violence if it was against the "oppressors."

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