I Rebel

“This is a rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel.” – Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

“Give to The Emperor what belongs to The Emperor, and give to God what belongs to God.” – Jesus

 

Jesus was a peasant, living in the Roman Empire’s provinces of Palestine and Judea. He gathered a group of followers, by healing, doing miracles, and interpreting religious and ethical codes. He was an apocalyptic thinker who believed that the world and The Empire would end soon. He led nonviolent symbolic assaults on what he saw as the corrupt systems of power.

The Empire arrested him[1], tortured him, and executed him publicly as a deterrent to other rebels and insurrectionists. His followers regrouped and kept Jesus’ movement alive. It spread throughout The Empire and was influenced by each region and ethnic group and context it mixed with.

For a while The Empire tried to kill the movement, but that failed. And so The Empire, in a brilliant move, adopted the movement and deified its dead insurrectionist leader[2]. The rebel whom they had executed became its mascot. The Empire built a giant religious system which spread throughout the Western world, decorated with pictures of the executed man being tortured and executed.

The irony of this is astounding.[3]

The Empire decided what the acceptable beliefs and practices of that dead insurrectionist’s movement would be. And The Empire’s soldiers and priests tortured and executed people who didn’t agree, and went to war against the nations which didn’t share those beliefs. Again, this is ridiculous.

And now it’s 2016. I live in a continuation of that Empire. And I am a practitioner of an iteration of its religious system.

And … The more I learn about myself and the world, and the longer I follow the insurrectionist and learn to divest him from what The Empire has taught me about him, I choose not to agree to most of the beliefs and practices which support and reinforce what The Empire values. The Empire requires obedience and adherence. The Empire writes creeds and disciplines. The Empire helps the poor as it builds cathedrals. The Empire likes things big and powerful and efficient and successful. That’s the value system which killed the insurrectionist.

So, like him, I rebel.

I am a teacher for a small group of people. We distrust power systems. We avoid the spotlight. We work to counteract The Empire’s dehumanizing and oppressive practices. Because we are all children of The Empire, we must continually ask: How can I know what’s oppressive and what’s life-giving? What’s soul-risking, what’s seductive? What seems benign but is actually cancerous? Is what I’m worshipping and following truly the God that Jesus worshipped and followed, or is it what The Empire taught me and told me was God?

I keep asking myself, about my actions, purchases, and choices, what the insurrectionist asked:  Does this belong to The Empire? Or does this belong to God?

It is hard work. … Merry Christmas,

[1] Some will argue it was the religious leaders who arrested Jesus rather than the Empire, but the Empire built the Temple where the religious leaders worked, and appointed their King and their High Priest, so, let’s be clear as to who owns the house.
[2] And, if he’s a god, then he isn’t really a person anymore, or a social operative, or a troublemaker; he’s an abstraction.
[3] When a super-successful general becomes Emperor and he co-opts a religion and starts building monuments to its leader, nobody much worries about the irony; instead, they convert to that religion.

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