Response to Reconcile?


The great thing about this poem, and the conversations I’ve had with Adam about it, is the recognition that injustice and abuse of power is a human issue – it’s neither Western nor Eastern, Capitalist nor Communist, Christian nor Muslim, or (as Will Smith said) “Black, White, Cuban or Asian.”

For the most part I think this was Adam’s point (Adam, in case you’re wondering, that’s your cue to chime in when you get a break from your Hebrews class!).

I realize that at some point we have to remember this is primarily a poem meant to have an overall effect for a specific course content and it is not a general historical theology paper. Since this was a poem for a class that focused on England/Great Britain that undoubtedly influenced the content and presentation. Perhaps that alone answers the majority of these issues, but…in the name of fairness there are a couple sections where I’d like to challenge Adam’s thinking.

The main reason I’m challenging you here is because I do think you’re on to something, but I can also detect the warning signs for developing a despising of white people as the source of all evil. Let’s not replace our ethnocentric superiority complex with an ethnocentric sense of universal guilt. There is plenty of blame to go around!

I think you have the foundation for a strong call to recognition – sin, corruption and injustice is a human condition and not one group of humans have shown themselves immune. Therefore reconciliation should not be about putting a new group in charge…give ’em time and they’ll become corrupted by power as well (historically speaking). Reconciliation must be about shared responsibility and perhaps an expanded definition of “neighbor” which leads us to a new and not just different future.

I believe that the call must be to participate in the Kingdom of God, particularly as Jesus presents this type of life in the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon opens with the beatitudes which present a shocking depiction of who the heralded members of God’s Kingdom will be and how they will live. I DO NOT believe that the Sermon was meant as an unrealistic ideal that we can never actually experience, nor do I believe that it was intended as a preview of life after this life, in heaven.

I believe that the good news that the Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (meaning its here now) is primarily a message of hope for reconciliation – to God, to our fellow humans and to creation in general. But, I also believe that the Church has been guilty of using “Kingdom” language to mean something entirely different for a long time and we have to earn the right to speak to people again.

Neither the Church nor the United States (TWO COMPLETELY SEPARATE ENTITIES) should be seen as the ONLY group that has failed to live up to a high calling, but as your poem points out, neither can pretend not to have been ONE such group. For us as Christians (specifically protestants living in the US), pretending that since we’re Protestant or CofC that this story isn’t our story…well that just leads to less credibility in my opinion.

Including my challenges in the body of this post made it too long, so each one is going to be posted as a separate comment. You can feel free to engage with any or all.

Adam, thanks for letting me use your poem – its always a bit unnerving to put something in writing for people to critique. You did a great job.

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Posted on May 12, 2008, in discipleship, faith, reconciliation, spiritual formation, theology, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. And he gave man a partner / So he wouldn’t grow lonely
    / And he said she was good, and she was good and oh how good she was / Man grew away from God and close to her because OH HOW GOOD SHE WAS!

    I think I get where you were going here, but I don’t think its accurate to say that growing close to Eve caused Adam to grow away from God. The insinuation here, which I am positive you did not intend, is that God is on one side and Eve on the other – Adam must choose between them. This may become the case too often in our fallen world, but in the garden the relationship of husband and wife was to be experienced in its intended state which is one of communion with each other and the Lord. Let’s be careful that we don’t inadvertently support the false teaching that women are temptresses who serve to pull men away from God.

  2. So the tribes faded out / And the Church began to take over. / You’re crazy if you think oppression is something of the past / They were more ruthless than the last, Guys who ran this place

    I’m not sure which tribes or location you’re referring to exactly but Anglo-Saxon invaders destroyed most of the Christian communities in Britain (which took place around the time of the withdrawal of Roman troops around 410AD).

    The Viking raids and expansion that took place in 9th century Europe hardly represents the pre-Church era. The words of a medieval prayer: “From the fury of the Northmen, good Lord, deliver us” hardly suggests that the tribes were fading out.

    Throughout the middle ages there continued to be “raiding hordes”. Your point is well-made that a study of medieval church history does not seem remarkably different from the effects of other “barbaric” peoples insofar as brutality and justice are concerned. However, I wouldn’t say that its accurate to depict the scenario as the Church pulling off one monolithic takeover which displaced everyone immediately and uniformly.

  3. We waged war on a continent / To which we had never been. / But oh how we fought valiantly / And how we showed bravery. / We killed those savage Muslims / And we took their holy city, Jerusalem.

    This language sounds very similar to the displacement of the American Indians or South American native peoples by European Conquistadors…not nearly as accurate when pointed at the Arabs.

    While the Church CERTAINLY bears guilt for violence and savage behavior in this relationship, the Arab/Islamic military expansion was by no means a peaceful village destroyed by blankets contaminated with small pox. And let’s not bring the destruction of “their holy city Jerusalem” into this unless we want to be fair and look at how many times and by how many different groups Jerusalem has been destroyed and occupied.

  4. Now we can’t understand / Why the whole world hates us. / We took from them the gift of life / And gave them back nothing but strife.

    In this closing section it seems that America now represents (and perhaps bears the guilt of) the sins of Great Britain, the Church and at some level all humanity. I don’t think you intended this tone, or did you? This quote immediately follows the section on African slave trade in the Americas – which suggests here that the whole world hates us because of slavery when you already pointed out that

    Then one day in early colonization / A black man approached us with / An unbeatable proposition. / He said “I’ll sell you my brother / For some measly pieces of gold

    This does not make a strong case for everyone in the world to hate the US only. From our discussions I believe you were thinking in more broad terms – but your writing became somewhat specific, and I think perhaps a bit unfair, here.

  5. Rachel Wells

    Bret, I think you’re prbably right that Adam did not intend to say that man was necessarily choosing woman over God…but the fact is that it certainly does happen. The reverse is true at times, as well — woman can chose man over God. It’s struggle that we probably all deal with at times. Hopefully, though, because it is a shared struggle, it can become a common ground, one they can work through and reconcile together…and in the process become closer to God,too.

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