Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Midwinter 2011- Reflections- Part 1 John M. Perkins

This week is the Midwinter ministers conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, I am there all this week, and will be blogging my thoughts and experiences there this week.

The speaker at the opening worship service was John M. Perkins who encouraged us to not see justice as something tact on to the Gospel, but as the very Gospel itself. In saying this he was calling for a reorientation of our thinking: God's justice is found in God's action to redeem a sinful humanity, thus God's justice (and love) is revealed in the cross. For Perkins love and justice go hand in hand.

He also talked about the silence of the prophetic voice against the system of greed that pervades our Nation, and hear things got a little sticky. He called on the church to lay claim and live out the full Gospel, to live it out, to bring God's love to the world as the church should. But as he was speaking about the church sometimes he would slip into speaking about America as a Nation. He did so in such away that it was unclear if he made a clear distinction between the two. In this he spoke truth the history of slavery and racism and segregation in this country contradict "We hold these truths self-evident that all men [people] are created equal..." He also pointed out the contradictions between our nations democracy and its support of tyrants and dictators like Mubarak and our willingness to prop him up when the people of Egypt have risen up against Mubarak. On one hand he wanted the encourage us as part of the Church to speak prophetically to the nation on the other hand he called us to identify with the mythology of this great nation of ours that proclaims itself as the "City Set on a Hill" bringing light to the world.

This lead me to a clarified idea that has been tossing around in my head since the State of the Union Address last week and the uprising in Egypt and Tunisia. It seems to me that Nation States and Nations simply will act in their self interest, that the point of our current form of Nationalism is to create a sense of a particular people with a particular mythology and self-interest as a group that is not only different but stands over and against other nations. The point of the United Nations is to ostensibly be the place where these competing interests may be worked out peacefully and diplomatically, and thus prevent wars which is the other way nations with competing interests solve these conflicts of interests.

In my mind the problem for Perkins in not clearly distinguishing between church and the nation of America, is that his preaching against self-interest and greed, which is Gospel, runs counter to the very logic of the Nation, which is to represent and defend the interests of a particular "people" with a particular character (we wont get into now that these "people" are inventions and themselves deny a plurality and diversity that actually deconstructs the mythology of the "people" of the nation, including the people of Egypt). What I feel Perkins proclamation should have Gone but didn't, is that the Gospel actually calls for the church in the U.S. to declare its independence from the American Nation. For us to work for the church to work for the"good of the City" it must recognize that it is an alien people. For us to work for immigration reform is to recognize that we are from another nation and authority that we are immigrants always already. We don't belong to any nation, or state or people, for God is forming a new people out of all nations and peoples. In so doing God creates resident aliens in all nations and among alll people. The prophetic voice that Perkins said is silence I believe is partially silenced because we Christians in the U.S. want to be citizens of the U.S. and Citizens of the City of God. History points it seems to me that while such dual citizenship may be able to work for a time, it has a corrupting influence on Christians, and it leads us to attempt to shore up the state and Nation by attempting to make it fit the Gospel, and live out the Gospel, in the place of the Church. The church can only carry God's just love to the world, when it recognizes that it is an other people, alien to the kingdoms and nations and peoples of the world, and a foretaste of God's transformation of all things including kingdoms and nations and peoples.