A Subversion of the Empire

Walsh’s Colossians Remixed is brilliant. I took a long long time to get through it, I did not want to waste any of it by skimming. So finally last Friday on the train coming home from Mandurah after some work down there I completed the satisfying task!

I wanted to quote endlessly from it over time but thought I would get in trouble for putting all of his book on my blog! Here are some of his thoughts about slaves/masters from Col 3:18 – 4:1.

There is nothing innocent about economic oppression. There is no room for Christians to be “balanced” and “careful” when we are talking about an economic idolatry that will sacrifice children in its service. Slavery is sinister no matter how it gets packaged.

“Then, ” we may ask, “what are we to do? How do we proclaim Colossians’ liberating word to slaves when they are half way around the world? It’s not as if we have any power over their working conditions. It’s not as if they are our slaves whom we need to release”

But that’s just the point. They are our slaves. Every time we step into [K}Mart or Niketown or Gap or […] and exclaim over the great deal we can get on the article of clothing, or how trendy we now look, we’ve made sweatshop workers our slaves. Every time we buy coffee that isn’t shade grown and fairly traded, we’ve made those coffee producers and their children into our slaves. Every time we have purchased a product – any product – that says Made in China, or Indonesia, or the Philippines, or Sri Lanka, it is pretty likely that we have made someone our slave.

Some big statements here, but enough to make you sit up and listen!

There is a great section toward the end on education of our kids. He makes some comments about protecting our kids from some of the world, then asks himself, “But is this not creating social misfits?” and answers –

We hope so… Yes social misfits, that’s what we long for. May it be that we raise up a generation of social misfits, because to “fit into” this culture, to find your place of comfort in it, is to be accommodated to the empire. We have argued that this is precisely what this subversive little tract called Colossians is arguing against.

We want our kids to see through the targeted advertising of McDonald’s toys, games and playlands and recognize them as the manipulative come-ons they are. We want them to see through the packaging and grease in order to see that the stuff being served is not food. We want our little girls to be offended, not enamored, by Barbie’s figure. We want them to know that while the news of war that they are constantly hearing on the radio and on the street makes them worry, there are other little girls in places like Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Columbia, Guatemala, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe who have to live with the daily fear of war in their very neighborhoods. We want them to think about the little girls who work the fields producing cash crops or who slave in the sweatshops producing cute clothes for little girls in [Australia].

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3 thoughts on “A Subversion of the Empire

  1. Paul was such a naughty little subversive. Someone should have locked him up – oh wait, they did.
    I remember a few years back hearing Tom Hartman, biographer of Thomas Jefferson and author of “What Would Jefferson Do?” – now where have I heard a phrase like that before? – pointing out that pious ones today revile Thomas Jefferson’s ownership of Negro slaves, completely blind to the integral part slaves play in propping up the lifestyle of contemporary wealthy societies.
    You read some good stuff, Scott. And this was published by IVP???

  2. Yes Gary, it is well worth a read, very refreshing coming from where it did as you say. Walsh has also written some stuff for that guy Claibourne, whose book I left at your place that time and you sent it back to me. He has written some amazing responsive readings about creation and justice etc in Claibourne’s latest book Jesus For President.

  3. of course, for years and years, I, following many prominent modern evangelicals, preached Paul as the apostolic poster boy for christian conservatism – the defender of empire (submitting to the State); going to war with ‘the sword’; capital punishment, also with ‘the sword’; anti-homosexuality; tolerance of slavery; misogynism; etc. It took the likes of John Smith “Interpret Paul through Jesus, not Jesus through Paul”, Guitierrez, Ched Myers and Dave Andrews to help me see that Paul was far more radical and subversive than I had ever appreciated.
    But, then I guess you already know this! It’s just hard to convey the sense of astonishment to me when the scales fell off my eyes and I suddenly saw what I had missed for literally decades.
    I wonder what else I am yet to see!

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