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Jesus Creed

Colossians Remixed 35

Colossians 3:5-8 (see below) partakes in the discourse of violence according to Walsh and Keesmaat in their Colossians Remixed.Today we look at this passage.\
Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Col 3:6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. Col 3:7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. Col 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Economic brutality leads to sexual brutality and that leads to image-denying brutality.
Is the language of 3:5 “bourgeois passivity and middle-class politeness”? No, they say.
This is the discourse of violence against humans and against selves. And they contend that the violent language of 3:8 simply passions and coarse language and unacceptable dispositions.
W-K do something here that surprised me; they see this language as critique of the empire’s use of violence against humans and they find an analogy in the advertising culture that seeks domination in our world through its rhetoric. They see this as violent language. Violent language is sanitizing the language of a culture of death. They find critique here of the predatory nature of an economy without checks.
From this we need to secede.
I think 3:9 cuts against the grain of this interpretation of violent language; there I see Paul condemning language one Christian with another.

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Jeff Wisdom

posted November 2, 2007 at 7:50 am

I agree on with you on W/K’s application of “violent language” or “abusive language” in this chapter. What did you think of their use of the poem, and their assertion that Paul would approve of such language?
I can only think of Phil. 3.8 in this light, but I wonder…

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posted November 2, 2007 at 10:21 am

I realize there is more than one possible application and that W-K are only presenting one possible reading of the passage. However, one might get the impression that their reading is perhaps too much between the lines. The sins named here don’t call for much dynamic equivalence. Lust, evil desires, greed are sins of the heart and exist in all human beings. From the heart, these sins result in actions. Actions by individuals result in actions by a community or a nation. I am concerned that to point these verses at the actions of the empire is to blunt their edge against the heart of individual believers. I do realize that some are so focused upon the hearts of individual believers that they ignore the actions of the community.
Economic brutality leads to sexual brutality and that leads to image-denying brutality.
I am certain that we should stand for justice to the marginalized and stand against exploitation. But I question this progression. I think that hearts separated from God lead to sexual brutality. If we could rid the world of economic brutality, sexual brutality would yet remain. Perhaps I am missing their point here?

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tim atwater

posted November 2, 2007 at 6:39 pm

i’m thinking now that this book isn’t really a commentary.
I happen to think its still a very good book — but in a different category than commentary. Like Wink’s trilogy on the powers, probably this needs to extend, and cover more ground…
I think they do make the main point about decoupling from empire, and i think they can do it all from Paul…
but probably not all from just Colossians…?

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posted November 4, 2007 at 3:32 pm

I think MatthewS comment above is an excellent analysis of this. I have to wonder what they define as “economic brutality”? The term seems really vague.

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