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Colossians Remixed 37

posted by xscot mcknight

Let’s get practical — so say Walsh and Keesmaat in Colossians Remixed.
How, they are asking, do we take Colossians 3 and bring it into our world?
1. Patriotism to the empire needs to be re-evaluated. They examine here Romans 13 and contend that this is not obsequiousness to the Roman emperor but is a strategy of limiting the power of the state (they use Acts 16 as an example). The church is an alternative community with an alternative politics. (Perfect!, I say.)
2. Economism is a god. We must reclaim this for our lives.
Investments — are your investments hurting others? is the bottom line all that matters?
Food — this is deeply political; be aware of where our food is coming from. They call into question large chain supermarkets, set up coops, grow your own food, fast-food issues.
Transportation — bikes, walking, public transit.



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Diane

posted November 6, 2007 at 8:04 am


I tend to agree with all of the above in theory, but also understand how much privilege it takes to live in the way they describe. For example, when we were in twins-and-a-toddler-crisis, fast food became our friend, though we knew the downside, because fast food places had drive-through windows and ball rooms. Our local natural foods markets/restaurants didn’t. Public transit with baby twins and toddler? Forget it. Biking for groceries with baby twins and a toddler in tow? In the rain? 95 degree heat? In what reality? Disinvesting from “bad” mutual funds while reeling from sleep deprivation? My issue is, these are sound ideas, but what are all the steps in between that make it possible for people with problems (which is most people most of the time) to plug into these better ways? I’d also add that I faced such problems with a great deal of privilege vis-a-vis many others, and it was still very hard.



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Julie Clawson

posted November 6, 2007 at 11:06 am


Diane- but are all conditions perfect ever for anyone? If we all waited until just the right time to act justly and with love towards others would it ever actually happen?
It seems that often avoiding just economics isn’t so much about privilege but convenience. Yes, it is hard, but only in that one isn’t used to it. Change is difficult, but for me at least the more I know about what I buy the harder it has become to just give into what is convenient but unethical.



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Mark E

posted November 6, 2007 at 11:09 am


I agree with Diane about privilege and would add affluence especially with food and somewhat clothing makes a difference. I noticed that Scot has been using a Kona blend coffee. I have had cheaper Kona and loved it so I am sure that the stuff from Amazon is wonderful. But pay $25 for it? I can’t justify it. Food, especially, is an area that we try to scrimp and save so that we can have money and extra food to share with others. As for clothes, Wal-mart is cheap stuff. We look for good used clothing at garage sales, Goodwill, etc. but some things (underwear), we choose to buy new but we try to get the best price to stretch our money.
We buy from local farmers (when in season) but even here, we have to be careful (when at all possible we buy from Amish communities) because prices can be very high and not all local farmers are environmentally conscious.
Shane Claiborne has been very instrumental in challenging me in this area and a few others. I highly recommend his book, The Irresistible Revolution (note that he donates any money from the book to other faith communities).
It is hard to battle against the empire’s message that “we have no choice” because of our priorities. (notice also that I do not talk about “affording” items because for the most part “we can afford what we make a priority”). If we want a certain lifestyle (either for ourselves or our families) then that probably means certain options are going to be out of the question.
In various small groups, I often use the issue of health care (which W-K) do not adequately address. Do I perpetuate the broken system by paying into insurance premiums or do I let my family suffer? Fortunately there are a few more options emerging.
Peace.
In Christ,
Mark E



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forestwalker

posted November 6, 2007 at 12:14 pm


Diane,
One correction: you must be either affluent or extremely poor to live as W&K suggest. But your point holds. It just reinforces, though, that this is something we have to tackle together. We actually reinforce the underlying problems when we confront them as individual actors, talk about them in terms of individualistic morality, and propose solutions that are essentially just alternative consumer choices. Reimagining the Church again as alternative community (and reimagining our communities as communities) is what is needed. Doing so will lead to the creation of social forms and structures that make resistance both easier and more effective.



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Diane

posted November 6, 2007 at 12:20 pm


Julie,
What I have done is a. gone easy on myself in crisis, which has made me much less judgmental toward other people and b. This is crucial: prayed and worked to change my life so I can live in a manner more congruent with my beliefs. It’s not been easy, but it is what I have done. Right now, I’m not working and my kids are teens, which makes green living and other good things much more doable. I have time to bake bread and shop organic and all that good stuff. However, while much of my ability to not work rests on trusting in God’s provision, I also can’t forget that I have a great deal of privilege: my husband makes a good income. So it’s hard for me to judge others, and I do feel a heart to want to make things easier for people. I agree with you that we shouldn’t just do what it is easy, but that we should also have mercy towards people and their tough lives. (I’m not implying that you don’t, so please don’t take it that way!) I am just trying to be pragmatic: it’s hard to tell people what to do if the conditions of their lives make it difficult to do so.



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Diane

posted November 6, 2007 at 3:32 pm


forestwalker,
Great comment. Everything you say, I agree with and some of my concern about my own path is that it isn’t easily replicated. It is a species of privilege. We need to tackle these problems together, as you say, and, as you say, through reimagining churches as alternative communities. I know very few people who don’t know they should probably walk more, invest more responsibly or eat better food, but I do know many, many people who have many more pressing problems than those, even people who are ostensibly well-to-do. But that leaves the issue of what steps can we take?



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Julie Clawson

posted November 6, 2007 at 4:26 pm


Diane – My point is not to judge others, just to say that acting justly and with love to others is within everyone’s range. Yes, life gets crazy. But just as with any spiritual disciplene, stuff like this takes works and if it is important enough doesn’t give in to busyness.
Mark – Buying ethically doesn’t have to be expensive (that would be buying gourmet). It does require lifestyle changes (are you willing to give up meat everyday? Or give up multiple cups of coffee so you can buy ethically produced coffee?). What I have had to do is realize that what I buy isn’t just about me. Sure I personally can save a few bucks by buying cheaper stuff, but all I am doing is passing the full cost of that item onto someone else. I am essentially telling others (usually those way more poor than I will ever be) that I am more important than they are, I don’t care about them, and they have to pay the cost of my ability to get cheap stuff. It isn’t a choice between cheap or expensive but between who you will force to pay the full price.



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Scott Watson

posted November 6, 2007 at 5:46 pm


What might Jesus say to us? Would he address us like he does hte rich young ruler. Jesus loved him even as he counted the cost of discipleship to Jesus’ path and found it too expensive. Why can’t we be sinners just like all the rest of humanity? Why do we, Christians,have to renegotiate the commands of Jesus to fit the lifestyle we’ve built for ourselves which is commodious to our cultural expectations and our choices. The true path to repentance and healing is a full acknowledgement of where we are vis-a-vis Jesus,and where we fall short, so that we can ask YHWH to strengthen us to embrace more fully Jesus’ path for ourselves.



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Bryan Riley

posted November 7, 2007 at 12:06 am


It’s interesting because it takes a lot to do something like, for example, quit your job and become a missionary. Economics and other “rational” considerations that we usually make go out the window to do that, but when God calls that is the only rational decision we can make (i.e., to obey). I’m not sure that it isn’t the same with a decision to live more justly and live by Kingdom principles in a decidedly non-Kingdom world. That may sound idealistic, but why so? We don’t call missionaries idealistic – we applaud them and they see the blessings of God for their obedience. Wouldn’t living in a way that reflects our faith, no matter what sacrifices we have to make, likewise be practical, God-glorifying, and rewarding?



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Beyond Words

posted November 7, 2007 at 6:04 pm


Bryan,I agree. There are practical things we can do. For instance, I just learned my local “farm to folk” buying club will distribute shares (paid for by donors) of fresh organic food to the food pantries. Some faith groups are starting to go together and buy shares so the needy can have access to healthy food instead of the usual nonperishables people donate.
The more shares we buy the more we support the local farmers who are making a tremendous comeback and diversifying the rural landscape here in Iowa. I’m so thankful my community is extending the bounty to the disadvantaged and not just those who can afford it.



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Mark E

posted November 8, 2007 at 10:20 am


Julie,
Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that it doesn’t have to be gourmet and that how we spend our money impacts hundreds and hundreds of people (not just the initial producers). And it also has to do with priorities. Of course not buying from certain retailers can have an impact upon lives of people in your immediate community. This is why our policy is to buy locally whenever possible (therefore supporting our immediate community economically by paying full price).
Can I give up meat? Sorry. Not willing. Two reasons: 1) I’m a meat eater. Don’t care for a lot of veggies and fruits. I’m learning to like more but if its green… (pray for me!) 2) Meat from our local “county farms” market is so much cheaper than fish and even fresh produce.
On Tuesday, I did find a fair trade espresso roast at Sam’s Club that was very reasonable. Definitely going to try it.
In Christ,
Mark



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