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February 21, 2008

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Edwin M.

From the commencement of reading Colossians Remixed, I had been struggling in identifying a potential candidate for ‘empire’ for us today. Authors Walsh & Keesmaat appear to have identified or at least further elucidate the concept of empire for us in chapter 5. “If we live in an empire, it is the empire of global consumerism.” (p 85) In the last chapter, one of the approaches suggested by the authors to subvert the empire was that of a generosity ethnic embedded within a fruitfulness theology. Now if we can juxtapose, the previous chapter with this chapter, the following question might be put forth, “Can this global consumerism begin to crumble with a fruitful opposition?” Will the dominating force that captures the imagination of the world through its financial markets, monetary infrastructures, marketing campaigns, and ‘ruling principalities’ be trodden down? The authors suggested for us to immerse ourselves as Paul did with Scripture. While that will be transformation for us, it does not bring about a change in the world directly. The change will only happen through us. And while that may be simple to say, what exactly do “…Christian practices in business…” look like? Who implements those practices when you have corporations like AT&T & Microsoft dominating? The services and products, in the case of the former corporations, are not evil in themselves, but the corporation gets on a destructive path when greed overtakes the mission of the corporation. I would like to think that I am wrong, but the economic and consumerism infrastructures will remain in tact. They are too powerful to be subverted. Perhaps due to some dire cataclysmic event(s) will these powers be shaken but in postmodern times when even ‘church’ is seen as a business, these are the life lines of how the world operates.

Liz David

(Written en route to IAD, 2/17/08) Just a note after reading 5 verses from Col 1:15-20 highlighted in this chapter. Re-reading these verses as a targum just hits me, I'm on a flight and I could care less about the embarrassment of being emotional. I'm touched by having to see Scripture like this. The realization and the vivid imagery of the Christ I've often lost focus of in my private little consumer world I have called "my life." It is poetic (the verses)... the references of Christ being the "be all, end all" of what my needs and wants should be. I'm humiliated because this is the God I desperately need to know to fully live an alternative I need. Beauty is found in such a reality that I dn't believe I've fully experienced that splls hope for me, a young-yet-"old" Christian who finds herself dismayed and jaded by the postmodern culture I live in. My only regret is that I never saw it as it was: my world dressed-up as a chameleon pretending to be my friend, my supplier, thought have offered me eveything I could possibly want to be happy. It was more than refreshng for my "blinded" eys to see and know the truth in its purest and naked form. Christ (GRACE) "makes beauty out of ugly things."

This commercialized world gives us all these images of where/what we eed to be. Our imaginations were held captive by the world's globalization and consumerism that true imagination died. It was dead in its subdued stated. Christ came to liberate it and show us the alternative reality. I say "the" because everything else is just drawn back to "Rome's empire."

Paul Mwansa

There’s so much food for thought in this chapter, it may be advisable to eat slow and return often. Here’s a sample: “… until [the] imagination is broken, domesticated, and reshaped in the image of the empire, people are still free” (82). Or this one: “the key pathology of the time, which seduces us all, is the reduction of the imagination so that we are too numbed, satiated, and co-opted to do serious imaginative work” (84). And here’s one more: “… the church is more encultured, more taken captive by the dominant culture, more comfortable in the empire, than the radical group of young converts in the first century” (93).

The imagination is clearly a key theme in this chapter – indeed, a theme that has often been alluded to throughout the course of this book. Of special emphasis here is the way the imagination of the church and its participants (i.e. you and me) has become so encultured as to fit in almost peacefully with the empire. It reminds me, minus the ending, of Wordsworth’s poem “The World is Too Much With Us.” For not only do my words and my wardrobe but even my worries and my worship too often reveal that my real concerns are as a self-indulgent consumer first and a self-denying Christian last.

In short, this chapter is a powerful indictment on me and my generation.

Natasha Plantak

In the previous chapter (Contested Fruitfulness in the Shadow of Empire) Walsh and Keesmaat showed how Paul's use of the metaphor of "fruitfulness" described the different meanings in what it means for a human to flourish. The contrast between the Christian teachings and the ideals of the empire were explored. This 'image' of fruitfulness is an example of creative expression embedded within subversive poetry.

I find my self facing the issues described in chapter 6; the problem of living in a world of paradox. This paradox is created through my Christian beliefs and the ideals of the society/ empire that I am a part of. In this world of "betrayal" where "all fixed points have proven illusory" my Christianity tells me that there is a foundation- God. As a Christian I am to exercise a "new theology of virtue" (as N.T. Wright calls it in his lecture "The Bible and Tomorrow's Christian") one that comes as a second nature, not first. I need to be a window opening up to show a mere glimpse of God and His salvation, and be fruitful through kindness, justice, love, peace, grace, and mercy. God should be the center of my life, yet this image is hard to live by in this postmodern world. This world that stresses the importance of life, as opposed to faith; culture, as opposed to church; economics, instead of theology; politics, instead of prayer; and work, in place of worship.

It even seems that the church is being formed by the 'empire' and it's 'images'. In stead of following the traditional Christian calendar, the Adventist church seems to go by the national holidays. This can been seen in the focus of the 'liturgy' where days such as President day, Veterans Day, Mother's and Father's day, are stressed and Easter seems to be neglected and almost forgotten. Just like in Paul's time our 'empire' seems to maintain its power by monopolizing the imagination of the people (subjects). Here in America we have the 'freedom of speech'- the ability to express our imagination. Yet these dreams that are different than that of the empire are seen as a threat. An example of this is when the Dixie Chicks voiced their political opposition to the war in Iraq and were shunned by many and even banned from some radio stations.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I find myself totally relating to the issues and points being raised within this book, chapter 6 specifically. Like Liz mentioned (above) I never really realized that what the world is showing me to be the "suppliers of happiness" (Liz's term) is in actuality not true. Our imaginations have been manipulated, resulting our (Christian's) true 'image' to be replaced by that created by the world's globalization and commercialism.

Now we need to ask ourselves what do we as a Christian community do? How can we speak and live the gospel in this kind of cultural context?

Paul So

Literal interpretation is a deterrent not only to religion itself but to the moral progression of society. Religion has a duty, or at least plays a part, as one of the moral compass. Isn't religion suppose to visit the imprisoned, comfort the sick, cloth the naked, and tend the fatherless? The fallacy in literal interpretation is that it may exclude the historical and cultural context which is suppose to serve as a wider scope to the ancient biblical times. Radical Literal interpretation may lead to misunderstanding and sways religion away from the main point: To help those in need. For example, Paul once said something about "women should be silent in church" or one of Peter's writings apparently condemns wearing jewelry or adornments. People misunderstood these writings and took them literally rather than seeking what it really meant in terms of its context. If religion is like this, literally interpreting things which has not cultural relevance to society, then contemporary society cannot relate to religion and vice versa. Religion loses its sense of place and relevance to society where technology, capitalism, corporation, post-modernism, and popular-culture progresses. All these things just listed have relevance whereas religion is losing it. Traditional religion becomes impractical as it shrinks away from the growing shadows of contemporary era. If there is one thing Nietzsche is right about it's in his famous quote "God is dead, and we have killed him". What killed Him (metaphorically speaking) is perhaps people's stubborn out-of-focus spontaneous ADD syndrome fundamentalist approach as to what true religion is: Being a vegetarian, not wearing jewelries, keeping the sabbath, going to church, listening to hymnals every now and then, and giving bibles to the hungry rather than giving food. The irony is maybe that traditional interpretation of Christianity "killed God" in a sense that it makes religion appear obsolete in the face of the western world. What must be done is to remember the purpose of true religion and practically applying it's essence and interpretation to a society drenched with social issues such as poverty, domestic crime, disease, genocide,depression, famine, and apathy.

Jacqueline Black

The problem with a class discussion is often that you do not want it to end. Last night, we ended with discussing the impact of specific "images" on ourselves (i.e. McDonald's, Disney, cellphones, etc.) We were responding to the question "How does image of consumerism apply to us? How is wrong?" The answer was the subtle, seduction that it has on our lives...how many of us watch the Superbowl because it is the "normal" thing to do? Or the Oscars? Or Disney movies? These things even of themselves are not bad--but when they distract us from "The point...to so immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, so indwell their narrative, be so permeated by their images, that our imagination is transformed according to the image of God" (.p 85). The danger of the world's broad range of any and every image except for the image of Christ threatens to seduce into complacency in the world. Is the call to Christ a comfortable one? Is the walk easy? Why then should we settle into images that appear safe but truly reduce "the imagination so that we are too numbed, satiated and co-opted to do serious imaginative work" (.p 84)?

kori galvan

consumerist America alas...I don't know if I'll ever be radical enough to let my comfort go. The poem/targum in this chapter was such a blessing. Liz, you are so right on. It's amazing what we don't notice unless we pull ourselves out of our own boxes. As I write today, I am thankful to be in a place where I am consistently being challenged to be a better, conscious, educated self. But I don't want to have said these things and forget by next week happy in the mediocrity set forth by my country. Ignorance indeed breeds indifference.

Stimulated imagination
thwarted by commsmerism
mediocrity tolerated
mediocrity exhaulted
where did all the radicals go?
by and by
we killed them
all
mediocrity exhaulted
mediocrity tolerated
thrawted by consumerism
stimulated imagination

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