Exodus is a powerful and repeated Biblical motif.
But spatially, Exodus relies on a “going out.” The people are to leave behind what is bad. Contrast the metaphor of exodus with the metaphor of salt and leaven, which work only by staying within. Salt needs meat, leaven needs dough and so the metaphor acts spatially, in a startlingly different way than Exodus. Rather than leave in order to become God’s community, we become God’s community from within, by digging in and staying put, by infiltration, rather than by separation and removal.
She describes this as a “stealth operation” that looks for the Kingdom of God in the midst of (Roman) oppression. “It presumes that imperial structures will remain intact so that they can be infiltrated. This is a resistance that exploits the empire; it does not defeat, neutralize, kill, or escape from its host.” (162) She draws both on the parables and on the missionary text that is Luke 10, in which the disciples “indigenize themselves by attaching to the family that employs them.” (163)
This is a pattern of cultural immersion. It’s deliberate.
It’s also a pattern of cultural resistance. Salt not only preserves, it also corrodes. In other words using the metaphor of salt and leaven to understand ourselves as the church, allows “the gospel to be both corrosive and preservative like salt … to be infectious, expansive and profane like leaven.” (155) As a metaphor it still encourages the church as a contrast community, refusing to bless the culture.
The kingdom of God is not free-standing. It has to be sought in the middle of something else
It strikes me as a fantastically practical, deeply Biblical way for Christians to see ourselves in the world today.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Steve Taylor and one vision of Christian society
Recently, Steve Taylor (ex-pastor of Opawa Baptist) wrote about the images of church in society, and whether to take Exodus or salt as the dominant metaphor. This is a small response to that and, if you're interested in the whole article, I recommend reading about it here.
There is another thing which fits the criteria for this imagery.
It moves in and stays within, often times via infiltration.
It resists the body in which it resides, although not too much; it is certainly true that "it does not defeat, neutralize, kill, or escape from its host."
In part, it preserves it's host insofar as it is required for proper functioning.
In part, it corrodes like salt.
In part, it spreads within like leaven.
While it remains, it acts as a contrasting body, refusing to bless its host.
This thing will never be free-standing; it has to be sought in the middle of something else.
This thing I was describing is a parasite.
Perhaps the similarity of the above biblical pattern of Christianity to parasite behaviour exists merely as a product of the natural constraints of any 'organic growth' pattern. Perhaps it exists in part due to intentions (for good or ill) within the architects of religion. This may be a natural model for any counter-cultural social group. This may be the natural structure of most highly successful meme complexes.
One thing that I do know, however, is that I feel slightly uneasy with an understanding of the place of Christianity in society that so readily resembles a parasite. This may require me to make a reappraisal of the merits of parasites, or it may call for a re-examination of the above understanding of Christianity. All the same, it's a topic worth thinking about.