The Empire. Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Missing the Point

The stories we tell each other

I was spending an evening listening to men who were telling stories about how they spent the Christmas holidays.

Spending time together.

English has a cognitive bias toward capitalism, even in the way we think about time.

There were chips, pub snacks, beer, and ginger ale (I don’t like beer). And a hot tub.

The End of the Conversation

Toward the end of the evening, we drifted toward the existential angst of our current cultural context while relating it to the past.

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer: secular Christianity
  • The decline of the church in North America
  • The end of the Biblical narrative
  • The black church is doing fine
  • Bonhoeffer had noticed the political divide between conservative and liberal Christians. He found authentic Christianity in the black churches.

Reliving the same stories

History repeats itself so each generation has an opportunity to learn the same lessons. That is the story of human experience.

The Bible is still relevant because it captures the patterns of this recurring narrative.

Postcards from Babylon

Brian Zahnd is back on the show. This time we’re chatting with him about the themes raised in his soon to be released book Postcards From Babylon. In it he takes aim at the toxic relationship between Church and Empire, and the religion that has emerged from it, which he calls Americanism. This religion has its own liturgies, gods and sacrificial systems, nearly all of which stands in direct opposition to how the early church understood what it meant to follow Jesus.

We can better understand our times when viewed through the lens of the politics of Jesus by challenging the governments, powers, and authorities. He turned the world upside down by modelling love and non-violent resistance against greed, hatred, and violence — against empire.

Brian Zahnd refers to Plato’s prediction of the crucifixion of the just man.

The Just Life

For if he is going to be thought just he will have honors and gifts because of that esteem. We cannot be sure in that case whether he is just for sake of justice or for the sake of the gifts and the honors. So we must strip him bare of everything but justice and make his state the opposite of his imagined counterpart. Though doing no wrong he must have the repute of the greatest injustice, so that he may be put to the test as regards justice through not softening because of ill repute and the consequences thereof. But let him hold on his course unchangeable even unto death seeming all his life to be unjust though being just, that so, both men attaining to the limit, the one of injustice, the other of justice, we may pass judgement which of the two is the happier (εὐδαιμονέστερος). … What [those who commend injustice] will say is this: that such being his disposition the just man will have to endure the lash, the rack, chains the branding-iron in his eyes, and finally, after every extremity of suffering, he will be impaled, and so will learn his lesson that not to be but to seem just is what we ought to desire” (Republic II.361b, 361e).

Plato predicted that the just man would face torture and death. Prophets arise in every culture. As usual, the people become so blinded by the pursuit of power that they become unable to listen.

The blind lead the blind.

Jesus understood the signs of the times. He was able to see clearly, because he was lighting up the darkness.

It took a while for his followers to clue into what he was talking about. The darkness did not comprehend the light. But eventually it dawned on them.

It dawned on them.

The third day.

  • Construction
  • Deconstruction
  • Reconstruction

Or, put another way, as Richard Rohr describes:

  • Order
  • Disorder
  • Reorder

Life is a process, a journey. We miss the point, until we don’t.

Regrets of the Dying

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

As the American Empire dies, as all empires do, it will be facing the same regrets.

The Story of Empire

It is the same old story of the struggle for power and the realization that life is really about enjoying the simple things. Otherwise, you risk missing the point.

Don’t worry that these old stories will not be told. We are living them at scale. These are the same stories that we tell each other, generation after generation.

This is the human condition.

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design.

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