Friday, October 16, 2009

". . . American Democracy is not my idol."

This is a quote from Cornell West - a very polarizing figure in American political culture with whom I frequently disagree.  His rhetoric is an odd mix of the thoughtful and reasoned, as well as the hyperbolic and inflammatory. Even so, this quote is really interesting to me. It has to do with what it means to be a follower of Jesus as an American citizen. Thanks to Eugene Cho for posting it on his blog. Let me know what you think.

“I speak as a Christian- one whose commitment to democracy is very deep but whose Christian convictions are deeper. Democracy is not my faith. And American democracy is not my idol. To see the gospel of Jesus Christ bastardized by imperial Christiansand pulverized by Constantinian believers and then exploited by nihilistic elites of the American empire makes my blood boil. To be a Christian- a follower of Jesus Christ- is to love wisdom, love justice, and love freedom. This is the radical love in Christian freedom and the radical freedom in Christian love that embraces socratic questioning, prophetic witness, and tragicomic hope.

If Christians do not exemplify this love and freedom, then we side with the nihilists of the Roman empire (cowardly elite Romans and subjugated Jews) who put Jesus to a humiliating death. Instead of receiving his love in freedom as a life-enhancing gift of grace, we end up believing in the idols of the empire that nailed him to the cross. I do not want to be numbered among those who sold their souls for a mess of pottage- who surrendered their democratic Christian identity for a comfortable place at the table of the American empire while, like Lazarus, the least of these cried out and I was too intoxicated with worldly power and might to hear, beckon, and heed their cries.

To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely- to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away. This is the kind of vision and courage required to enable the renewal of prophetic, democratic Christian identity in the age of the American empire.”

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