Following on from my thoughts on why everything you do only makes everything worse, I have been thinking about what it might look like to truly subvert the world around us. It seems to me that this is what Jesus is calling us towards, so I would like to explore it a little.
What then, do we need in order to subvert? to bring about the Kingdom of G-d? We need methods, ideas, people, tools, meetings and so on. But above all else we need ourselves to be fully on board.
The problem is that we are not. We can never be fully on board. What we can do is try and break the barriers that leads to this being the case. The first and less interesting barrier, which I hope to come back to, is the desire for change. We must hunger for subversion.
The second barrier that I can see is the barrier of comfort. Once we have intellectually persuaded ourselves (desiring change) then we must allow ourselves to believe that it is worth the loss of comfort in order to gain something higher.
Have you ever watched a film where a central character sacrifices their life in order to contribute to the central story? I can think of many – including the famous ‘up yours’ of Independence Day (a personal favourite). Paul the Apostle writes that there is no greater thing for a man to do than lay down his life for a friend. If that friend is a whole group of friends, we have no trouble in recognising this as an act of heroism.
Yet how many of us would be heroic in such circumstances? I would vouch that the number would be fewer than we would hope – perhaps too few to achieve a hollywood ending to the story.
So it is with subversion. We are trapped in a world that keeps us by encouraging us to stay, whilst openly acknowledging we can leave (just as I explained the parallel with Zion in the Matrix so too here). This understanding of the ability to leave the system (join a commune, live on no money, avoid all unethical produce etc) leads us to realise just how uncomfortable the lifestyle would be. We are stuck with negative imagery in our mind and it is that imagery that causes us to stay exactly where we are.
We must then, in order to bring about the Kingdom of G-d, choose to let go of this comfort. The only way I can conceive of this being possible is if we focus on the greater desires rather than the short term ones. Paul discusses this dillemma in his letter to the Galatians:
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Paul refers to our dilemma as being ‘of the flesh’ and ‘of the Spirit’. The flesh is the animal us and the spirit the soul, the part of ourselves we cannot scientifically explain. Our flesh demands short term results. Gratification, comfort, control. Our spirit desires freedom and ideals and wonders and movements. It is our spirit which will lead the way to revolution by subversion.
What then can we do, knowing in our mind that subversion is the key to a better future, to persuade our spirit? I think that this is what Paul is getting at in most of his letters. He guides us through his understanding of faith in such a way that we can learn to leave matters of the flesh behind.
Perhaps in reading his writings in such a light will allow us to finally let go of our need for security – just as the great missionaries of the past and present have done – and unshackle ourselves from the bonds of materialism, greed and anything else that does not constitute the quiet revolution of Heaven.