Baptismal Vow: To persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord
Sometimes North American Christians interpret this vow only in terms of personal ethical or moral behavior. Certainly Christians are called act ethically in our personal lives, but this vow isn’t only about that. This vow is about the call of the Christian community to resist the collective sin of our larger culture.
Cultures fall on a continuum between two very different ways of being human.
Domination/submission culture is based on the idea that the ideal human is a powerful one. Since we cannot be ultimately powerful over death, vulnerability, and limitation, we try to become dominant over others. This takes place both inside us and in the context of our daily relationships. This could be called a teeter-totter of dominance and submission. Over time, this teeter-totter results in increasing differences in the power, wealth, and happiness of human beings. Over time it leads to the degradation of human beings, their quality of life, and of the natural world in which they live.
As this image from Dan Erlander shows us, domination culture always says that it is blessed and ordained by God. It is hard to fight city hall and it is even harder to fight the will of the gods. If the gods or God has made the world this way, who are we to question it? God put the king, queen, or president there, and so we cannot question her or him.
Domination/submission culture is not something that is just imposed on us, as we sometimes think. Domination is something that everyone participates in: To the degree that we deny the painful contradictions of human existence and yearn for the ideal of power, we become trapped into dominance and submission. Nor is domination culture just an organizational chart that can be fixed if we do a re-org.
Domination is a spirituality of denial about what life is like, using the illusion of power to achieve this denial.
Judaism and Christianity began as resistance movements within domination cultures. The Hebrew people began in Egypt and Christianity began in Roman occupied Palestine. Unfortunately, it is very easy for such resistance movements to lose their way. By the 4th century, Christianity was taken over by the Roman Empire, and it began, almost unwittingly, to serve as a chaplain for domination.
This fact makes many Christians and non-Christians alike very sad. Many of us see that we are working to recover a more genuine Christianity. Thankfully, there have always been movements that sought to remember Jesus’ nonviolent resistance to domination, his call to participate with him in changing domination from within, and to reform the church to be salt, leaven, and light in the world.
While our own cultural setting is quite different from the one Jesus lived in, we continue to live in a culture warped by domination. We may not be able to totally unplug from domination culture, but we can withdraw our support for it and seek to resonate instead with God’s Reign of Mutuality. Here is an image of mutuality.
Read the Gospel Text for this week and Pastor Terry’s reflection or listen to the podcast. We encourage you to share your insights and questions on our Facebook page or on our blog.