What’s not to love about a book called Spiritual Defiance? With an equally intriguing subtitle: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance?
I read most of it on the plane from Oakland to the Women’s March in Washington. I was glad I brought a highlighter with me because I immediately started marking up lines on page after page (I don’t think I’ve done that since working on my doctorate).
I first heard author Robin Meyers at a seminar based on a previous book, The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus. This was at an annual meeting of the Westar Institute, which always appeals to the academic nerd in me, but often leaves the pastor side of me a bit cold. But Meyers is a parish pastor, as well as a professor of philosophy. And his down-to-earth pastor side spoke to me as he describes the reality of the church today. What’s different from the usual hand-wringing, millennial-blaming, angst-ridden jeremiad is his call for us to return to our roots as a community of resistance.
What does he mean by that?
To be clear, by resistance I mean that the church of Jesus Christ should be, as it once was, an “embodied force opposed,” a beloved community of defiance, a joyful but resilient colony of dissenters from the forces death – both physical and spiritual – that destroy and marginalize creation. The assumed premise here is that compliance with the unacceptable, even through apathy or indifference, is a sin. The body of Christ was born to resist in love all that is the enemy of love.
That is precisely why I wanted to be a visible presence of the church at the march. Even though I had to haul our First United sign across the country and rush at the last-minute to get buttons made for all our marchers, I knew we needed to be identified as followers of Jesus, a community of defiance committed to helping build the Beloved Community for all people and all creation. As we all know, this is not easy work. And Meyers doesn‘t give easy answers. In fact, he tells us that we have to become “undone,” that things have to fall apart before they are put back together; disorientation precedes reorientation. In our vulnerability, we become weak enough to be made strong.
Meyers describes this undone-ness as:
~ Faith as Resistance to Ego
~ Faith as Resistance to Orthodox
~ Faith as Resistance to Empire
Each one of them is a challenge worthy of a book it its own right. But recovering today from the march yesterday and reflecting on how to keep the momentum of this historic event going, I find the section on empire the most imperative.
I hope there’s an updated chapter in the works because the book was written during the Obama administration. And while the call to resist empire was vital then, it’s even more so now. Although, we don’t really need an update to figure to out. Just check out the God is not against building walls! sermon by Robert Jeffress at a service attended by He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named on Friday before the inauguration.
We’ve got work to do folks. And this would be a great study for clergy groups and congregational study groups to read together and discuss – but not just discuss, implement!