Engage: Subversion #1

It was not until I read Eugene Peterson’s book ‘Subversive Spirituality’ that I recognized the importance of subversion. When I saw that Brueggemann used the word in his title for chapter two, I was eager to see what he means by it with respect to our journey into the common good.

Interestingly, he tells us right in the chapter itself. Subversion is enacting an “alternative possibility.” Both words are insightful. Subversion is an alternative, not the status quo. And it is a possibility, not sure thing. Both words require action if anything is to change.

The first sentence of the chapter makes clear that the alternative possibility is not a conversation, it is a contest–one that determines what constitutes the soul of our nation. It is a contest which we can see in biblical history, and one that is playing out in our history. It is happening right now.

We are reading chapter two in March. We are in the season of Lent, often referred to as “our Lenten journey.” And….it is the season in the Christian year when we consider an alternative possibility. So, we could not be reading this chapter at any better time than this. And given the way March unfolds, there will be four more posts here on Oboedire before we have our second Zoom meeting on Friday, the 31st.

As we begin chapter two, we do well to frame it in relation to the question, “What narrative controls my life?” And related to it, as Brueggemann notes in the way he constructs the chapter, “Am I willing to embrace and enact a narrative different than that one of imperialism?”

Interestingly, we ask this question while still in Egypt. The Sinai peninsula was part of Egypt. The Israelites had escaped from the control of Pharaoh, but they were still in Egypt–through the entirety of their exodus. Similarly, we ask the hard questions about our liberation from imperialism while still in its territory. We commence the new order (i.e. neighborliness) while still in the old one. Subversion begins in our heart, in small groups, and in other communities that incarnate the alternative possibility.

The moment we decide to reject “the kingdoms of this world” and live by the values of the kingdom of God, we become part of the resistance movement which seeks to overcome evil with good.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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