Can Faith Communities offer pathways of resistance to Empire? / A.J. Hendry

Many of us feel that something in the way we live as humans is broken, something in the way we do community, seems to lead us us into this way of being that devalues our whenua, and dehumanizes our very selves. In this piece, A.J. Hendry, our founder and curator draws on his Christian Tradition, to imagine how faith communities can offer resistance to the systems and structures that contribute to the oppression and exploitation of our people and our whenua. Whether you are a person of faith or not, we hope you are inspired, and accept this invitation to dream of a new reality, a new world, a new humanity, than that which currently seems to shape and form our existence.

What does it mean for us to be the community of Jesus?

To live in such a way that our very existence offers a critique and a challenge to the oppressive and harmful systems of the status quo?

How, in our very BEing can we seek to offer resistance to Empire?

To embody the Dream of the Divine for our world?

There was a time when to choose to follow Jesus meant to join the community of the oppressed, a movement of people living a form of resistance against the powers and structures of Empire.

Yet, when the church betrayed Christ for the Empire, it lost its prophetic, counter cultural edge. Becoming a Christian was synonymous with joining the Imperial status quo.

In many ways, we are still in that space today.

The dominant voice and expression of the Church stands, not in resistance to Empire, but in solidarity with the dominant, White, Western, European structures that make up the Empire.

Individualism, consumerism, capitalism, the chief deities of the West, are payed special homage within our church communities.

Our way of being church, in many ways conditions and shapes us to the patterns of this world, rather than moving and shifting us into the patterns of God’s Divine Dream.

The challenge for the church today is to – once again – follow Jesus to the margins, and in so doing, join in solidarity with the community of the oppressed. We must rediscover our purpose: to be a foretaste of the Divine Dream for this world, a dream embodied in the very human, the very flesh, the very messiness of our own communities.

But, the question resounds. How?

I have wondered if there is not many answers to this problem. Perhaps resistance to Empire, must itself be found in resistance to certainty. For certainty begets structure, and structure once formalized is so very easy corrupted and turned to Empire.

Perhaps our role, as people of the Way of Love, is to seek to create authentic expressions of resistance in a variety of ways, in a variety of communities. Perhaps, it is not so much saying, “do this”, as it is listening to Wairua Tapu, and responding to Her invitation.

Perhaps, it is starting with the belief that our purpose is to resist, our purpose is to live counter to the world, this world shaped by this narrative of Individual Consumption,  self-protecting competition that our Western Dieties have set for us?

Perhaps, it is about saying, our purpose as followers of Jesus is to create communities where the Way of Love is our chief aim. Where one can find a foretaste of the Divine Dream, a community where our lives are shared, where poverty is addressed, for we resist capitalisms narrative of competition, and share all we have. Where homelessness is shown for what it is, a product of individual selfishness, and community disintegration, for we open our homes, and share our lives with those who have been unhoused. Where our loneliness and mental illness epidemic finds an antidote, for we live lives of deep connection, and authentic community, rejecting the individualists narrative of the nuclear family, and recognizing our Love for each other is more than enough.

What form, what structure, will this take?

That is the beauty.

It will spring from within, as those who seek, join Wairua Tapu in dreaming the Divine Dream.

There will be expirements, some will work, most will fail, but each step will weave the pattern, each shape will sing of the world that is to come, opening our eyes to Dream that will one day become our reality.

A.J. Hendry is a Laidlaw College graduate, and now a Youth Development Worker and housing advocate, working in the Youth Housing and Homelessness space. He leads a service supporting rangatahi experiencing homelessness and is also a steering group member of Manaaki Rangatahi, a collective working to end youth homelessness in Aotearoa. He is also the curator and creator of When Lambs Are Silent.

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