There’s a lot of implications to the idea that we Christians, working at bringing about a new kingdom, have some things in common with revolutionairies everywhere working at bringing about freedom from tyranny.
There are places where this metaphor falls apart. I don’t want to leave the implication that I’m arguing for a president who identifies himself as a Christian, or a political party which claims to represent Jesus. The tyranny I’m thinking about is broader; it has it’s clutches on us internally, rather than externally. This is a tyranny of materilism, fear, greed, and doubt.
This kingdom will not be fully manifest in this life. Ironically, it will be ushered in it’s fullness by a benign dictator (who happens to be perfect and uncorruptible.) I believe that we are called to work for this kingdom in this life, even though we won’t see it’s fruition yet. This process appears to be a sanctifying one: it’s not that God needs us to make the world a certain way, in order to return. Rather, engaging in the fight will prepare us for his return by growing us in patience, strength, and faith.
Last post I shared my growing affinity for a thinker named Gene Sharp. I expressed the idea that it is critical that we not fight violently. A different (probably better) way I could have expressed this comes from his book:
“Whatever the merits of the violent option, however, one point is clear.
By placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority. The dictators are equipped to apply violence overwhelmingly. However long or briefly these democrats can continue, eventually the harsh military realities usually become inescapable. The dictators almost always have superiority in military hardware, ammunition, transportation, and the size of military forces.”
We have the further incentive that engaging in violence renders us instant hypocrites. When we engage in conflict as Jesus did, we model, even amidst conflict, even to our “enemies”, what the kingdom is all about.
We have lots to learn from the people rebelling against earthly tyrants. People like Sharp, who are providing an intellectual blue print for what the revolutions are doing, have some relevance for us.
Most obviously and notably, of course, we can learn from thier dedication, determination, and single-mindedness.
But another thing I was struck by is various aspects of their tactics. Sharp speaks about how tyrants can’t rule by themselves, in a vacuum. They rely on things like the military, popular consent, foreign aid, etc.
Sharp says succesful nonviolent revolutions identify these elements which prop up dictators and determine ways to knock these pillars down, often by bringing the institution over to their own side.
There’s a level on which it seems so obvious it’s silly. But I’d never looked at it this way.
This all leads me to the question: What if we Christians did the same thing? What if we looked at the hold of materialism in our lives. What if we asked ourselves what are the elements propping up materialism? What if we set about planning in this way?
I don’t know how to answer those questions. I don’t know precisely which things in addition to materialism we ought to target, either. But I think these are important questions to begin to ask.