In some Christian circles we tend to complicate the meaning of what it is to be a Christian, and yet in other circles the opposite occurs, we will simplify what it means so as to make it more palatable, either for ourselves or for those around us. I see something a bit different, and it falls right in the middle of these two extremes. Christianity, or the message of Jesus was at its core simple, and yet, it is very complicated and not at all palatable.
For me, to be Christian in its purest form is to carry your cross daily. Simple enough, but we must understand what this means. Some of my liberal friends may see this as serving the homeless, or loving your neighbor. While my fundamentalist friends may see this as attending church regularly, and/or reading scripture daily. As you could probably guess I disagree with these notions completely. As I see it, to carry your cross is to understand that we are the “brood of vipers” that Christ spoke of.
To carry your cross is to violently deny the Empire. So for first century Nazarenes this was Rome, and for twenty first century westerners this is the United States. Before I go on let me clarify something important. I used the word [violently] and I don’t want to give the impression that I’m speaking of hurting others. Actually it’s the opposite, true violence is the complete lack of violence. We see this when Christ tells us to, “turn the other check.” Some see this as letting people shit on you, or letting the Empire corrupt everything around you. For many this works, because we are told to desire something else after this life. This mentality ultimately allows the Empire to continue its reign. I will address [true violence] more in depth in another post.
So even though the notion of carrying your cross is simple, it is extremely difficult and complex. It was Christ who said [the path] is narrow, and it’s narrow because it requires us to leave our identity. Our identity is intertwined in our family, friends, and yes, the Empire. We are called to [hate] our family, friends, and Empire. We usually gloss over this, but it is essential to carrying your cross. I don’t believe Jesus is telling us to actually hate our folks, but to hate the tribal identity that is bestowed upon us by these mechanisms. The irony is it would be much simpler to just hate your family.
By calling Jesus the son of God, Lord, the truth etc…is to say the Empire is not. The Empire [capitalism] is sown into the fabric of our Being. For most, we know the horror, yet remain because of this reality, and ultimately find comfort in its embrace.
You can’t serve the Empire and God