Christianity needs traitors…

About 150 years ago, Søren Kierkegaard scribbled these words in the margins of an early draft of a work later published as The Point of View for My Work as an Author (1849):

“What Christianity needs for certain is traitors. Christendom has insidiously betrayed Christianity by wanting not to be truly Christian but to have the appearance of being so. Now traitors are needed.

But this concept, traitors, is dialectical. The devil also, so to speak, has his traitors, his spies, who do not attack Christianity but attack the Christians – with the express purpose of getting more and more to fall away. God, too, has his traitors: God-fearing traitors, who in unconditional obedience to him simply and sincerely present Christianity in order that for once people may get to know what Christianity is. I am sure that established Christendom regards them as traitors, since Christendom has taken illegal possession of Christianity by a colossal forgery…

…I was contemplating the possibility of not letting myself be taken over by Christianity, even if it was my most honest intention to devote my whole life and daily diligence to the cause of Christianity, to do everything, to do nothing else but to expound and interpret it, even though I were to become like, be like the legendary Wandering Jew – myself not a Christian in the final and most decisive sense of the word and yet leading others to Christianity.”

First of all, I wonder how Kierkegaard’s sentiment might relate to our ongoing discussion of “Jesus Bling” and the Christian products industry. Furthermore, I wonder who the traitors will be. Is anyone willing to sacrifice their Christianity, for Christ’s sake? Would anyone stick around after hearing Meister Eckhart preach, “Man’s last and highest parting occurs when, for God’s sake, he takes leave of god”?

In light of our current (and growing) global political crisis, in the face of the uncritical alignment of a broad swath of Christianity to the ideology of the State, perhaps we should re-think what it means to be a follower of Christ, taking his light into a darkened world (which includes the churches). As a favorite song of mine reminds us, you must “know your enemy.” Actually this song seems more prophetic now than it did 12 years ago, when it came out during the first Gulf War. It ends like this…

“Yes I know my enemies: compromise, conformity, assimilation, submission, ignorance, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite…all of which are American dreams…” (“Know Your Enemy” by Rage Against the Machine – now that should do your soul some good!)

The “enemy” is of course not any person or entity but a mentality – the “comfortable numbness” Pink Floyd sings about and toward which we have such a irresistible tendency – our failure to examine not just what we say but how we live. So often I find myself crying out with Habakkuk, “Violence!” How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? (Hab. 1:2) Like the Psalmist, my soul is in anguish. I am worn out from groaning. My eyes grow weak with sorrow. And yet, the Lord has heard my weeping, my cry for mercy, and the Lord accepts my prayer. (Ps. 6) With another pair of prophets (Bono and Bob Dylan, that is), I sing: “Love, rescue me.”


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  1. I certainly take your point Brannon and certainly agree with much of what ol’ Soren is on about. My question at this stage is what comes after our ‘death of God’ stance? I doubt anyone (well…maybe some folks…) would disagree with the notion that there are some serious issues with the rise of evangelical fundementalism and the knock-on effect it has on essentialism as faith (i.e. certainty vs. faith/ product line purchases as definer of faith vs. actions of charity and mercy, etc) But what comes next after “lets be traitors to Christianity, for Christ’s sake”? Do we set ourselves up as the new ‘priests’ of this non-movement? What is the ethic and communitarian drive that provokes us? Ourselves? our non-selves?

    I think your ending is our our beginning (qua TS Eliot)- “Love rescue me” shouldnt be dismissed (yes Jim… I am talkin to you here) merely because it is a quote from a U2 song… we need to find a way to actualize it amidst our iconoclast raid on fundementalism and smashing the Jesus bling in the temple. How we do that? watch this space…

  2. I certainly don’t want to set myself up as the ‘priest’ (new or old) of anything. It would seem to me that the only way to change anything is to do it from the inside-out. In other words, if our Christianity is only as ‘real’ (and ergo even possible in the ‘universal’) as is it is lived-out in some local particularity, that’s where our ‘going-against-the-grain’ begins…in our churches, sunday school classes, pulpits (when we can get into ’em), conversations in the fellowship hall or foyer. I suppose that’s the rub, between going with the flow as much as is necessary to maintain some kind of voice within the community, and then using that voice (and taking the accompanying risk) to stir things up, challenge the norms, etc. Eckhart, Luther, Bonhoeffer, MLK – all pastors/preachers. We can learn something here.

    I take your point and heed your caution – there is a tension that is perhaps unavoidable, but not irredeemable. I think you’re right – “Love rescue [us]” had better be the prayer of the huddled team before the match begins…

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