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commodifying the radical

Consumer Jesus by Banksy

The Olympics draw near to us, and on Australian television screens we are confronted with an advertisement for the Games featuring a truly horrifying rendition of the classic Australian ballad “Waltzing Matilda”.

The gruesome transplantation of Waltzing Matilda into a corny, overblown, adult contemporary pop song is an affront to Banjo Paterson’s work – the narration of an itinerant worker setting up bush camp by a billabong, thieving a stray sheep for food, being confronted by the police and the sheep’s ostensible owner, committing suicide and haunting said billabong.

Whatever we make of the story of this swagman, we should surely conclude that the version currently on rotation is a world away from its more radical intent.* And this is not even to mention the commercialisation of the Olympic Games…

These are merely examples of a more widespread phenomenon – the commodification of the radical. Read the rest of this entry

confessions of a failing radical: challenges of walking the way

This post was inspired by an amicable challenge set forth by my friend Simon Moyle, a peace activist and worthy Twitter followee, in the comments section of a recent post of mine.

But even prior to this challenge I have struggled with listening to Christian activists speak about their journeys and their perspectives. This is not because they are wrong, or uninspiring, or bad people. On the contrary the vast majority are beautiful, compelling, godly people.

But at a few points this year I have found myself secretly wanting them to share a specific kind of message. They will often speak about their theology, their most impressive stories of activism, living radically and following Jesus, or their well-articulated views on particular issues of the day…

…These things are important and valuable!…

… but I am often left feeling that these people are superhuman, and as a result I feel like I could never do what they do.

The truth is that what I really want to hear from these people is a message about failure, and losing hope. I want to hear a message entitled “The things that have gone wrong”, or “The things I have messed up”, or even “When I don’t feel like giving a shit anymore.” Read the rest of this entry

the deradicalisation of christianity?

A conversation with a friend today led to us asking the question – how did Christianity become so de-radicalised?

After all the story of the early Church, both in Acts and as implied in the Epistles and Revelation, seems to reflect a community that was at odds in almost every way with the surrounding culture.

(By being at odds with the dominant culture I do not mean abusing gays, doing apologetics or marginalising sex…)

How did we become so at home in the dominant culture? When did “taking up our crosses” come to refer to something other than directly confronting the dominant culture of idolatry and systems of injustice?[1]

Can we really say we are Christians, meaning “little Christs” or “followers of Christ”, when Jesus posed a real threat to the way of life represented by the dominant culture (enough to be liquidated) but most of us revel in it? Read the rest of this entry

jesus: fanatic or bourgeois?

Recently I had the pleasure of being referred to as a fanatic. In a negative way. By another Christian.

From a pulpit.

Luckily I (ironically) took it as a complement.

The comment was made by a young pastor in reference to my quasi-activism (I can’t really refer to myself as an activist, it would do a great disservice to those who really do go out life and limb in their activism for causes they believe in.)

This experience got me thinking about the Jesus-es that people follow. For example, which Jesus does this young pastor follow? And indeed, which Jesus do I follow? Read the rest of this entry

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