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Colossians Remixed 3

2007 April 16
by Julie Clawson

This post is part of my ongoing response to the questions I posted as part of this month’s book discussion on Colossians Remixed by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat over at the Emerging Women blog. (read my other responses – here).

Question #3 –

Poetry of subversion. The authors explore how the hymn presented in Colossians 1:15-20 is a hymn of subversion of Empire. It takes the language of Empire and proclaims the supremacy of Christ over Caesar – radical, subversive, dangerous. They then contribute a “targum” (an extended translation and expansion that reads our world through the eyes of the text) of this passage. You can read it on p.85 or here. (and a short article on the point they are making here). What is your reaction to the poem? Does this imagination of an alternative to empire make sense?

I love that poem/hymn. We do live in a culture of images vying for our attention, or allegiance, our time and our money. The numbers vary, but it is thought that an individual is generally exposed to around 600 advertisements per day. We pay companies for the right to wear their name brand on our chest or butts.

I watch TV, I buy stuff, I surf the web (a lot). I don’t see any of that stuff as evil in and of itself. In fact most of that stuff has and can be used for good. I see the value in patronage and support and sponsorship. Issues arise though when said images and economic structures dominate our consciousness. When we allow the greed promoted by our economic system to let us forget that Christ is the image we should focus on. As Walsh writes, “this means that the ideology of economic growth is not Lord over our lives. We are not subservient to the imperatives of consumerism, ecological despoliation, technological innovation, and seeking our own self-interested security because we are subjects of another kingdom. We are committed to submitting our lives – including our economic aspirations, consumer habits, ecological practice, political involvement – to the one in whom, through whom and for whom all things are created.”

So this is about being image bearers for Christ rather than for someone else. I personally don’t see this as a polemic against style but an attitude encouragement. And neither is the point to eschew name brands in favor of whatever the cheap brand is. The allure of Walmart is just as seductive as that of Abercrombie – when both challenge the supremacy of Christ’s love by using his children in sweatshops our patronage of either demonstrates our allegiance to an economic system over Christ.

I don’t do a very good job at this. I live in suburbia. So many days I really don’t stop to think if my economic purchases put Christ first. Scratch that, most days it is only about my needs and wants. The poem proclaims –
the church reimagines the world
in the image of the invisible God

I’m trying to figure that out. To see the good in stuff. To not be a slave to systems of greed. To think about if my purchases are just. To be an image bearer.

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