“Empires live by numbness. Empires, in their militarism, expect numbness about the human cost of war. Corporate economies expect blindness to the cost in terms of poverty and exploitation. Governments and societies of domination go to great lengths to keep the numbness intact.
Jesus penetrates the numbness by his compassion and with his compassion takes the first step by making visible the odd anomaly that had become business as usual. Thus compassion that might be seen simple as generous goodwill is in fact criticism of the system, forces, and ideologies that produce the hurt. Jesus enters into the hurt and finally comes to embody it.
- Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 88-89.
If the church is going to act as a counterculture, telling a Story that is unlike the stories of consumption, war, and entertainment that are presently held dear, then it is important for us to realize these three stories ultimately come together into one meta-narrative.
Militarism protects and contributes to economic interests, which in turn fund the expansion of military power (the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned of, which is not new but has been a feature of every empire from Egypt to Rome), and all the while we numb ourselves with the bread and circuses of entertainment.
Whether that entertainment glorifies the narratives of militarism, consumption, or even entertainment itself, or acts as a sort of imagined protest in which we feel as if we are pushing back on the system while still taking part in it, either way it keeps the numbness intact.
(Postmodernism was right in that much at least, meta-narratives are inherently acts of power – of course so is the statement “Jesus is Lord”)
In the midst of all this the Story of Jesus asks us to imagine another reality, to have compassion on the least of these, those on the outs with the narrative of the empire.
Ultimately, we are called to “take up our cross and follow,” to take on ourselves the pain of the world, articulate it for what it is in an act of prophetic revealing, and proclaim into the midst of that pain the hope of the crucified-and-resurrected Christ.