The Art of Subversion

A few weeks ago I got out my soapbox.

I take it everywhere I go and on occasion have been known to put it down, stand on it and shout.

The first reason was the video below:

The second was the fact that a recent christian youth work event had starbucks serving coffee.

I’ll let you in on a little secret before I go any further.

I’m a hypocrite. I was getting annoyed at Christians supposedly getting into bed with the ’empire’ (using iphones for worship and getting coffee from starbucks) even tho I have an iphone and I frequent that particular coffee chain (and enjoy it). I think of myself as fairly progressive but still I was getting annoyed by this.

So I got on my soap box.

I ranted about how christians should not partner with empires. Empires that corrupt and abuse.

Then someone spoke to me about subversion and it got me thinking.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

A famous statement by Peter when he spoke to the Sanhedrin.

What’s interesting is that this quote was used by the Caesars as part of the emperor cult. Except when they said it, it referred to Caesar. Salvation was found in no one else (but Caesar).

Peter took this statement from the Empire and subverted it in the name of Jesus.

The gospel of mark begins:

“the beginning of the gospel about Jesus the Messiah”

The term gospel was used to announce the arrival of a new Caesar. This was a term owned by the Roman Empire. The writer of Mark’s gospel took that term and subverted it.

The band, ‘The Rend Collective Experiment’  took a symbol of the empire, the iphone and subverted it. They took a symbol of consumerism and greed and used it for the glory of God.

Now, I’m not saying there is anything fundamentally wrong or evil about the iphone. I have one after all. But it is a symbol of apple. A symbol of consumerism.

I’m also not saying that the iphone needs ‘redeemed’ in some way as that would suggest that it’s evil or ‘fallen’.

In the same way the youth event took the image of ‘starbucks’ and used it for the glory of God.

I find all of this incredibly interesting and exciting and leaves me with a couple of questions.

What other ways are christians subverting imperial images?

Are there any images that couldn’t be subverted?



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