Like any religion, empire attaches itself to a god of its making (though it often uses identifiers from God to create legitimate itself), it has devotees, and it has ways of ordering its “community,” and ways of worshipping (that god and empire itself).
We could summarize the two liturgies like this:
- The first liturgy are practices, ways of being, and symbols that have at their core a belief that God is violent, needs to expel some individuals or groups in order to keep the peace, centers God’s appointed one (Caesar, Priest, President, etc), is focused on togetherness at the loss of the individual, and that the system is fair so long as people believe in it and work hard enough.
- The second liturgy is a set of practices, ways of being and relating to one another, and symbols that are rooted in the conviction that God of nonviolence and love, that all creation and all people are good, should experience the abundance of creation and “not even one should be lost,” it centers those who are lynched by empire, welcomes the individual and builds unity through the Spirit (allowing for difference), and unmasks through prophetic voices systems that devalues the poor, marginalized, and the most vulnerable as a false god.
What do we do? In the face of such powerful forces, where do we go from here?
Consider this: Liturgy is a “powerful practice
” any religious community uses to shape and forms its people as a community and worship its god. Those practices can be fallen and redeemed like other powers. Practices are corruptible as much as they are capable of shaping humans for the good. It matters how we steward and shape the liturgies of our communities overtime.
All ongoing communities that seek to shape community identity and meaning use some form of “liturgy.” For Quakers reading this, yes, even Quakers have liturgies.
Have you ever watched the Super Bowl? This is like the Yearly Meeting for Football fans complete with “worship songs,” people “dressing up,” the pinnacle of the mass (giving the Lombardi trophy to the winners), and even the children’s message (the half-time show).
On a far more serious note, one of the examples I draw on in the keynote
is James Alison’s description of the Nuremberg Rally as a liturgy of empire
. Alison powerfully describes how these - and other types of rallies - function liturgically to reinforce the wickedness of empire (primarily by dulling our hearts and minds such that we no longer care about the suffering of our neighbor).
It matters if our liturgies are rooted in the religion of empire or in the religion of creation. It maters that we realize our liturgies must continue to adapt, evolve, and be “remixed” in ways that keep them from being overrun by empire.
The slide below as some possible “powerful practices” I suggested to Quakers from IMYM to draw on in this day and age OR that we need to develop further.
I look forward to hearing from you if you find these concepts useful and what you think is still missing from this. Where you see these things at work? What you think might help?
I leave you with this query:
“What do we need to practice (individually and as communities) in order to be able to be faithful in our resistance to empire in this time?”