Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What if Subversion is your Only Option?

Dictionary.com defines "subvert" as a verb that means to overthrow, to cause the downfall of or to undermine the principles of.  A synonym it gives is "corrupt".

Wow, that sounds pretty negative.

To be subversive is to work against the establishment which also sounds rebellious.  To be subversive is counter-cultural.  For younger generations, there may be a cool factor involved in being subversive.  Think James Dean or for today maybe, Anonymous breaking down the standards set by the government and society.

Sometimes being subversive is the only option for those without any real power.  Br'er Rabbit stories were subversive stories disguised as animal tales for children.  They were told by slaves in the United States as stories where the white master is tricked by "Brother (Br'er) Rabbit."

As a child, I remember a particular class where the teacher yelled extensively.  To be fair, we were not the easiest of classes to teach.  We had more than our share of ornery kids (the "angelic" author excluded of course). But the yelling got worse and it seemed to more readily become our teacher's first option rather than a last resort.

Cassette recorders were fairly new at the time and one student brought his new battery operated recorder from home.  He put it in the desk and recorded our class.  It picked up our teacher's yelling quite nicely and the students all got a kick out of hearing it.

The original intent was not to provide change.  There was not an overall vision of activism or subversion.  But it soon got out to adults and it quickly changed the nature of the action.  The school administration became involved.  The tape was confiscated.  I don't remember the student getting into trouble, though.

One consequence was that the teacher didn't yell quite so much as she did before.

Was recording her unknowingly a subversive act?

It seemed to be in that it challenged the authority of the teacher to discipline the class in quite this manner.  It is one thing to yell at a class for motivation but it is quite another thing for this to become the normal mode of communication.

Tank Man" temporarily stops the advance
 of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, in Beijing, China.
The Hebrew people became slaves in Egypt. They were treated harshly and Exodus records genocide as a method for their population control.  There are acts of subversion by the Hebrews against the authorities in this week's lectionary text (Exodus 1:8-2:10) for the Old Testament.  The midwives and the mother of Moses use trickery to save lives.  How does God work to achieve justice in society?  It seems that God is willing to do things in an unorthodox manner.  Maybe this is because orthodox ways do not always work.  In any event, we'll be looking at issues of justice and subversion in worship and think about what God might be calling us to do today.

In Christ,


Photograph Published by The Associated Press, originally photographed by Jeff Widener. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

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