Kingdom, modern nation-state, political theology

Thoughts on Sanctuary: Safe Space, Protection, the Rise of the Modern Nation-State, the Church of England and a bloody video game

Now for those of you not in the know, over in England there is a little tiff between the Church of England and Sony (the makers of the Play Station 3 and the game in question) about a violent video game with a shoot out in the middle of an English Cathedral. Originally when I first saw the article, I did not care much at all, in fact I had some similar thoughts to this guy – that this argument is blown out of proportion.

However, now I am thinking a number of new thoughts. First, this does not seem so blown out of proportion in an overall sense (perhaps this specific case study is with other unconsidered or unknown complications). The Church is asserting itself and calling against violence, particularly associating violence with the church in a positive light. In fact, for the Church of England to object, and we to think Christians are being uppity over there, shows how far we have come from the pre-modern days of the Church as vocal and ethically assertive.

Second, I began thinking about how this game narrates a violation of what the church seeks to create – a safe place, a sanctuary – and that the Church ought to vocalize a rejection of the game. The point of a Church space, historically speaking, is numerous, but one very important reason is creating a space for the basileia (kingdom) of God to break into this world – to meet the desperate needs of humanity with those who proclaim the crucified and risen Christ (whether it be structural evils like racism and sexism or the particular implications of evil, like the single mother working two low income jobs to care for three kids). The Church is supposed to create a safe space from evil as the Church manifests the basileia.

Third, I started thinking about conversations I have had recently on the modern nation-state: that pluralism (in the sense of all religions are an equal path to God) is the product of the modern nation-state subjecting everything to its coercive power under the guise of peacemaking. Perhaps pluralism is not, I am just beginning to explore this avenue about pluralism, however, I have seen other affects from the nation-state making itself the power and have already written about them.

The point is, the demise of the political act of sanctuary by the church, much less the idea of peace in the house of God, is one of the most visible indicators (in its invisibility) of the nation-state asserting power over the body of Christ and claiming the first allegiance of a Christian. Why is there no legal idea of sanctuary? Because the state has claimed we cannot do so and we have gotten used to what we are “allowed” to do, or have no idea of what we can assert as the body of Christ. In fact, if you the reader is thinking how absurd the idea of sanctuary is, you are just making my point; sanctuary is absurd to those under the heel of a government with a standing army and a privatizing, individualizing social contract.

So concluding these thoughts: violence associated positively with the safe place designated by the community of faith is a violation of that safe place, and therefore a violation of the community itself. Christians I think have a good reason to be pissed and object to being positively associated with violence.


6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Sanctuary: Safe Space, Protection, the Rise of the Modern Nation-State, the Church of England and a bloody video game

  1. Halden says:

    This is quite good, Dave. It’s interesting that you bring up the sanctuary issue because recently a building in St. Johns was raided and there are a number of single-mom immigrant families that need housing and the congregation is looking at getting recognized by the Sanctuary movement so that we could help house them.

    The big point is that the church IS a social body and as such, takes up space in the world. The nation state can’t tolerate any competition, and thus wants to make the church cease to be a space and be a “spirituality” instead.

  2. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    Yeah, and this has spurred my thinking on about the converse and the concept of Holy space – the embodying this social space, as opposed to the invasion of the Church’s space.

    I’m having a chuckle now remember hearing in my childhood that one should dress up and not wear a hat out of respect for the church space and then the snarky come back, people are the church and not some dumb building.

    In one sense, this outdated idea of how to show respect makes perfect sense, but in another, the idea of respect in such a fasion is not a Christian idea, but a bourgeois Christianity that Metz warns against (and possibly even patriachal, I’ll have to think on it some more)- what are the homeless supposed to dress up in? The idea of wearing your best I suppose is fine, but when one’s best clothing isn’t good enough for the other members, then it doesn’t meet the affluence, which is a terrible criteria. One’s best ought to be Christ and extending Christ to others, and I’m not sure if he wore his sabbath best, particularly for the resurrection.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Maybe dressing up in your Sunday best would be a way of offering to God the best that you have because you trust Him, a parallel to the requirements in the Old Testatment where the Israelites were required to give God their best sheep (no defect), best oil, etc., and firstfruits – trusting that the rest of the harvest would come in and His provision would be sufficient. King David refused to offer a sacrifice that cost him nothing. I think these refer to having God in His rightful place in each of our lives. Since I only dress up for important events, would it not be disrespectful not to dress up to honor Him? Granted, this would only be in one area of life. The hope would be that it would representative of what was going on inside of a person. If one was cleaned up and looking good on the outside it would be a picture of Christ on the inside, the perfect spotless lamb. However, I do remember being shocked the first time I read the Ten Commandments and realized that wearing my Sunday best to church wasn’t one of them.

  4. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    It seems to me that any dressing up as a display of inward spirituality is plagued with pitfalls and unnecessarily so. Dressing up in such a fashion seems to stem more from the culture of the 1950s than from Christianity. Cleaned up and looking good? What about those who can’t? What about those who are part of the church but poor and as such the pressure of “cleaned up and looking good” is too much for their economic situation? Much less what it tells them – that whenever they enter the church, wealth that they do not have is paraded in front of their face. While they may struggle for school supplies, others around them bring their affluence into the church. This is a violation of the poor in the space of the church (what is supposed to be a safe space for them) and a democratic/individualistic way of seating the rich above the poor (as we are told not to do).

    Also the justification for maintaining dress as analogous to Israel is problematic, because to claim to act like Israel in their sacrifices is to claim a law that was never set for Christians and doesn’t seem applicable, much less something a Christian should strive for.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I didn’t explain “cleaned up and looking good” very well. I was trying to describe a way of outwardly expressing in worship trusting God to complete the good work He has begun in individuals and the church as a whole, to provide, to protect, to love, etc. It has may, but doesn’t have to do with looking good to other people or following trends of fashion. The imagery of the bride making herself ready is one that brings to mind the development of Christ-like character portrayed in a woman wearing a spotless gown, one who refuses to withhold from the Lord’s sanctifying work any part of her character.

    Not claiming the law, but using the examples where people were called to trust God.

    I don’t agree with the practices of favoritism or of making anyone feel uninvited or unwelcome in the body of believers. One would consider context in choosing their “Sunday Best.” Would then the criteria be to put others at ease and not call attention to oneself, to put on Christ. It might be a plain old pair of shoes that reminds him that his feet are beautiful because he has chosen to bring good news and not to give in to fear.

    Yes, dressing up was emphasized in the church in the ’50s and think it very well may have been a deterrent to the poor. Dress codes were more stringent for school, too. Where I lives poor families were able to dress their children for school and the poor who went to church were well-dressed because the church clothed the poor.

  6. Pingback: Solidarity Defined « flying.farther

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