Myopia and conversion: revolution and restoration
This blog was birthed with several aims in mind. I want to learn to be a better writer. I have a deep desire to take the things I have learned in academic theological conversations and translate them into a language that can be used in everyday discussions about the world around us. I want to learn to listen to the world around me and tell good stories. For that reason, some posts will be more widely accessible than others. In some posts, however, I want to direct my readers to resources that have shaped my own theological vision so that they can read and learn for themselves. This is one of those posts. Earlier this week, I posted a reflection on Jesus' parable from Matthew 13 about wheat and weeds (Wheat, Weeds, and Mustard Seeds). In it, I discussed the human condition as a form of myopia. I asserted that we humans have a hard time looking beyond the problems to see the promises in the world around us. There are a lot of places one could go to reflect deeper on the relationship between our Christian calling and how we see the world. Ched Myers and Elaine Enns begin their two volume work, Ambassadors of Reconciliation, with a discussion about conversion that I think is helpful here. They draw on the following verses from Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth:
Therefore, from now on we regard no one from a human point of view. Even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer that way.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away. See, everything has become new!
The language in the Greek of regarding others "from a human point of view" is often literally translated "according to the flesh." The Greek word that has been translated as "flesh" here is sarx. This is what Myers and Enns have to say about it.
The "flesh" (Gk. sarx) does not refer to our bodies or our sexual passions, the widespread misunderstanding of Christian pietism. Rather, it is one of Paul's favorite metaphors for the deeply rooted, socially conditioned worldview we inherit from our upbringing. It is the sum total of personal and political constructs and conventions that define what it means to be a member of a given culture--in other words, the way most folk think and act (Myers and Enns, vol. 1, p. 10).
This is what I refer to as myopia. This reading of Paul argues that the way followers of Jesus see the world is radically different: "See, everything has become new!" (2 Cor 5:17). Learning to see the world differently is what conversion is all about, as Myers and Enns point out.
Conversion is not only an inner change of heart, or a private change of mind, but a revaluation of everything. This is at once both profoundly personal and political...This revolution is for the purpose of restoring the world through the great work of "reconciliation," a word Paul now deploys (in verses 5:18-19) emphatically and repeatedly (Myers and Enns, vol 1., pp. 10-11).
I used the metaphor of myopia and of rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty in my reflection of the parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13. What I have pointed out in this post, my reading of the parable was rooted in the concepts of revaluation, reconciliation, and restoration--concepts that can be found all throughout the New Testament, and I understand them to be at the heart of the Gospel message.
According to his website, Ched Myers is "an activist theologian, biblical scholar, popular educator, author, organizer and advocate who has for 35 years been challenging and supporting Christians to engage in peace and justice work and radical discipleship." Find more information about him and links to his work at his website, ChedMyers.org.