…they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
*This is the fourth installment in a series of seven pieces on Micah posted every Wednesday during Lent.
As we travel the Lenten road of death and resurrection, we continue to inventory both the personal and prophetic. The more we pursue the personal the more we realize that the addiction, abuse and alienation in our homes are symptoms of the wider systems in our world—the social, economic, political and religious structures that organize and, ultimately, pulverize our lives.
To take the next step is to cast a vision for a different life altogether. Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, in his 1978 classic The Prophetic Imagination notes:
The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.
This, too, is the route that Micah takes. He evokes God’s Dream For The World. The violence & hoarding ends and the sharing & caring begins: everyone gets their own vineyard! Back in Micah’s day, maintaining vineyards was a luxury of only the very wealthy—it took 3-5 years for vines-turned-into-wine to start making a profit. Life with God on the throne is both simple and sumptuous, and it is for everyone.
European Christian settlers of the Americas, both historic and contemporary, have, unfortunately, read these words from Micah as future and heavenly, leading to silence and justification on matters of genocide and slavery. However, Micah has been scripted differently by a minority report of radical disciples. Dr. King quoted this text when he audaciously came out in opposition to the imperial war in Vietnam. The Berrigan brothers were convinced Micah’s vision was intended for our current context and took the name “Plowshares 8” for their team of holy rebels in 1980, trespassing onto the General Electric Nuclear Missile facility, where they damaged nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto documents and files
In Micah’s vision, everyone has enough for both sustenance and merriment in this world right now. This kind of simple utopia is actually possible if we rearrange our resources away from mall purchases and the military-industrial-complex. Reverse the flow of the “demonic destructive suction tube.” Spare the rod and spread the Rodney Strong. There is enough, but we must have the guts and the gumption to redistribute.
Berry Friesen & John Stoner, in their recent release If Not Empire, What? (2014) describe Micah in context:
This is an image of a political community characterized by rural egalitarianism and decentralized power. It may have a temple in Jerusalem, but it has no king.
In order to work with God towards the realization of this Dream, we must move away from hierarchies & heroes. Salvation lies in participating with social movements devoted to Micah’s vision on a smaller scale. This is what a burgeoning movement of radical disciples are now calling “watershed discipleship.”
Watershed discipleship is committed to an ecclesiology that organizes a network of alternative Christian communities committed to Something bigger than big buildings and butts in the seats. These communities will pledge to the fierce energy of indigenous people which always comes from a struggle for something–for the struggle of a place! It is a different kind of energy than most communities committed to activism and dissent. Watershed discipleship communities primarily ask questions in the positive:
What am I struggling for?
What am I saying “Yes” to?
What would I be willing to die for?
These are Lenten questions, interrogating us towards a more inspiring, energetic and sustainable repentance. Watershed Discipleship keeps it simple, but requires everything. It roots us in a place with prerequisites: in order to love what God has given us, we must know it. In order to know it, we must learn it. It commits to honoring and learning from the Indigenous who dwelled here long before we did. It covenants with the Land, paying attention to the native flora and fauna of our bioregion. In this watershed moment of climate catastrophe, income inequality and racist criminal (in)justice, we are called to not only become radical disciples in our respective watersheds, but to become disciples of our watersheds.
Above all else, watershed discipleship is committed to living an alternative to what bell hooks calls imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the interconnected series of ideologies devastating humanity and the planet. It’s long past time that we listen to Micah and commit to descaling and downsizing: our paychecks, our appetites, our homes, our privilege, our egos. This must start with local, specific commitments. No better time to start than Lent.
*See this for a practical tool to take both a personal and prophetic inventory today.