Happy Birthday to Ched Myers! Today, we honor this cherished mentor and elder with an excerpt from Binding the Strong Man, Uncle Ched’s groundbreaking political reading of Mark’s Gospel. Written in the late 80s. More relevant than ever!
The radical discipleship movement today is beleaguered and weary. So many of our communities, which struggled so hard to integrate the pastoral and prophetic, the personal and the political, resistance and contemplation, work and recreation, love and justice, are disintegrating. The powerful centrifugal forces of personal and social alienation tear us apart; the “gravity” exerted by imperial culture’s seductions, deadly mediocrities, and deadly codes of conformity pull our aspirations plummeting down. Our economic and political efforts are similarly besieged. The ability of metropolis to either crush or co-opt movements of dissent seems inexhaustible.
I know many Third World activists, courageous sisters and brothers who have risked their lives for the same vision under circumstances far more demanding than our own, who echo similar sentiment. Some have seen revolutions betrayed by those who assumed power; others have seen their modest experiments in self-determination uprooted by metropolitan-sponsored military or economic counterinsurgency. So it is that exile is replacing exodus as the central theme for many liberation theologians. At home and abroad, the empire surrounds and strangles any form of new life outside its sphere of control.
Our failures tempt us to conclude that we were simply misguided, a conclusion the current reactionary mood of both church and culture gleefully endorses. Indeed, they urge us to “come to our senses,” and point knowingly to the yippie-to-yuppie pendulum that has swung inexorably from idealism to cynicism to “selfish realism” (today the 1960s do not stimulate subversive memory, only nostalgia). But we do not welcome the opportunity to reconstruct life in the mainstream; we experience only vertigo. There is no happy resocialization back into the middle-class bosom of America, for no other reason than we know too much to live the lie. It is a terrible realization that, despite experiences of miscarriage, collapse, debacle, defeat, and despair, there is still no more compelling alternative to the corruption of the age than radical discipleship.