What would Jesus drive? What would Jesus buy?

Over at the Touchstone Magazine blog, Mere Comments, there was a post (“Blood, Gore, and Global Warming”) back in early July on Russell Moore’s thoughts on the environment that were published in the Baptist Press. Moore’s basic point is that both sides in the environmental debate need to cool the ideological religious rhetoric—you know, the kind that says, “God is on my side, not yours!” The author of the post at Mere Comments goes on to say that “[m]y family and I make disparaging remarks when we pass SUVs in the very yuppie town near us, but still, I'm not sure I'd want to invoke Jesus' authority for my dislike of the things.”

Things become much more interesting in the comments. Touchstone is a rather conservative magazine, and I suspect the readers of the blog tend to be of the conservative, patriotic, and wealthy variety. There are many, many comments saying that global warming is a total fallacy, a conspiracy devised by (insert name here) in order to (insert evil anti-American plot here). If you want to be reminded of how ignorant some people are, feel free to read these comments at your own risk. In any case, two of the comments, I felt, were worth discussing. I have not made any grammatical or spelling corrections; they are printed as they appear in the blog:
... If a person wants it, and can afford it, he can have it. ... I can think of a number of reasons why a person might want a HMMWV. First, they look really cool--although the military ones (which are considerably larger than any of the civil versions) are waaat cooler. Second, they can go anywhere (though I don't actually know anyone who takes his off-road). Third, they can haul a ton (actually, several tons). Fourth, they need to compensate for an under-developed masculine organ (or in the case of female HMMWV drivers--the majority in this area--to compensate for its total absence). Finally, consider that a person might want one because he can afford it and desires it.

... As for SUVs: I think like or dislike of them is on the same moral level as like or dislike for mustard on your french fries. Is there any excuse for making judgments about what size car/house/yard/sterio/food processor/etc. a person "needs"? All any of us need is air to breath, food and water to stay alive and freedom to worship God. Everything after that is luxury and none of us have the right or authority to say what is an Acceptable level of luxury. Leave that to betyween each man and his Lord.
These comments once again raise the topic of consumerism in America today. The assumption is that if a person wants something—and has the material means to purchase it—then that person is perfectly free to buy that object. In other words, the only consideration is whether a person has enough money to ensure that he or she does not go into debt. Hence, the consumeristic axiom in the first of these two comments: “If a person wants it, and can afford it, he can have it.” Similarly, the second comment argues that buying a car (or any other object) has no moral or ethical implications whatsoever; it is as significant as deciding what condiment to use in a meal. Moreover, the author of this comment seems to think that financial responsibility belongs to the individual: “Leave that to betyween [sic] each man and his Lord.” Individual Christians are, according to this view, not accountable to the community of believers in terms of how they spend their money. This is a decidedly modern, Western view of the human self: one that is voluntaristic, individualistic, and private. Evangelicals think that a person is accountable sexually, so why not financially? Is it really less sinful to satisfy material urges than to satisfy sexual urges? I, for one, disagree.

At the very least, these comments demonstrate how prevalent these disturbingly anti-Christian views are in the Christian church today. This is an issue, a crisis, in which each and every pastor—regardless of one’s denomination or ecclesial tradition—must decide where he or she stands. Complacency on this topic will destroy the church—and in many ways already has. Jesus spoke more about money than about any other topic in his earthly ministry. It is our responsibility, then, to ensure that we take up our crosses and follow Christ in terms of our financial stewardship—and that does not just mean giving a little to our local church and paying our taxes.

In conclusion, this issue goes far beyond the environment, though this is still very important. But the problem of global warming raises a more primal concern: financial ethics. How should followers of Christ spend their money? What does “costly discipleship” look like in terms of how we spend money? What should we drive? Where should we live? What should we buy? I steadfastly refuse to succumb to the modern worship of the Individual, which says that such questions are not the responsibility of the local Christian community. They are. And while we fail on a daily basis to follow Christ, we should not baptize our failure to live in accordance with Christ’s call just because it is difficult or out of sync with modern culture.

NB: I have started a new poll called “What would Jesus drive?” It is meant to be humorous, but that does not mean there is anything humorous about the crisis of consumerism in the church today. But I do want to have a sense of humor. I think Jesus would appreciate that.

Comments

Bryan L said…
Jesus wouldn't drive anything. He'd take the city bus. : )

Blessings,
Bryan L
ken said…
Regarding the new poll, my vote is not on there. I don't think Jesus would drive anything. He would probably just have an old bicycle. And it would probably have been given to him by someone since he wouldn't have any money with which to buy it. If someone gave him a car, he'd sell it or re-gift it to someone else who needed one more than he.
Beau said…
I think, given the kind of rhetoric that floats around the issue of global warming, this is a better way to approach it, at least in the church: Consumption is spiritually formative. I've noticed that my pastor will periodically, in the interest of shepherding the church (I assume), make comments about how much tv one watches. I would think it appropriate to make the same kinds of comments about the ways (and amount) we consume-in any NUMBER of areas, not simply our cars. In this way you can do an end run around the excuse that Gore is the anti-Christ, which for all I know, he could be. Regardless, how we live before God is important.

Excellent post.
dan said…
DW,

Like previous commentators, I am fairly certain that Jesus wouldn't drive.

Not to read too much into the poll, but this seems to point to the sort of difference in perspective that we discussed previously. Do we simply work "within the system," and ask "what should we drive?" or do we begin to think "outside the system" and ask, "should we even be driving?"

However, that said, I do agree with a lot of what you say -- yes, the issue isn't only environmental but relates to "financial ethics"; yes, the Church, as a corporate body, should be determining these things and not simply leaving matters in the hands of individuals.

Speaking of the Church, I think that it is important to recover a sense of the "parish" when approaching the issue of driving (Rahner's The Shape of the Church to Come largely influenced my thinking in this regard). I think that the fracturing (across space) of our various activities is one that is largely detrimental to the fundamental "missional"/"incarnational"/whatever aspect of Christianity. I think we should worship and work in the same area as the area in which we live. This, I think, has many benefits, and one of them is that cars become much less of a "necessity" and much more of a "luxury" (although, in reality, cars are almost never a true necessity, and they are almost always a luxury).

Grace and peace.
D.W. Congdon said…
Dan (et al),

It seems to me that you (and other commentators thus far) are essentially saying that one cannot be a Christian in suburbia. And as much as I would like to say that Christians should not drive and should worship where they live, this is simply an impossibility on any kind of large scale. It is certainly ideal -- on that point, we agree -- but it is utterly unhelpful to the vast majority of people today. I'm sure you are doing great work in your own local area, but you will need to find something more concrete and helpful for people living in the suburbs, because that is simply a major facet of American life today. Not everyone lives in the inner city. Public transportation does not meet everyone's needs. Walking and biking are only so helpful. We need a way of communicating a financial ethics to people who have to commute to work.

For example, my wife works as a middle school teacher in the inner city of Philadelphia. Like you, she works with people in extreme poverty. Her mission is to rectify the huge educational inequities in Philly, where violence and injustice and oppression are daily realities. But we live an hour away from the city, because of where I go to school. We have one car. I take the school shuttle so she can have the car. She drives an hour each way to her school. This is certainly not ideal, but it's the best we can do. My wife, Amy, is working in the inner city, but in order to do this work, she needs a car to get there.

What would you say to her? Would you question whether she really needs a car? What do you have to say to the many Americans who actually do need cars to do things that are really worthwhile and need to be done?

I guess I am frustrated with you, Dan, because you have a great message but seem incapable of communicating with people in a way that can help them make practical steps toward following Christ and walking in the way of the cross. Your emphasis on the "impossible" needs to be joined with an equal emphasis upon the possible. Otherwise, you will have as little positive impact as the ivory tower academics.
kim fabricius said…
Perhaps the Palm Sunday arrival in Jerusalem may give us some clues as to what Jesus would drive (apart, of course, from driving everyone crazy).

There were several options. He could have entered the city on a camel, the Cadillac, Mercedes, or stretch limo of his day, pompously posing for the first century paparazzi pushing through the crowds.

Or he could have entered on a stallion, the horse of war, perhaps pulling a chariot, the state-of-the-art tank of his day, cooly acknowledging the flag-waving patriots at the city gates.

Instead, he chose a donkey, the humble beast of burden and peace. What a jackass!

So I'm with Ken - an old bicycle would have been our Lord's preferred mode of travel. Or if you insist on a motorised vehicle, I see Jesus wearing shades astride a chopped Harley to show he meant business.
kim fabricius said…
Oh - and as to what Jesus would buy: something from the store run by guy with whom he went into partnership - "Lord and Taylor" of course!
Alex said…
Wow, from the looks of the voting, Jesus was a hard-core environmentalist! I had no idea! I chose F-150 (used of course) because I guess he could help people move and work and things like that with all the bed space.
Bryan L said…
"It seems to me that you (and other commentators thus far) are essentially saying that one cannot be a Christian in suburbia."

D.W., I don't know if you were referring to me or not but I said my vote for the city bus (or some kind of mass transit), thinking strictly about how Jesus would travel if he carried out his ministry today (You called the poll “What would Jesus drive”). I don't think it's necessarily what particular way he's calling every disciple to travel. Jesus had a specific mission and purpose so he would have traveled in the means that was best helped him accomplish that mission and purpose. Obviously we are to continue that mission or at least some part, but not necessarily the same way. I picked mass transit, because it is cheap, I think it can be said to be more environmentally safe if more people are choosing to use it that drive vehicles (although I don't really know that's just a guess) and it would put him around all types of people from all walks of life for extended periods of time so that he could share his message and meet needs. I imagine when he needed to go far he could take the gray hound or something.
For me I just see Jesus traveling in a way that doesn't shut him off from the rest of the world and gives him an opportunity to be around the most people so that he could be most effective.

I think your question probably then is what would Jesus want us to drive (as the 2nd to the last paragraph of your post indicates) and in that sense I would have to say what ever he tells you to based on the missions and purposes he has given you. I don't think it's a one size fits all category. If you can find a vehicle that is more environmentally safe, then great. But your right, it does need to be balanced with the practical part of life, whether you are traveling long distances, gas mileage, job, what you can afford in your budget etc... I do think it’s too easy to choose the easy option and avoid an option that will cost us more, because of our love for comfort. And we can always come up with good ways (to our selves) to justify our choices.

How do we balance the cost of discipleship where we are called to deny ourselves and our comfort and our material dependencies and luxuries for the kingdom and God’s mission, with the practical nature of life? That's a difficult question and one that each person needs to wrestle with and seek God’s help and guidance on everyday… I guess.

Anyway that's just my opinion.

Blessings,
Bryan L
daniel said…
Modern cars enable one to travel great distances; largely ignore everything betwen point A and B, arrive on clock time and show up mentally after the coffee kicks in.
Jesus was like an intinerant preacher, (who had nary a care about mowing the yard)who engaged with people along the way and showed up when he got there.
I vote for Jesus still walks.
D.W. Congdon said…
Bryan and Daniel,

My primary question is neither "what would Jesus drive?" nor "what would Jesus want us to drive?" (though this is closer to my point), but rather "how would Jesus want us to use our money?" The discussion of cars was just the occasion for this larger discussion of how we use our money.

That said, the question about what we should drive is certainly a relevant, subsidiary question. But it's not the point of the post. I'm more interested in how Christians think about money and how they understand the call of Christ in relation to everyday financial questions.

Unlike Dan, I simply assume that cars are a necessary aspect of modern life. I commend those who are able to go without, but until I see a plausible way for this to become the norm, I think it is better that we ask how the church can follow the way of the cross in the situation we find ourselves in (without blessing the situation as somehow normative itself).

As for the poll ... well, let's stop taking it so seriously and actually have a laugh. I meant it to be funny. I didn't realize people would take the question literally. I guess I shouldn't make assumptions. Obviously Jesus would walk -- which is precisely why I left any 1st century mode of transportation off the list. I originally considered including donkey, horse-drawn chariot, and walking, but I realize the only way this poll would be interesting (and funny) is if I made it as modern as possible. No one has yet figured out why the Sabra is on the list.

I commend to you all the post by Ken at Punctum Saliens: "WWJD ... today?".
dan said…
Hey DW,

Once again, I am a little puzzled by your response. In particular, I am puzzled by your opening assertion that I am "essentially saying that one cannot be a Christian in suburbia." Therefore, let me try to be as clear as possible. I am, however, reminded of something Wittgenstein said several times (and here I quote the opening line of his preface to the Tractatus):

Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it.

Therefore, I proceed with caution. After all, this is not the first time that I have been interpreted in this way, nor I suspect, will it be the last. I wonder if this has more to do with the fact that many people (I won't include you here) would actually prefer that I be asserting that "one cannot be a Christian in suburbia" because this would make it all the easier to discount what I have said.

However, it was not my intention to suggest that "one cannot be a Christian in suburbia." Such a line of thinking is rather foreign to me. One can be a Christian and be situated in all sorts of places -- I know some Christians who are selling their bodies just down the road, so that they can purchase crack cocaine; I know some Christians who are in prison because they sexually abused children; and the locations of those people, and the activities in which they have engaged, would never lead me to suggest that they are not Christians.

Honestly, I wouldn't know what to make of that suggestion. Does it mean that they are not saved? I believe that they are.

Does it mean that they don't (actually) believe in Jesus? I believe that they do.

Does it mean that they have been unfaithful? How can it, since all of us have been unfaithful? I would never argue that one cannot be a Christian simply because of this or that act of unfaithfulness (indeed, I would even argue that the act of excommunication is not even an assertion that a person is not a Christian).

Certainly there is something contradictory occurring when a Christian engages in the sort of activities I cited in the examples provided above but I would not say that those who, for example, sell sex for drugs, or who have sex with children "cannot be Christians." I would say that Christians cannot engage in those activities, or, if you will, be situated in those places, but that is a very different sort of assertion.

However, let me continue to press the "pacifist" point, because the issue here is not only related to financial ethics, but violence as well. This, I think, is where your argument is contradictory: the argument that you have made for suburban Christian living, is the same argument that you yourself have rejected when faced with the issue of war and the military. Balancing out the "impossible" with the "possible," stressing "realism," recognizing how all the alternatives we have are only "so helpful," and simply assuming that this is "a necessary aspect of modern life" and so "until I see a plausible way for this to become the norm, I think it is better that we ask how the church can follow the way of the cross in the situation we find ourselves in" -- these are exactly the arguments you reject when you say Christians should refuse to be a part of the (explicit) violence of war and when you express your discomfort with Niebuhr. Unfortunately, you go on to accept these arguments when they are applied to the (more implicit) violence of suburban life (to a certain extent one could say that war is violence of commission whereas suburban living is violence of omission, but both commission and omission are involved in both). Needless to say, I find this a little puzzling.

Of course, I would never say those who are situated in the Army "cannot be Christians" -- in fact, I believe that many soldiers around the world are Christians -- just as I would never say that all those in the suburbs "cannot be Christians." Rather, I would suggest that those different environments lead us into a situation wherein our way of living contradicts our identity in Christ. Of course, I still think that there is a way of living Christianly in the suburbs (cf. http://poserorprophet.livejournal.com/95408.html), but that way might be very different than most of us are willing to imagine (or admit).

Some are committed to reforming the old, and so they get caught up in the realism, practicalities, and possibilities of the old (cf Mt 13.22?). Others are committed to pursuing the new, and so journey on a pilgrimage that leads them to possibilities that they had, previously, never been able to imagine.

I emphatically distrust the old, and emphatically believe that there is so much new in Christianity (new Lord, new body, new life, new Spirit, new creation), that I am seeking the latter.

Sorry to (continue to) frustrate you. Grace and peace.
D.W. Congdon said…
Dan,

My frustration continues, but I want to assure you that I have nothing but great respect for both you and your views. I wish all were so diligent in their own pilgrimage on the via crucis.

That said, I fundamentally disagree that living in suburbia is analogous to selling sex for drugs or having sex with children. I do not disagree that there is a kind of violence inherent in suburban existence. But once you make that point, you immediately begin a slippery slope that continues ad absurdum, because there is no aspect of human existence which is not at some level violent. If you are wearing clothes on your body, you are implicit in violence (unless you made everything yourself). If you put a single bite of food in your mouth (vegan or not), you are implicit in violence. If you live in any kind of structure, you are implicit in violence. There is absolutely no facet of our existence which is not, on some level, involved in a nexus of violence.

I think, in the end, your position is no less contradictory and hypocritical. Of course, I suppose your response might be that our entire lives are lived in hypocrisy, and thus Christian discipleship is all about reducing our hypocrisy. With that, I would agree.

Even so, I get a strong "holier-than-thou" sense from you. You seem to think that I accept my life of "violence" as OK while you are a more faithful disciple with a much sensitive conscious. But this is simply untrue. I am not "OK" with the nexus of violence in which I find myself, nor have I simply become numb to the violence which is built into our everyday existence (no more in suburban life than in urban or rural, I might add). But I also do not think that we must seek to eradicate every aspect of violence from our lives. I find your position to be rather absurd, because it seems to be a pilgrimage back to a mythical Eden rather than a pilgrimage forward toward the New Jerusalem.

(I am sure you will jump on the word "absurd" and say, "Yes! The gospel is indeed absurd! That's the whole point!" But please, speaking about the impossible and the absurd is great rhetoric — which I am more than capable of tossing around with the best of them — but how does the impossible become tangible for you? How does the absurd become something living and real? Do you tell the prostitute, "Stop living in the old world of the possible"? Do you tell the drug dealer, "You're thinking too realistically"?)

I am reminded of a statement by Bonhoeffer in his Letters and Papers from Prison. He said that lovers in the moment should not try to be more pious than Christ himself by giving thanks to God. It seems that you, too, are trying to be more pious than Christ. That is (to return to my earlier point), you seem to think the Christian pilgrimage goes beyond imitatio Christi toward an imitatio Adami. I agree with imitatio Christi — which distances me from people like Niebuhr — but your position seems to go beyond the "impossible" to the "mythic," unless I am again misunderstanding you.

In the end, I want to press you on a practical level. Should anyone have a house or a car or clothes or a bank account or anything? Jesus did say sell everything and give to the poor. Is the Christian pilgrimage seeking to bring toward this reality, in which we no longer have possessions at all? Or is there a proper place for different Christian vocations? Is the theologian teaching at a major divinity school living in contradiction because this is a bourgeois lifestyle? If so, shouldn't the proper Christian response be to leave that job altogether? That is certainly something that professors could do, and it would seem to take Jesus' words more faithfully (seemingly, perhaps, but not necessarily in actual fact). So where exactly are the limits? Are all Christian vocations that are not directly seeking, in their own ways, to eliminate all contradictions simply capitulations to hypocrisy?
ken said…
"In the end, I want to press you on a practical level. Should anyone have a house or a car or clothes or a bank account or anything?"

Yes! These are questions that need to be asked, IMO. A shameless plug for my blog where I, too, ask this question. Check out my thread on money. I don't have any answers but I think that these questions are vital and uber important to ask. Jesus spoke a LOT about money. One of the main threads of Job is wealth and attachment to wealth. There is an emphasis on money and how to handle it in Acts.

Of course, money itself is not bad. It's the love of or attachment to money that is dangerous. But attachment is a tricky little bugger. How can we know if we are attached or not unless we actually sell all we own? Saying we are not attached is not good enough. Tithing 10% of our net income? That's absurd. How much do you spend on eating out? I'll bet it's way more than 10%.

Now, I'm not saying this doesn't apply to me. I admit that I'm attached. I have financial obligations, a family to help provide for, a future to ensure, etc. I'm asking what D.W. is asking. What would Jesus tell us to do TODAY? I think things are different than in Jesus' day. So how do we apply Jesus' teachings to our lives today?
dan said…
DW,

It is regrettable that we are unable to have this conversation over a few pints at a local pub. I suspect that a change in venue would not alter our convictions, but it might increase our mutual understanding.

I am not surprised that you object to my analogy involving pedophiles and prostitutes. However, I feel as though your objection does the reverse of what it intends to do; i.e. objecting to the analogy by arguing that every facet of our lives is involved in violence actually establishes the connection that I make. Why this must slide into absurdity is beyond me. For, as you suggest, I do argue that our "lives are lived in hypocrisy, and thus Christian discipleship is all about reducing our hypocrisy." You say that you agree with this, so why pick and choose where we reduce our hypocrisy and our violence? Where do we get the freedom to say "I'll reduce my hypocrisy and violence when it comes to issues of war" but not "I'll reduce my hypocrisy and violence when it comes to issues of transportation"? Yes, being confronted with all of our own violence and hypocrisy is overwhelming, but that is why Christians live in a community, and that is why we have a lifetime to travel this road. I'm just asking for a little persistence, a little consistency, and a little creativity.

You say that you "do not think that we must seek to eradicate every aspect of violence from our lives" and this seems to be the crux of our disagreement. But note, I am not suggesting that we are to eradicate every aspect of violence from our lives, I am simply suggesting that we must be committed to lessening that violence in every aspect of our lives. And once we have lessened that violence, let's lessen it some more. And then some more. I absolutely fail to see how any Christian cannot be committed to this. Care to explain?

This, by the way, is why the search for "limits" is rather misguided. As a pilgrimage, the Christian life is dynamic, not static. I believe that we are to move deeper and deeper into nonviolence (in every aspect of our lives) instead of simply sitting back and saying, "here, this is enough nonviolence for me" (besides "here" usually ends up being just a little more than the people around me -- as I noted in my post on "the hypocrisy of 'radicals'"). The search for limits is, as far as I can tell, a search for the type of stasis that we, as a pilgrim people, have been denied here and now -- we press on, we are always off balance.

So, I fail to see how this position ends up being about a return to a "mythical Eden" or the "imitatio Adami" (that made me smile!). Rather, it is premised upon the belief that the eschatological Spirit has already been poured out upon God's people and so we live and act, proleptically, in the anticipation of the shalom, the healing, and the reconciliation of all with all, that is to come when Christ returns and God becomes all in all.

It is also for this reason that I fail to see how your charge of trying to be "more pious than Christ" can hold any water here. How did Christ participate in the violence of his day? By getting crucified. I have not come close to matching this (let alone surpassing this), but I do try to follow the via crucis in a manner that goes beyond rhetoric alone. Indeed, it is for this reason that I often care little about how "sensitive" a person's conscience is; I care far more about what that person does (remember, metanoia, as it is employed in the Gospels, is an action word).

But wait, by arguing in this way have I once again drifted into "holier-than-thou" territory? I hope not. We may disagree but I am not about to suggest that I am "better" or more Christlike than you (or, for that matter, anybody else involved in this discussion). However, it is worth recalling that holiness is about being "set apart" and this is something we need to remember when we awaken to the realization that (trivialities aside) our lives look exactly like the lives of any other good-hearted citizen within our liberal democracies, or any other conscientious consumer within our free market. It is worth asking what it means to be "set apart" today. I would like to suggest that moving into an increasing distance from violence (in all aspects of our lives) might be a good place to start.

So what of the practicalities? Well, I've already opened up several lines of thinking about these in my series on "Christianity and Capitalism" and I refer you there. What I find interesting is that you have taken one of my "practical" suggestions (i.e. "don't own a car") and argued that it is "impractical" or "impossible." I would simply suggest that, in reality, it is simply too inconvenient for most people (as far as I know, public transportation goes into the suburbs as well). Of course, this practical/impossible exchange reminds me a little of what Joan Baez had to say in an interview about pacifism (found in Yoder's What Would You Do?). The interviewer raised a couple of scenarios to challenge her pacifism and she astutely notes that:

hypothetical questions get hypothetical answers... you have made it impossible for me to come out of the situation without having killed one or more people. Then you say, 'Pacifism is a nice idea, but it won't work.'

I wonder if something similar is going on here when we speak of practicalities.

Grace and peace.
Anonymous said…
Jesus is driving around third world countries, right now, in whatever is available.
D.W. Congdon said…
Dan,

I'm not sure if you're still reading, but I'll respond anyway. (I agree that this would all go over a lot better with a couple pints out of the way.)

I don't think I communicated myself adequately enough before, so I'll try again. Here is the problem I am trying to deal with in propositional form. You are free to disagree with any of these, but this is the situation as I have tried to articulate it:

1. Every aspect of our lives is fraught with violence. There is no dimension of human existence which is not involved in and complicit in the matrix of violence which defines worldly existence here and now. Every person - rich and poor, male and female, etc. - is complicit. There is no sector of humanity who stands apart or outside of the violence, no one who is not complicit.

2. The Christian life is a pilgrimage pursuing peace and justice. Christian discipleship is thus a movement in the Spirit away from violence and toward shalom. Though we are caught in a vicious web of hypocrisy, the church's mission is to lessen its hypocrisy, i.e., to lessen its complicity in the matrix of violence.

3. There are aspects of our involvement in violence which cannot be avoided (wearing clothes, eating food, blogging - j/k). Moreover, some vocations may seek to lessen violence in one aspect but increase it in a different, less obvious way. For example, a person might be involved as a volunteer counselor in dispute resolution in the inner city of New York, but that person may have to drive an hour to get there each day, which means the use of a car, gasoline, etc. Other vocations may have similar effects.

4. There are different pilgrimages for different people. As a result, some people may be called to a place which commits more indirect violence than a person with a different calling. I feel called to be a professor of theology. This involves using computers, books, means of transport, etc. I am thus thoroughly enmeshed in a bourgeois academic environment.

5. Churches exist in the suburbs. I go to a church in the suburb which is trying its very best (better than any other church I know) to promote peace and justice both locally and in the city of Philadelphia. We are active participants in our local culture, seeking to help the homeless, the poor, and the hungry. But we also minister to those who live in these suburban areas. We try to embody the way of Christ in the place where we feel called to be the presence of God -- viz. the middle-class suburbs of Philly. Like all churches should, we call people to live lives of generosity and self-donation in the light of the cross of Christ.

Those are just a few issues running through my head. Let me try to state the heart of the problem again in another way.

You have presented me with two basic theses: (1) our lives are thoroughly caught in violence; (2) we should seek to lessen our involvement in violence as much as possible as part of following Jesus. You reject my suggestion that there are some aspects of our complicity in violence that we simply have to accept. You see this as too "realistic" and "possible"; you say that we need to pursue the "impossible." I've responded by saying this sounds like nonsense to me.

Here's why. Exhibit #1: I am wearing shorts and a shirt. These were bought at some cheap clothing store, and they were probably made by people who were not making what they deserved for the work. Do I get rid of them? Do I get rid of all my clothes? How do I know what violence was committed so that I could wear these shorts and shirt?

Exhibit #2: My wife's job in Philly. I mentioned it before, but you didn't respond to it. In order to help rectify the educational inequities in the city, she has to drive an hour each way to work. This means owning a car, paying insurance, buying gas, etc. There is no public transportation that could take her from suburb to city. She also wears clothes, etc.

Exhibit #3: You and I are blogging. If you really wanted to lessen your involvement in violence, why are you using a computer? Even if it is not your computer, you are still making use of a product that is promoting wealth and capitalism in this nation. Shouldn't you stop blogging? Would Jesus blog?

Exhibit #4: A family with children. They can't fit into a small apartment. And so they move into a small house. But Jesus never owned a home: the Son of Man had no place to rest his head. Is owning a home a failure to follow Jesus? Obviously it is not a mark of the poor. Certainly, they could lessen their involvement in violence by getting rid of the home and living on the streets, but would that be wise?

I certainly think the church ought to be "set apart," but what does this look like exactly? I think it looks a lot like Acts 2: sharing property, breaking bread, worshiping together, etc. I would like to think that churches today could have people sell all that they own and then live together as a small community. I certainly think that this is the ideal. But I also realize that 2000 have passed and this is not exactly possible for most people. Are those that cannot do this simply capitulating to the "old"? Are they lesser witnesses to Christ? Would you deny the possibility of Christian callings that do not fit the Acts pattern?