Wednesday, April 18, 2007,10:52 PM
Subverting the Empire Today
In my reflections on Colossians, I would be remiss to ignore the news coming out of Turkey this week. Apparently, knife-wielding attackers slit the throats of three people at a Christian publishing house in conservative eastern Turkey yesterday. The Zirve publishing house had previously been the target of nationalist protests for allegedly distributing Bibles and proselytising.
Read the full story here.

Followers of the way of Christ trying to subvert the empire in Turkey are persecuted by those who oppose them. Sounds strangely familiar. Its all good to talk about how the letter to the Colossians encouraged the believers to follow a different way of life than that promoted by Rome and hint at the danger of spreading that message, but how does one respond to the same thing today?

The first thing that comes to mind is to wonder if it is the same thing. I don't know much at all about this publishing house, what their intentions are, and how exactly they live out their faith. I've known enough missionaries to closed countries to not be naive about some of the manipulative and underhand ways they work for converts. The process often has little to do with making the world a better place or spreading Kingdom values, and everything about getting notches on their belts and getting butts into heaven. And I've also known some amazing people who care about spreading God's love everywhere who are in the same places. It is interesting to note that it is often the churches that are most vocal about supporting the American government (the whole we have to submit to governing authorities thing) that are the most insistent about subverting other governments by illegally sending missionaries into closed countries (and yes, I know that officially Turkey is secular, officially). What was this group doing? Were they just trying to impose some Western conception of Christianity onto a foreign culture (exchanging empire for empire)? Were they there to persuade others that Islam is absolutely wrong and Christianity absolutely right? Were they there to promote freedom of knowledge and access to the Bible to those who desired it?

I don't know what to think. I am pained by the hatred of the terror and violence. But the history of Christianity is seeped in the tradition of imposing one version of empire onto another's. I am supportive of tolerance and respect for other cultures, but then wonder how to spread the hope of Christ in a way that continues to be loving and respectful. Subversion and tolerance - is there a balance? Should there be?

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