Third Way Allegiance: Christian Witness in the Shadow of Religious Empire

Tripp York, Cascadia, 2011, reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        York teaches in the philosophy and Religious Department at Western Kentucky U; he asks us to question our true allegiance, to examine our discipleship, to be people who hunger and thirst for justice. He calls us back to the subversion of grace and nonviolence.

        He has moving references to modern day saints whose lives focused on the practice, politics and worship expressions of our faith, a faith lived as a Christian under the post-Christian, religious empire that is the United States of America. The fact that we follow a crucified G-d suggests that discourse about this G-d will be provocative. And his reflections range widely.

        •All creatures are included in G-d’s care; all are on G-d’s heavenly mountain (Jonah, Isaiah 11, Psalm 24)

        •Steve Irwin, the Australian ‘Crocodile Hunter’; Isaiah 11 that dreams of creation with the eyes of a child.

        •Clarence Jordan, farmer, Greek scholar, Christian activist; Jesus’ disciples should not support a political order based on the subordination of some humans to others. Millard and Linda Fuller were moved by Jordan’s vision and started Habitat for Humanity.

        •Dorothy Day who started the Catholic Worker Movement (jailed multiple times)

        •Annekeen Hayndriches, sixteenth century Anabaptist, burned at the stake.

        •Philip and Daniel Berrigan, priests, burned draft files with home-made napalm to protest the Vietnam war. For burning paper, they served time in jail; those who burned human beings were national heroes.

        York points out the irony of a culture that hated eg Martin Luther King, but has made him part of that empire; ‘the best way to deal with a dangerous radical like King is to domesticate him. Give him a national holy day’(p 98).

        And the list continues. But the point is simple: Christians are called to embody an ethics different from others in dealing with enemies: forgive them.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.