“Why is this called subversivepreacher?” A friend of a friend, when introduced to a recent post, wanted to know.
Over the years I have heard from people who really do not like the word subversive, it connotes something entirely negative to them. And yet I pair it with what I am and as a descriptor of what I do. Since I am recuperating from surgery and have more time this week, I thought I would share my answer to a friend’s friend.
sub ver sive tending or intending to subvert or undermine an established or existing system or set of beliefs.
The darker side of the standard definition adds “to overthrow” a government or established order. I am not a revolutionary, though by nature and character could become one under the right set of historical circumstances. But then so could you, I imagine.
The aim of this website and ministry is to open the hearts and minds of readers so that newness can drop in. I believe that is what Jesus did with his parables and proverbial sayings — present paradoxes and contradictions to the unquestioned social and religious norms in his day so that the minds of his hearers would either snap shut or suddenly open up. The mental dissonance he created became the pathway for the wisdom of God to enter.
For example, Jesus’ audience hated Samaritans. It was a bitter ethnic and racial hatred with a long history. To tell a story about a “good” Samaritan, whose example Jesus’ peers were to follow, would have agitated and turned off most of his listeners. But some would have had an “Ah Ha!” experience. That is also an example of the thoroughly subversive nature of Jesus’ teachings.
I believe that most of what passes for Christianity today in mainstream religious America, is actually a kind of civil religion that is embedded with the state and worships the nation, and in some denominations, simply worships the institution of the church and its own history. I “intend to subvert and undermine” both of those versions of Christianity.
All of my preaching is aimed toward undermining this domestication of the gospel, and some of my writing is too. I also write poetry and prose that I hope will spark an insight or offer a momentary whiff of the sacred that hides in plain sight all around us.
I don’t know if that explains it to my friend’s friend, but that is how I think about subversivepreacher as a writing and preaching ministry. Perhaps it also makes some sense to you, too.
PS Thank you for the well-wishes, and please know I am recovering well.