Angelic Troublemakers

The other day I came across this quote from civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (probably most famously known as the organizer of the March on Washington where MLK delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech).

We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers. Our power is in our ability to make things unworkable. The only weapon we have is our bodies. And we need to tuck them in places so wheels don't turn.

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18 thoughts on “Angelic Troublemakers”

  1. Reminds of Bonhoeffer and Barth. Bonhoeffer on the radio in 1930s Germany saying that the church needs to "throw a spoke in the wheel" of the machine, and Barth saying (post-WWII) that the call of the church in the service of the state is to be "a wholesomely disturbing presence."

  2. I hope I'm wrong, but to this point there are over 50 comments regarding the roles women should or shouln't have within the church. Yet there are only 3 on the type of Chriti-Anarchy (as some have called it). proposed in this thread. Is it possible that we in the church of the 21st century are more interested in maintaining our own denominational empires than being a counter cultural "spoke in the wheel" or "wholesomely disturbing presence" in the midst of the dominant world empires around us.
    P.s also noticed theres only a couple of comments in thread on hospitality. Mmmmm. Perhaps all of us who felt outraged enough to whip out our "proof texts" for or against the inclusion of women in all roles within the church, might find some verses to encourage all of us to stick our collective necks into the "wheel of the machine" Maybe then it would be also said of us, that we are those who "have turned the world upside down'

  3. Kris, you may have a point.  I have been struggling (story of my life) with this idea of angelic trouble-making and anarchy.

    In one sense, zealous Christians all the way down through history have justified their efforts to promote various causes on the basis of doing God's work to end injustice.  It always comes down to sides, with each "side" feeling and believing that it is the one which is right.

    In another sense, I ask myself the extent to which I should go in being an agent of change within a group or in relationship with any person who does not necessarily *want* those changes?

    Once, Dr. Beck shared something in a post about his Prison Bible Fellowship relating to peace.  How does a person recognize peace and stand for peace in an often violent, harsh system?  Dr. Beck suggested to the men in his fellowship that they make a tentative gesture of peace toward another person, and if the gesture is received and reciprocated in some way, then there has been an in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.  Presumably, if the peaceful gesture is not received with hospitality, then move on...  I've kind of been hanging onto that thought, for the trying circumstances in which I find myself that press me hard to stay true to myself -- which is Christ at the core, if anything good.

    These thoughts are not really in reaction to Dr. Beck's post here or over the past few days, or to any particular comment made.  I have much more confidence in Dr. Beck's ability to discern well and act justly in response to injustices than I do in myself, frankly...  These are just some of the thoughts that have been running through my mind since reading this post, based on my own personal struggles and experiences.  I probably wouldn't have shared, had Kris not asked (reading my mind, to some extent) since I have arrived at no amazing and too-good-not-to-be-shared answer(s).  ~Peace~

  4. Within the last couple of years, the only missionaries who have knocked on my door have been Mormon; the only "revival" conducted in town involved coming up with cash to pay muscular young men from Texas to present a series of programs in which boards and bricks were broken bare-handed on the theory that would attract young people. Much of the collective conventional church seems to have gone out of the soul-saving business (and related endeavours) and into the business of recruiting and retaining bodies with the ability to pay for instructure and fight like hell to preserve the status quo or return to some idealized version of it. There is very little sense of the forward-thinking missional enviroment in which angels might thrive.

  5. Hi Susan and Frank, I appreciate both of your voices in the conversation. I'm reminded of a talk I heard from Shane Claiborne some time back. In it he said that he felt young people were not interested in joining a church or they were leaving in great numbers; not because the message we were presenting was too hard, but because it was too easy. He felt people were looking for something to genuinly give their lives to. I too struggle with what genuine discipleship may like look in my own circumstances. I have found encouragement in a quote from Mother Teresa. "live simply so others may simply live" Living in a western consumerist society like I do here in Australia I'm bombarded on a daily basis to opt in, so the wheels keep turning. Sometimes maybe Christi-Anarchy can be as simple as choosing to regularly opt out. I think every day presents us with many little moments to quietly or not so quietly  tuck our bodies into places "so the wheels don't turn"

  6. I rightly pass for a Roman Catholic so I have no truck with y’alls denominational skirmishes.  But I am an ardent admirer of both Rustin and Bonhoeffer and it is worth tracing their development from simple ‘troublemakers,’ to activists that put their very lives on the line.  Especially Bonhoeffer who inherited so much Lutheran anti-semitism, as one finds prevalent in his early work, to later becoming such a profound advocate and martyr for Jewish life.   

    Unfortunately, Christian Falangists (in the american metamorphosis) make much use of this ‘angelic troublemaking‘ discourse themselves (like Glen Beck quoting Bonhoeffer on Fox news) and it is sometimes difficult to sort between the angels and the devils.  Seems like everyone has a rage on against the machine these days; and all the while *The Machine ©* is making a killing producing and selling “Speak Truth To Power* apps for my Iphone and importing from China *designer wheel stopping spoke busters* that are perfect for the weekend anarchists! 

    Maybe it’s worth quoting this again form Albert Schweitzer:  “The Baptist appears and cries:  ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Soon after that comes Jesus, and in the knowledge that He is the coming Son of Man lays hold of the wheel of the world to set it moving on that last revolution which is to bring all ordinary history to a close. It refuses to turn, and He throws Himself upon it. Then it does turn; and crushes Him. Instead of bringing in the eschatological conditions, He has destroyed them. The wheel rolls onward, and the mangled body of the one immeasurably great Man, who was strong enough to think of Himself as the spiritual ruler of mankind and to bend history to His purpose, is hanging upon it still. That is His victory and His reign."

    I don’t reckon there will be any *app* for that anytime soon, obliged.  

  7. What about demonic trouble makers who are fully committed to making things unworkable (while pretending otherwise). Who are now dramatizing their individual and collective psychosis (for all the world to see) at the GOP convention in Tampa Florida. Who now have unlimited bath-tubs full of gold behind them and even (especially) the "moral" support of many so called "conservative" Christians, including most/all of those who are associated with the Manhattan Declaration

  8. The last thing in the world that should concern a Christian or the Church is survival in a temporal and worldly sense: to be concerned with this is an implicit denial of the Victory of Christ and of the Resurrection.

    Thomas Merton, from pg. 123 Conjectures Of a Guilty Bystander

  9. Daniel, this was precisely my unrest with the term "angelic troublemaker" -- the existence of a Glen Beck.  Troublemaking to be sure, but whether angelic or satanic is in the eye of the beholder.  As I see it, as soon as rage factors into any troublemaking, the angel has become a devil, the "cause" is suspect, and the danger of losing the inner (spiritual) battle has come into play.  How to be in the world -- engaged as true martyrs (not necessarily bent on self-destruction, but standing courageously as *witnesses* to and for peace and reconciliation)?

    This is no easy thing to discern or live out.  Stay or go -- opt in or opt out?  Speak or be silent?  Stand firm, be a gentle presence -- or both?  These are ongoing decisions, and there is often no single right way for all to choose as their path.  The dynamics of both the external "situation" and the internal heart and mind of those involved often shifts while engaged in angelic troublemaking.  We have to stay alert to such changes, and be ready to prayerfully be moved, change our mind, etc.

    Being aware of injustice and being convicted to think deeply enough to stir one to compassionate involvement, as led in one's own conscience, is a healthy start.  I appreciate the dialogue of this nature here at ET.  I also appreciate the blog host's openness and honesty, and practical example.  That is being a *leader*, in the best sense of the word (which had lost some of its meaning for me over the past few years, not unlike other words...such as "Christian.")

    In discerning who is an angel and who is being drafted into satanic service is simply *kindness.*  If I see that in a person, I have so much more respect and ability to trust them and take them at their word.  Good fruit and all that...  ~Peace~

  10. I very much appreciate Susan’s and Richard’s and others here insights into the struggle. Indeed, how to navigate one’s entanglement with the empire is very problematic.  Maybe it is only a wish-dream to imagine a unified Christianity, it’s people in true solidarity with the powerless and poor, challenging the empire from the countless multitude of crosses that they are hanging from.  Still, as much as I have an affinity with Russian Orthodoxy (I am a painter of Icons after all) if I’m forced to choose then I have to stand with Pussy Riot and against Patriarch Gundyaev and Putin.  But I hate settling for those two options (“Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination.  B. Shaw).

    I reckon it was always so.  The 1st c. Jews could never coalesce around one response to the power of Rome and the influence of Greek culture, and when the ‘radicals’ finally got enough power they hammered out just enough consensus among factions to start a disastrous war with Rome.  The early church was no better.  There never was anything approaching any sort of unity and the first Christian communities absorbed most of the divisions that already existed in Jewish political theology and added some new ones to boot.  The ‘Church” trying to get everybody on the same page of the same bible didn’t help.  And enforcing the creed I still recite every Sunday never brought about the desired unity.  Pumping up the power of the Magisterium in Rome to enforce conformity only sowed deep seeds of resentment and protestant rebellion and added to global warming by chopping up a lot of good trees for firewood for ‘heretics.‘   

    So I guess I must concede that every attempt to trouble the powers of this world will always be contingent, marginal, temporary, and probably doomed to have no recognizable success.  I confess that the empire causes more trouble in my soul than I am ever able to create for it’s machinery of domination, but that is my fault, my lack of faith, my sin, and not the empires.  Damn, it’s sunday and I wish I had better news.  Well, let me at least offer this poem by Les Murray:    

    Church  (In memoriam Joseph Brodsky)

    The wish to be right
    Has decamped in great numbers
    But some come to God
    In hopes of being wrong.

    Goodbye to centrifical force,
    To being than under that horse
    As the poor climbed its every leg.
    The building is an angular egg:

    High on the end wall hangs
    The Gospel, from before he was books.
    All judging ends in his fix,
    all, including his own.

    Freedom still eats freedom,
    Justice eats justice, love –
    Even love. But the retarded man says
    Church makes me want to be naughty.

    In English evolution, we’re money,
    genes to spend in the Darwin shops
    on more genes, till personhood stops.
    Church rose from the original, Jewish evolution.

    Naked in a muddy trench
    With many thousands, one is saying
    The true god gives his flesh and blood.
    Idols demand yours off you
    Blessings all, and obliged.

  11. There are some very good comments here. I know I'm a bit late to this post. As I've said before, I'm beginning to see how pursuing peace and non-violence, in non-violent ways, may be what it all comes down to. We recognize that we (and everyone) have been reconciled to God, then we bring that message of reconciliation to others. -- 2 Cor. 5:18-20

    Isn't it funny how non-violent pursuers of peace and justice seem to cause the most irritation? One of the things that is so effective about Angelic Troublemaking is that it seems to shine such a bright light into the darkness of empire. A much brighter light than a well-armed "peacekeeping" force could ever bring.

  12. Once again Susan I admire your honesty and insight, particularly in the statement- "In discerning who is an angel and who is being drafted into satanic service is simply *kindness.* Just reminded me of two bits of wisdom - "..God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance" -Paul and While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.
    To our most bitter opponents we say: "We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory." MLK

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