I will be teaching the Netzer Co-op May 17th on “Relocation to Abandoned Places of Empire.” This is the second installment thinking through what this might mean.
Where are these abandoned places? How do we find them? Do we have eyes to see?
The people who first articulated “Relocation to Abandoned Places of Empire” for the new monastic movement belonged to primarily urban communities. They saw the degradation and destruction that industrialization and gentrification had wreaked on their communities. Many places were little more than wastelands where industrial waste and toxic sludge was dumped in many ways and forms. Nary a speck of green could be seen in these neighborhoods.
Many of these places are also food deserts, where food is not available within a convenient distance. Local grocers have been forced to close or move to better neighborhoods. According to those in power, city planners and officials, these places are eyesores, crime-ridden problems that can best be dealt with by turning them into something else for other people with more money. In other words, don’t deal with the problem just move it somewhere else.
As a church, we must open our eyes to these abandoned places and be willing to hear God’s call to uproot our lives in order to embody the kingdom in thsoe places. I want to take this one step further. We should also expand our ideas about where these abandoned places are. Farm policy since the 70s has steadily destroyed the small farms and with it many communities in America. When the interests of large corporations became the center of our farm policy many people and communities were abandoned and driven off their land.
Perhaps it isn’t as sexy to move to some hick town to serve the poor and abandoned. Nevertheless, these are places that God weeps over just as much as ghettos in urban areas. There may be other areas that have been affected by the Domination System that we have overlooked. We need eyes to see and ears to hear the cry of the oppressed that moved God in Exodus to liberate those slaves in Egypt.
Without spiritualizing this idea, I think we must also look around us and see the effects of Empire in our own lives and our neighbors. Suburbia is also abandoned in that there is also a lack of community and connection in those places. Abundance is an illusion when all of our things are destined for obsolescence and landfills. Empire dominates the entirety of our lives and has taken our imagination so captive that it is sometimes difficult just to see its effects. May we be awakened to the reality of Empire in our midst.