An Ecclesiology of Systemic Isolation

I've been thinking a lot lately about issues or racism and social subjugation. It's actually difficult for me to figure out where to start in order to let you in on the thoughts I've been having so I guess I'll just start from somewhere in the middle...

Have you ever watched one group of people impose dominance over another? Have you ever watched it happen in the context of a system which relies on such a structure, or at least the assumption of such a structure? When a system sets one social body on the underside and distinguishes yet another as elite--whether consciously or subconsciously--and functions in such a manner that opposition from those subjugated is circular justification for the subjugation itself, true resistance is difficult if not impossible without radical disruption to the pattern. Ok... that was a mouth-full... at the risk of being too controversial, let me help you understand...

Think of the debate on health-care reform. Whose opinion is more valued in the conversation by those in power (either for or against)? Do they value the input of people with heath-care? Or do they value those without it? If you don't have health care, then you hardly have a voice in the conversation. You're seen as part of the problem. Your plea for reform is seen as biased and it can even be painted as a cry for a hand-out and therefore a justification of why your voice has been ignored in the first place. If you have health-care, however, then the elites might be somewhat more inclined to listen (though they may just think you're naively accepting the complaints of the biased minority).

As those on the under-side of the conversation might try to speak out, they usually speak out alone. Opposition to a dominant super-power is usually pitiful and rarely presented from a united front. The social body that once existed is dissolved through systematic subjugation. General systemic injustice and racism actually accomplishes the same outcome as that of systematic torture such as that of Nazi Germany or--to offer a somewhat less glamorized example--Chile under the Pinochet Regime in the 1970's and 1980's about which William T. Cavanaugh writes in his book Torture and Eucharist.

Cavanaugh Writes, "while certainly individual bodies suffer grievously, the state's primary targets in using torture are social bodies. Torture is not merely an attack on, but the creation of, individuals" (page 3). In other words, as social bodies are oppressed and singled out and disregarded, they are dissolved into individuals and this is a destructive process. Paradoxically, it works the same with racism. By subjugating a "social body" (i.e. blue eyed people), you actually make individuals out of them and make them incapable of the facility to defy such subjugation together. That's exactly what was going on in this video. When one spoke up, they spoke up alone.

The hope, however, is that the church has the opportunity to be an alternative or even a counter-society. The church can offer a communion in Christ's death and resurrection that is stronger than that of any systemic imagination. The church, in essence, can be the united opposition to oppression.

Cavanaugh goes on in Torture and Eucharist, that the Church (in and through the Eucharist) knits us back together into a social body, yes, but into more. The sort of individualization that is brought about through torture and systemic injustice is reversed. Cavanaugh writes, "Isolation is overcome in the Eucharist by the building of a communal body which resists the state's attempts to disappear it" (page 206). In Christ, we are made one body and the destructive individualization of social bodies is undone. That's it! That's the gospel. It's the bringing together of that which was never meant to be broken through the brokenness of Christ and the remembrance thereof. It's the reconciliation of all things through the self-emptying love of God through Christ who is the radical disruption to the patters of sin and death. It's the undoing of systemic isolation until heaven comes crashing to earth.