Given that the comment appeared a few days after the post, and therefore may have been overlooked by readers, I’d like to bring this discussion back into the main body of the blog and consider some of his points.
Today I’ll consider Monty’s perspective on Rollins’ appropriation of Galatians 3:26-28, and whether this makes Rollins a universalist. First, I’ll quote from Monty’s response:
“I think the philosophical bankruptcy of Rollins’s deconstructionism can be seen most plainly in the quote below. Can someone explain to me how- at any level – the following makes sense?
“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither … Christian nor non-Christian, for all are made one in Christ Jesus.”
Does the conditional nature of the first sentence not negate his second sentence? At one level this is warmed up classic universalism, at another level it is playing games with words- something Rollins is usually adamantly against.”
Yes, I can see how the conditional nature of the first sentence seems to negate the second sentence, which Monty does not reproduce in full, most likely because of its length. The full quote is here:
You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither high church nor low church, Fox nor CNN, citizen nor alien, capitalist nor communist, gay nor straight, beautiful nor ugly, East nor West, theist nor atheist, Israel nor Palestine, hawk nor dove, American nor Iraqi, married nor divorced, uptown nor downtown, terrorist nor freedom fighter, paedophile nor loving parent, priest nor prophet, fame nor obscurity, Christian nor non-Christian, for all are made one in Christ Jesus.
The impact of what Rollins is trying to get across is more obvious in the full quote, where traditional ‘enemies’ are juxtaposed with each other in an effort to illustrate how Christ has broken down the dividing walls between them.
Rollins wrote this in the spirit of Galatians 3:28, which I think he is playing with. Ever the promoter of the parable, Rollins has built much of his work around playing with stories and words. So I disagree with Monty that Rollins is always against playing with words.
I think Rollins’ rewriting of Galatians 3:28 works primarily as a device to get Christians to think about our own prejudices against other groups and to ask ourselves if we are treating them as Christ would.
But Monty is most concerned with the ‘Christian nor non-Christian’ contrast, and quite rightly so, given the nature of Rollins’ appropriation of Galatians 3:26-17:
‘You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’
It does raise fundamental questions about Rollins’ use of this scripture, especially because the writer of Galatians specifically mentions ‘faith in Christ Jesus’ and being ‘baptized into Christ.’
So what does it mean when Rollins includes Christian and non-Christian in his list of former enemies?
- To Monty, and certainly others, Rollins’ inclusion of non-Christian in this list just makes no sense. I can certainly understand this perspective.
- To others, Rollins’ inclusion of non-Christian in this list may seem radically open and encouraging, a recommendation that the church itself should be open to those who directly and explicitly identify as ‘non-Christian.’ Rollins does seem to be implying that the church should not be trying to change non-Christians, it should not be trying to ‘convert’ them. Rather, he advocates welcoming all into a ‘suspended space’ where people can encounter each other beyond the social, political and religious categories we normally box each other into.
- To still others, Rollins’ inclusion of non-Christian in this list may seem imperialistic. After all, why would non-Christians want to be included in this list? Isn’t it rather arrogant of a Christian writer to assume that they do?
I have sympathy for all three of the positions I have outlined above. It certainly would have made it easier to ‘explain’ this quote to Monty – and others – if Rollins had not included the quotation from Galatians 3:26-27. Just verse 28 on its own, even acknowledging that it was somewhat taken out of context for interpretative purposes, could have made his point effectively.
So why did Rollins quote Galatians 3:26-27, and then include Christian and non-Christian in the list?
The best explanation I can muster is that I suspect Rollins is indeed ‘playing games’ with this scripture, in an attempt to get us to ask ourselves how far we are willing to go in our inclusion of the ‘other’ in ourselves.
I don’t think this necessarily makes it ‘warmed up classic universalism’, as Rollins’ wider body of work does not support this position.
Monty raises some other points in his comment, which I hope to consider later in the week.
(Image: from Peter Rollins’ Insurrection Tour)