The Power of Out-Imagining

Anyone who is a fan of the Narnia stories by C S Lewis, knows that the central character, Aslan, is a lion – but he is not “a tame lion.”  I don’t know what a tame lion might look like but as a child I saw caged lions in zoos and others in a circus trained to do tricks that go against their nature.

Perhaps our history as Christians shows us over and over again as people who have tried to “tame” our faith so that we could live comfortably with it or cage it in order to control it and thus not face its reality.  All that has happened is that we have made it look insipid.  People fall away from the Christian faith and turn elsewhere to find something that will take them to the heart of their need, acknowledged but not always understood.  So we get young men (and women), some of whom have grown up in Christian families, choosing to become terrorists.

A quotation was given to us this week by one of our retreat conductors at Launde Abbey.  I am paraphrasing but he said, “The destruction of the Twin Towers in 9-11 was as evil a things as you could get, but it was breath-taking in its imagination.  The only way to overcome such evil is not to go to war against it but to try to out-imagine it.”

Lately, after having been a life-long Christian, I am really beginning to “get” just how radical is the message of Jesus Christ, when it comes to “out-imagining.”  Turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, doing good to those who hurt you may sound like the first lesson in how to be a doormat.  But history shows that when people have done this, i.e. practiced passive resistance, as in the Salt Marches in India under Gandhi or the work of the African American Civil Rights Movement under Martin Luther King, the world has been changed.  The most powerful witness to this is the very man who inspired Gandhi and King, Jesus Christ, who sought forgiveness for those who were executing him even as they drove the nails into his hands and feet.  He changed the whole world and the course of history forever.

For this radical change to happen however, there has to be a double journey.  That of the individual on the inside and that of the community coming together with the same vision.  It has all gone horribly wrong in history when the work of forgiveness has not gone on inside individuals first.  If I do not turn to God in prayer first and face my old nagging wounds, my bitterness and my resentment that come up again and again; if I do not strive against my own darkness and find the light of Christ and his compassion and forgiveness, I will not be able to be part of God’s solution, his radical re-imagining of the world.  If I take a shortcut and just act out these things with others on the outside without the inner work of prayer, I may end up doing what has so often been done in the past with good intentions, become part of a movement that sets out to change the world for the good but ends up enslaving and destroying everything that gets in the way of my faith, my ideas.

Christ is our model.  He stated that he could do nothing without his Father and often went off alone to be with him in prayer.  Why would we imagine that we could be Christian people without the same practice?