“[I] had been living inside their imagination.”

Recently I read the excellent novel Imagining Argentina by Thornton Wilder. The book is set in Argentina under a military junta of the type the United States tends to support in our so-called “ally” countries. People are constantly disappearing, being abducted by agents of the regime, including the wife of Carlos. Carlos possesses a mysterious and wonderful/terrible gift, the gift of being able to see in his imagination what is actually happening/has happened/will happen to “the disappeareds” when their loved ones tell him their stories.

At a particularly poignant moment in the narrative, Carlos comes to a great revelation – that Argentina, under the rule of the junta, is essentially a creation of the generals’ imagination. He realizes the generals are essentially dreaming their very existence, and that “he is living inside their imagination”.

Citing Benedict Anderson and calling the nation-state “one important and historically contingent type of ‘imagined community’ around which. . . conceptions of politics tend to gather,” William Cavanaugh says:

Politics is a practice of the imagination. Sometimes politics is the ‘art of the possible,’ but it is always an art, and engages the imagination just as art does. We are often fooled by the seeming solidity of the materials of politics, its armies and offices, into forgetting that these materials are marshalled by acts of the imagination. How does a provincial farm boy become persuaded that he must travel as a soldier to another part of the world and kill people he knows nothing about? He must be convinced of the reality of borders, and imagine himself deeply, mystically, united to a wider national community that stops abruptly at those borders (Theopolitical Imagination, p. 1).

Cavanaugh posits Christian worship, particularly in imbibing the Eucharist, as the supreme act of alternative imagination. I developed several of my arguments from my last post about the nature of the church as katholikos, as universal-and-local symbiotically linked, from his conception of Eucharist and church linked mysteriously in/as the body of Christ. If our first allegiance is to the katholikos, and not to any nation, state, or economic system, then truly this is subversive practice, indeed – we seek to inhabit God’s imagination, not that of the state, militarism, or capitalism.

I’m not going to say much more than that for now, I just got back from Champaign, Illinois where Derrick Jensen spoke tonight on campus at the University of Illinois, and it’s well past time to sleep. But I wanted to leave you with a couple of questions, which you can feel free to answer in comments or to post on your own blogs, online journals, the corkboards in your dorm rooms, or whatever. If you actually do physically write your response and post it on a corkboard I would love for you to send me a picture.

1. In what ways are your community, whether it’s a faith community or simply the community of your neighborhood/apartment complex/residence hall, being dreamed by the corporations, by the government(s), or by other oppressive forces that seek to exploit or control you?

2. In what ways are you as an individual being dreamed in the same way?

3. What things you experience in your own life, whether in person or vicariously through reading or other media, give you the tools to begin living out of an alternative imagination?

4. Does faith fuel your resistance? If so, how? If yes, why (or if no, why not)?

5. What is something you can do to begin resisting in a new way, right now?

As an aside on that last question, remember that Lent is just around the corner – what an amazing opportunity not just to “give up” something out of some misguided sense of obligation, but rather to deeply examine your life to find a social/thought practice or consumptive habit that is not in line with the values of the basilea of God, to nail it to the cross with Christ, and to celebrate the breaking of its power over you with the resurrection? I’ll post more about this in the future.



4 Responses

  1. 1. Here in Colombia seems to be a polarization: “one is either a uribist or a pro-Chávez traitor…, you can not be both” (paraphrasing something written in a nazi post of war that said: “one is either a germany or a christian, you can not be both). Off course you don’n have to be one of them, but according to the “official colombian-state imagination” is either one or the other.

    2. I’m delaing with this. I hate uribism, but I don’t like Chávez fascist-pseudo socialist way. I used to vote for the left, but I’m feeling pesimistic about sufrages.

    3. Thanks God I’ve found sites like this, but I’m still being a very childly “christarchyst”.

    4. At this time my faith is not so much, and is at a very individual “scale”. But now I’m feeling sure that faith is very important… this is maybe the first step.

    5. First of all, reading, studying, searching God in the everyday life, and then, contacting other people who share this “christarchy” feeling… It’ll be a long road,

    I’ll try to write a little more bout this.


  2. Derrick Jensen? Please write more about him! I love what he has to say, but I think he is very very challenging for Christians. I don’t know many Christians who read him, and I think it could be the start of a very very interesting dialogue!

  3. Competing Imaginations- See this post on my blog for my shot at answering your very, very good (but tough) questions.

  4. […] to relate his right desire to see the church be faithful to the way of Jesus. I’ve written elsewhere about worship as formative of an alternative imagination leading to new ways of living. One of my […]

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