Attacking Systems, Not People

I am learning the art of attacking systems. I don’t want to just point them out and walk around with a sign that makes catchy insults about them. I don’t want to just blog about them. I want to shape my entire life that faces into corrupt empires and oppressive systems and refuses to back down to mediocrity and the thievery of free thought.

Instead of attacking systems, I used to attack people. I would make fun of them and mock the stupid things they say. I would say this was sort of the easy way to face into what I didn’t believe in and fight for what I did believe in. When Mark Driscoll would say something stupid that would give some fuel to the fire to launch into an attack to finally announce what I believe. I don’t think this is necessarily bad or wrong all the time, but it certainly does reduce the dialogue to mere insults and childish comebacks. There is very little original thought and everything is reactionary.

Chris Hedges fascinates me away whenever I read his articles. Direct and large attacks are taken at harmful and destructive systems that we all find ourselves caught in or observing. There is something deeply profound about those that can use words to describe realities as opposed to just having opinions about them.

So I am learning to scale back on attacking individuals as if they are the sole problem everything is going wrong. There is large systems at work that entangle us in their large reach. To simply attack the individuals who have lost their ability to think for themselves and allow the systems to do the thinking for them only perpetuates an attack on unknowing civilians.

I have realized though that when you attack systems, you do get just as much flack. People take offense when you attack systems that they find their identity in. People, who have been unable to discover value in who they are find it in what they are told to believe. So they get offended and launch attacks of their own. Very rarely will it be an attack on your system, it will almost usually be an attack on your person. Those that get offended easily by discussions and critiques on systemic realities tend to not be able to think abstractly about their lives. So they speak the only language they know, and attack individuals and hurl insults and accusations. They call people heretics, without having any reasons for what they believe themselves.

So it’s a fine balance to hold. We should stand up strong and fight and live against systems that oppress and threaten freedom of thought. Yet we should be loving and compassionate to all those that are tangled into the tight hold of these systems. Hurling insults at them about being brainwashed and indoctrinated will not change systems, it will just make these people hurl insults back. Then you have a dialogue about nothing. When people attack you, don’t get offended and stoop to the level of individuality. Attack their system without apology and in the same breath; love and spread compassion.

10 Comments

  • Good stuff. I wonder though if “systems” are as ambiguous as it sounds like you’re making them out to be. Systems don’t simply exist in-and-of themselves. They aren’t spontaneously birthed out of nothingness. Rather, systems are the result of the thoughts, plans and actions of real people in space/time.

    So, to add to what you’re saying, I think there is hope for systems to change since those very systems were created by people in the first place. Yet, in the midst of this, I think it’s important to realize that much of the time we are not only victims but perpetrators of these very systems we seek to change and so “attacking systems” must first begin by us acknowledging, confessing and repenting of our own complicity with unjust, oppressive systems.

    Again, good stuff.

  • I like the idea, however, I read the Chris Hedges article and I think that one of the dangers of attacking systems is the tendency to become extreme and look for conspiracy.

    With that said, I agree with the concept.

  • JT, I agree fully. My learning process has only begun because I have had to come to terms with how entrenched into these systems I already am. Unless I can admit that and work from that humility, it won’t get far.

    My issue is though, that while systems were created by people, no one should gain their value from them. It’s those that gain their value from systems that are unable to allow their thoughts and beliefs to be criticized. So do it with compassion and grace, but don’t not do it just because someone is completely wrapped up in a certain way of thinking. It just forces you to build relationships with these people now instead of just yelling that them.

    Kim, I also agree, while I think there is a lot of sketch that goes on in oppressive systems, I don’t think it’s necessarily intentional moves by individuals. I think by nature, oppressive systems hide any reality that hurts its progress, so they are forced to lie about it, so then those that are questioning start launching conspiracies to try an uncover the lies.

  • Hey Nathan,

    This is off topic to your post but I am just wondering why you have a problem with Mark Driscoll? I’ve seen a couple times that you center him out. Is it him personally that bugs you or his teaching?

    To be honest I find him to be spot on most of the time and a very gifted speaker. We listen to him all the time at our small group. I find he has a way of explaining biblical principles in ways that make sense to me.

    I feel he is blessed with the spiritual gift of teaching.

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  • I’ve been known to attack him in a few other posts before, which is why I brought it up in an example. Not really looking to do that all over again.

    I find Mark’s theology, when it comes to gender, women especially, to be harmful and less than encouraging. The way he puts people into gender roles doesn’t help anybody and is far from biblical.

    Though I could probably say just as much good about him as well, he’s a gifted speaker and has created a space for an entire culture of Christians where many pastors have been unable to do that. So it’s probably a bit of both, mostly its his unenlightened view of gender and his insistence that only he is right (mixed with his prideful attitude while he’s explaining it) that is my problem. (Though his entire bit about Avatar was kind of ridiculous too (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cI5GxM4f50&feature=player_embedded) where someone like J Kameron Karter actually gives reasons and academically dissects the movie (http://jkameroncarter.com/?p=56) instead of just saying “it’s bad and evil.”

    I’ve written a few posts explaining what I don’t like about his style and theology, but he is one of the guys that I have to learn to be more graceful with yet still speak out against what he is saying.

  • Hey Nathan,

    I did see that clip about Avatar – not sure really what to think since I didn’t see the movie. I think his theology is strong and I know he has confessed publicly regarding his sins of pride which he needs to do. As far as gender…I dunno, he’s against women in leadership which is open for debate as well…although I think that is biblical no?
    Anyways all told he’s doing way more good for the Kingdom than bad in my opinion.

    thx,

  • Hey Greg, doing good? Of course, I would never discredit the good he is doing for what I think is flawed. I hope someone would grant me the same grace. He has confessed publicly for his pride, but repented? not soo much.

    I’m ok with the debate of women in leadership. It’s not the debate, it’s his putting people into categories (men and women) and literally mocking anyone that falls outside of those categories, as opposed to gracefully joining the dialogue on the debate. It’s his unwillingness to enter the conversation and refusing to dialogue that is hard to deal with. He just makes rash statements, mocks those that fall outside of his version of Christianity and makes very little effort to work alongside of those he disagrees with.

    A few of his more well know things that stick out to me are pasted below. Again, i’m not upset that I disagree with him as much as I think the labeling that he attaches onto gender tend to not help the situation at all, and the fact that he is a jerk about it also….doesn’t help.

    http://www.outofur.com/archives/2006/01/brian_mclaren_o_2.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WPVxndUcHQ

    And his more famous one
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-goldstein/whos-to-blame-for-pastor-_b_33279.html
    Sorry for that link, but the original post that people refer to is down.

  • Sorry, Nathan, what is “the good” that Driscoll is doing? As far as I can tell, being a “gifted speaker” isn’t a moral category. Also, creating “a space for an entire culture of Christians where many pastors have been unable to do that” doesn’t work for me. As far as I can tell, the space he has created is for a culture of Christians to act in an un-Christian manner. Hence, I would even hesitate to describe it as a “Christian” culture but, hey, I don’t want to be hegemonic with my definition of that amorphous label.

    Anyway, don’t feel obligated to respond to this as I don’t want to sidetrack this post any further from the (excellent) topic that is actually its subject.

    (Um… having said that, did your buddy read that Olympics book? Tell him to also look up a documentary called “Five Ring Circus” if he still needs convincing.)

  • I’ll leave that to you to hash out. In the end, I think Mark has flaws like the rest of us, he seems to dance around in his a bit more than normal, but still human.

    John read the book, I sent him an e-mail with your comment, I’ll tell him to e-mail you directly.

    Good to hear from you Dan!

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