Our economy was only ever as good as its ability to get bigger and faster. To what can we compare it? There is nothing so precarious as an elite athlete. Capitalism is the structure of elite competition. In such a structure there is a necessary majority of losers. There is the inevitable wreckage of bodies permanently sidelined and discarded by injury. Within the structure those who ‘benefit’ are those are in service of the victors or at least the competitive. This includes the direct losers (one still needs competition to be able to win), the trainers, statisticians, coaches, owners, infrastructure, merchandise, etc. They only have worth to the extent that the athlete is at the very least competitive. The lives of athletes are fully in the service of improvement, of growth. Every moment is accounted for including rest which some athletes schedule in as ‘meetings’. Coaches know this precarity and caught between their ego and the pressure of investors tend to abusive behavior as a means of controlling the athlete and their performance. The elite athlete is not conditioned to be healthy but to be improving at an appropriate rate or be discarded.
A while back I noticed a curious phrase in the Book of Kings. I remember it saying something to the effect of accusing the king of ‘causing Israel to sin’. Such a phrase feels pivotal at this point in our political/historical moment. We are increasingly comfortable naming things like ‘structural violence’ but still tend to collapse into very individualistic based responses. More and more attempts are being made highlight how these appeals to individual actions actually fall well within how the powers of our age organize and communicate. Such a system of placing the burden on the individual offloads any guilt or charge of responsibility from those places and people where power is concentrated. One of the places endorsing the responsibility of individual is the church. The church, broadly understood, heralds the virtue of the individual. This emphasis cuts across liberal/conservative divides as both look to the individual whether for personal, spiritual salvation or in discipleship responding to social injustices. [See Adam Kotsko’s The Prince of this World for how the church’s theological traditions have informed our current understanding of the individual].
[The following was preached at First Mennonite Church in Winnipeg Sunday, January 22, 2017.]
The Book of Esther is a story of weathering a violent world. In the coming weeks we will be focusing on various women in the Bible. We did not have a clear agenda for this series and I wasn’t particularly intentional about beginning with the book of Esther but it is as good as any to begin to think about women in the Bible as well as the experience of women in history and the present. As too many have experienced and as many of us learn too late the experience of women can indeed be that of weathering a violent world.