Friday, April 02, 2010

Living with Colossians in hand

(Photo is taken from Redemption Hill Church website)

Looking at Colossians as a whole and particularly in chapter 1 verses 13-23 led me to wonder how would we make sense of the described ontological condition of the modern world. If God is the primary existence which brought all existences into being, and Christ serving as the initiator, the binding force and as well as the teleological end of all the secondary existences, then the current world that we live in is not as transparent as we tend to recognize, not to mention comprehend.

The World Economic Forum, a prominent network that acts as the ground for international collaboration between politicians, business people, academicians, and other influential people, has this as its tagline, “Committed to improving the state of the world.” On the other hand, we have the United Nations who is “committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.” Yet in this decade alone, we are hit by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression (not least the other economic woes throughout the decades), witnessing a surge in organized terrorism stemming from economic to political to religious and cultural motivation, while facing wildly uncontrolled exploitation of natural and human resources, and experience a widening disparity between the rich and the poor. These struggling global affairs seem endless.

The structures that we have raised for ourselves have so far not giving us the ensured improvement. I have no doubt that organizations like the World Economic Forum, United Nations, and many others are labouring strenuously to bring about progress to the current condition. However, the present state of existence as we are living through daily does not seem to be leading to the corrective route, if any route at all. It just seems that history is repeating itself with the powers adamantly contesting among themselves.

With the text of the Colossians at hand, I wonder if our current predicament is due to a series of negligence of the ontology of our world’s structures as described in chapter 1 of Colossians. Let’s just pick one. It seems that there is neglect in pursuing fundamental questions on the ontological status of all these secondary existences. We still have not seen the ontological questions of the world and the structures within it being addressed widely at prominent settings (a recent rare example would be Rowan Williams’ address at the World Economic Forum, Davos, 31st January 2010). For instance, the economic structures such as corporation values, productivity measurement, consumption of the society, and national growth are too readily assumed to be exclusively assessable only through monetary judgement. Foreign Direct Investment into a nation is often being lured through temptations such as cheap labour and low-cost natural resources. Such national marketing technique avails the country’s own citizens and natural endowment to be exploited by foreign investors. On top of that, these investing companies impose prices of their products into the local market without taking the local cost of living into consideration. In simple words, both the country and the company have taken for granted the ontological status of investment to be primarily monetary. The country exposes her capital to exploitation, while the company just follow wherever the lure is.

If “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1.16) then the ontology of investment is not as resilient as to be led either by the market or the government. It should be the other way around, where the market and government approach investment according to its ontological status. Economic structures such as investment derived existence from Christ and owe its teleology to him. Yet most of these structures as we have them today are hostile to Christ in the same way as we have became hostile to him (Col 1.21). Therefore the same reconciliation that we need is the very same reconciliation these existing structures need. Stature of these structures needs to be re-constituted according to their ontology: How they are meant to be through Christ.

"And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Col 2.15)

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