Working on the current chapter of my book is prompting me to go all sorts of places that I normally wouldn't. I admit there are times this feels like a bit of a burden, but then I find some truly fascinating things. Like check out the report "Living Faithfully in the Midst of Empire" from the United Church of Canada -- a page linking to the report itself and various appendices is here, and the PDF of the core of the report can be downloaded directly here.
Now, I could go through that document and find ways that I don't think it goes far enough or that I think differently or places where it uses questionable language or whatever -- that's what we wordy types on the left do to each other, right? I could also probably present a case for skepticism based on an analysis of the institution that produced it. In doing so, I would not necessarily be saying much of anything that is terribly specific to the United Church of Canada, just moving forward from a recognition that mainstream churches of any size cannot help but be tightly integrated into relations of ruling.
But even with those caveats, I still find this to be a pretty remarkable document. This report was produced at the request of the highest decision-making body of the largest Protestant denomination in Canada. It has been accepted by that body and is currently the focus of a process of reflection within the church, with another report to follow some time next year. It explicitly names neoliberalism as a central problem of our times and explicitly frames the discussion in the language of empire. It calls for examining our complicity as individuals and the complicity of the church as a whole in empire, and for working to end that complicity and to transform the world. It makes heavy use of the insights and stories both of oppressed people within Canada and partners of the United Church in countries of the so-called Third World to support its call for Canadian Christians to reflect on and work against empire.
Obviously the ultimate meaning of this sort of document comes not from the words it contains but from the ability of people within the United Church to use it as a focus for popular education. And that, I'm sure, is an uphill battle, just because that sort of thing is an uphill battle in any mainstream setting in a privileged country like Canada. Will there be chatter in the pews of United Churches in Sudbury about Canada's complicity in empire at home and abroad? I'm not so sure. But I do wish luck to those who are taking on the task of using this document to engage in practices of transformative pedagogy.