In some of my earlier posts, I reflected on a book, Theology & Social Theory, by John Milbank. In this volume, Milbank mentions the ancient Greek tragedy, “Antigone,” by Sophocles.
This play is appealing to theologians because of the tensions between the family units (oikos) and city (polis). Antigone and her sister, Ismene, and their story are the archetypes for this conflict. In order to get a better grasp of what was going on in this story, I decided to dust off my copy of “Ancient Greek Tragedies” and read “Antigone.”
For me, as a Christian, I like to play with this image of tension between the oikos and the polis. It seems that the closest parallel is my relationship with the church (as oikos) and the country (polis). When push comes to shove, where is my allegiance? What powers claim authority in my life? If the two are in disagreement, which do I trust?
When it comes down to it, I don’t believe an answer is as important as the assumptions embedded in the question. You see, the assumption is that there are moments when church and country do clash, when the assembly of believers and the assembly of voters will not agree. This mentality immediately creates dissonance with the reality in which I live.
Just before the Fourth of July this year, a reporter from the Waco Tribune-Herald called our church office. As the Fourth was on a Sunday, he asked me if we were doing anything special to commemorate Independence Day during our service: “Will you sing the national anthem or say the Pledge of Allegiance?” In other words: “Does your oikos serve your polis?”
I told him we weren’t doing anything of the sort. Sunday, the Lord’s day, is reserved for the honor and glory of God. Because when push comes to shove, my allegiance is to my oikos. Does this create dissonance with the surrounding culture? You bet. Is that a tragedy? I’ll let you decide…