Stay at Home Colonialism

Earlier this week I tweeted the following:

It stems from a realization that despite my best efforts at keeping colonialism at bay, I often hold it so closely, I can’t see it.

In our day and age, colonialism takes on a negative connotation. It refers to the domination and resulting subjugation of one people group to another. It is the overwhelming of the weak brought about by the strong. The destruction of many a native culture has come at the hands and viewpoints of colonists as we have sought to make them like us. (It should be noted, however, that this transformation was and is usually not a complete one. Often “we” make great efforts to ensure “they” don’t actually become exactly like us. Who then would we dominate?) As such, many folks have brought out this darkness perpetuated by the West into the light. Our collective history is one of expanse, wealth, and freedom – yes; but it is not one innocent of racial, ethnic, and socio-economic atrocities.

Intimately linked to this exercise of domination – a global exercise of military, technology, and industry might through governmental agencies – is the religious (specifically Christian) justification pronounced over it. As was recently demonstrated by Sarah Palin, the intermingling of historical Christian identification with the brutal, dehumanizing torture of water-boarding is more or less the natural continuance of colonialism. As has been said elsewhere, in a cultural battle of ideologies, force must be introduced to propagate and legitimize where words and viewpoints will not. Palin’s words are nothing new; much (yet not all) of the colonial tendencies of yesteryear were often both abhorrently thought of as carrying the mantle of Genesis’ imperative to subdue and dominate while being obedient to Jesus’ call to make disciples of the nations. And that is where the problem lies: coalescing the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus with an Empire and its ideology. (This has not always been the case and isn’t a wholesale condemnation of missionary endeavors. Please don’t it read it as such.)

So as eyes have opened and the pendulum has begun to swing the other direction, reflective practitioners have attempted to stay conscious of this colonial posture handed down to us. Be it in the inner city, across oceans, or within the workplace, we have been told to be aware of our tendencies to make the other like us. This form of evangelism (regardless of said evangelisms’ content) is to do violence against the supposed inferior, the unenlightened, the marginal. (Again, let me say that I’m not arguing against evangelization; I am arguing against coercive, dominating evangelization, which really isn’t evangelization at all.)

In my imagination, when it comes to “them”, I generally picture those unlike me. It is generally an image of those outside of my immediate likeness: white, male, educated, middle class, etc. Generally speaking, it is an outward facing thing emanating from me towards those on the edges of my existence. I (wrongly) assume it passes over those nestled within the inner rings of my life: family and friends, children and co-workers. However, as the above tweet gets at, I’ve been realizing the ease of being blind to my stay at home colonialism.

When I don’t listen

When I bulldoze over

When I believe I know the correct fix for another’s problem

I colonize.

When I assume

When I believe the way I feel is how you should feel

When I play the victim when you are hurt

I colonize.

It might not be as overt in appearance compared to governmental colonialism, but the method and result are the same: dominance resulting in homogeneity. I destroy any possibility of unity within and because of diversity.

This stay at home colonization hit directly at home within the past few weeks. My wife was dealing with some of the situations life has handed us in a manner I deemed unfit. I felt helpless in fixing the situation because her reactions were not the way I would have reacted, dealt with, and pushed through. Instead of listening there was assumptive silence; instead of love there was coercion; instead of space given there was space taken. In short, rather than allow room for mutuality, I had inserted my unshared view as the correct, proper one.

Once we actually discussed things and I opened my ears to her voice and heart, things made sense. Reconciliation was made; forgiveness was handed out en masse. In this case, my extroversion (along with other factors) had blinded me to her introversion. And in the process, I have been brought further down the road of love and mutuality.

To be honest, I don’t know how to eliminate these colonizing tendencies and postures – both at home and elsewhere – beyond confessing them and asking for forgiveness.

And within that, I look forward to the day when my stay at home colonialism will be no more.

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5 thoughts on “Stay at Home Colonialism

      • • How do the strong overwhelm the
        the weak?
        • How do I go about conducting research of how the destruction of many native cultures came at the hands and viewpoints of colonists?
        • Was seeking to make ‘them’ like the colonists the only reason many native cultures experienced destruction at the hands and viewpoints of colonists?
        • What were the other reasons native cultures experienced destruction at the hands and viewpoints of colonists?
        • What are some of the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic atrocities In our collective history?

        To many innocent racial, ethnic and marginalized people the ‘freedom to expand empire’ is a euphemism for the license to kill, enslave, wage war, extract wealth and the means for them to survive.
        A cult of personalities and scriptural interpretation, specifically ‘Christian’, blesses, supports and continues to pronounce justification of domination; a global exercise of military, technology, and industry might through governmental agencies. Business as usual.
        The colonialists of yesteryear and the colonialists of now are carrying out the mandates of empire as assuredly as you are putting gas in your tank!
        Responsibility to subdue and dominate while being obedient to Jesus’ call to make disciples of the nations has unspoken entitlements!
        Missionaries made inroads to reach the heathens w/ sincere intentions to save their souls. Missionaries may not have calculated that harm to heathens would be the spreading of deadly diseases or outcomes of colonization’s uncanny ability to turn good sincere intentions into profit for empires.

        I try to stay thoughtfully focused on this colonial posture handed down to us in the inner city, across oceans, within the workplace and in my home.
        • How can I become aware of what triggers my tendencies to only accept the others like me?
        • How am I going to be less violent, coercive, dominating to the supposed inferior, the unenlightened, the marginalized?
        For sure coercive, dominating evangelization, towards those on the edges of my existence isn’t evangelization at all; it’s soul murder.

        I think that whites, males, the educated, middle class, who assume empires coercion, domination passes over those nestled within the inner rings of family and friends, children and co-workers, ‘my tribe’ etc. have a real wake up call coming. I think we are the new indigenous. Empires are drooling, chomping at the bit getting ready to devour our resources.
        Stay at home colonialism was out sourced a long time ago. We are “them” to empires ‘us’.
        • When governments don’t listen
        • When the truth is bulldozed over
        • When the correct fix for peace is war
        I am being colonized.
        • When It is assumed the way the politicians and lobbyists feel is how the American people should feel
        • When war is declared on a people who are at peace with us
        I am being colonized
        • When there is coercion because of structural violence,
        • When empire applies its dirty boot to my backside I understand that my shared view as the correct, proper one will be ignored.
        The colonizing tendencies and postures will die a horrible death in me only when I can no longer use them because they don’t work for me anymore.

        To be honest, I probably won’t be confessing them and asking for forgiveness until that happens.

  1. Confession is an excellent first step. You might be more honest than you know when you say, “To be honest, I don’t know how to eliminate these colonizing tendencies and postures – both at home and elsewhere – beyond confessing them and asking for forgiveness.” The tendencies that we and postures that we mimic are forms and structures that are far greater and deeper than mere personal motives.

  2. Pingback: Missio Alliance | The Sunday Morning Post, 5.11.14

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