life off the grid

Hebrews 13:10-16 I’ve been thinking a lot about this passage the past year… what does it mean and what might it look like to live life off the grid, outside of the cushion and exploitation of institutional structures, including the institutional structure of church.

“The altar from which God gives us the gift of himself is not for exploitation by insiders who grab and loot. In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp. The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice for sin. It’s the same with Jesus. He was crucified outside the city gate- that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God’s altar to cleanse his people. So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is, not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This ‘insider world’ is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the city about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God’s in Jesus’ name. Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship- a different kind of sacrifice – that takes place in the kitchen and workplace and on the streets.”

Life off the grid: On the block, sidewalks, streets and alleys. Last night I attended the opening session of the Justice Conference in Philadelphia, about 4,000 evangelical types from around the country showed up. Mostly white as many had predicted. I was a little inspired, but mostly numb to the same ole same ole. Same voices, same presenters from conference to conference. Always white male organized and run, but I attend these faith based conferences as part of my work but also because I’m hoping to learn something a little bit new, or different, or challenging. I hope to hear something that speaks to other human realities. I usually don’t. My colleagues might tell me to stop complaining and do something myself. “Why not bring the new, different or challenging thing yourself?” That could be a fair retort, if I’m invited.

However, one thing I did enjoy last night was the recognition and honoring of several local, mostly unknown heroes and a shero or two, who have been laboring tirelessly in the city of Philadelphia for years. Many of them are known only in their communities. They don’t seek the limelight, they don’t write books, and they aren’t on the speaker’s circuit. Rather, they serve people where they are and nobody makes a big deal over them. They are the justice workers on the front lines doing the hard work not just talking about the hard work. I think of them and others like them, certainly many more women than were recognized last night, who take seriously the challenge in Hebrews to “go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is, not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking their share in the abuse of Jesus. This insider world is not their home, and they don’t take things for granted or go slack in working for the common good; they share what they have with others knowing that God takes particular pleasure in different acts of worship and a different kind of sacrifice – that takes place in the kitchen and workplace and on the streets.”

Orlando Costas once wrote, “Salvation lies outside the gates of the cultural, ideological, political and socio-economical walls that surround our religious compound and shape the structures of Christendom. It is not a ticket to a privileged spot in God’s universe, but rather freedom for service.”  ~Christ Outside the Gate: Mission Beyond Christendom

Let’s go and do likewise.

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About Calenthia Dowdy

Calenthia Dowdy (PhD, American University) is a cultural anthropologist and youth ministry educator who focuses on urban youth and culture in the U.S. and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Alongside teaching, speaking and writing on youth, cities, race, gender, and faith, she serves as the director of faith initiatives at a comprehensive community health center that specializes in HIV/AIDS care