Kos and Jesus Mashup #2 — Moving Past the Gatekeepers

In this part 2 of a mashup involving a read of Taking on the System by Markos Zuniga and the life of Jesus, we look at how to interact with gatekeepers. For Zuniga, social change process focuses on changing the conventional wisdom of a particular culture. If you shift conventional wisdom, then change will occur. From part 1, we saw that gatekeepers are those in the media and politics to whom we need to get approval in order to have a voice, to influence the conventional wisdom. Without approval of the gatekeeper, it is normally thought, social change cannot occur.

Who were the gatekeepers in Jesus time? It was those in religious/political leadership in Jerusalem. They guarded access to the temple, and they were able to declare who were legitimate members of the people of God and who were not. Jesus spent time with those who were considered outcasts, rebels, and sinners. These were those who were excluded from the promises of God.

So, what are our options regarding the gatekeepers today? Kos says we can bypass them, crush them, or influence them. Bypassers are those who self-publish their work, either in print media, music, or film. These artists let the media giants know they can do it without them. This scares the media gatekeepers and in many instances they quickly change their tune. Crushers are those that create an alternative to the media source and thus destroy the gatekeeper’s popularity or significance. Influencers are those who threaten the media outlet with irrelevancy. The media outlet must change or lose its market share. These three approaches in engaging the gatekeeper are similar and overlap a bit — they vary in the directness of their approach. What they share is pushing at the media gatekeeper’s fear of becoming redundant.

In a similar way, Jesus utilized these approaches in Palestine. He bypassed the gatekeepers — there were those who were sanctioned to offer forgiveness, to say who was “in” and who was “out”. By granting forgiveness to the outcasts on the periphery of society, who lived outside the religious establishment, Jesus rendered the temple irrelevant. By redrawing these social boundaries, political control passed from the religious establishment to Jesus. Jesus also crushed the gatekeepers — he turned over the tables in the temple as a direct action against the gatekeepers. He exposed, to all who were there, what the temple had become. He offered, in his person, another way. He also influenced the gatekeepers, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. For the most part, however, when we look at the social/political/religious movement of Jesus, the gatekeepers were bypassed. Jesus created a community that no longer required the blessing of those who held religious and political power.

To perform the mashup we must add another element to the puzzle. In Jesus’ day, religion and politics were one. The political leaders were the religious leaders and vice-versa. Today, they are separate. In order to envision what missional engagement for communities connected through social media might look like, we must engage the religious gatekeepers as well. With that in mind, here is a try at a mashup:

Jesus-following bloggers must change the conventional wisdom of the church and the media through creating an alternative message to the status quo of church and culture. As they connect online, they facilitate conversations that threaten to bypass the gatekeepers of traditional church structures. They also create their own media, i.e. writings, music, video, thereby threatening to bypass the media conglomerates as well. In addition, they push the culture to reconsider the practices that do not mesh with the dreams of God for humanity (what Jesus called the kingdom of God) – e.g the activities in society that disenfranchise people. In the end, these bloggers do not have the power on their own to be the “church”, to be the source of all their own media, or to create acts of justice. However, they can push both the church and the culture to listen to what they have to say and move the conversation and practices into more inclusive, just, participatory, and egalitarian directions. In turn, this will transform the conventional wisdom on what it means to follow Jesus.

More to come…

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