The Work of the People

SEP 27, 2013 - Visual Epistles

Empire Vs. Community

The pyramid is the symbol of empire. From top down, the view of human nature is given and the bottom must conform. The circle is the symbol of community. We face each other, and are allowed to see God and our humanity through the eyes of the fallible other. Watch the video, consider the questions and join the conversation.


  1. In the beginning of the video, Block talks about “poetry is precise speech.” How are our words and the way we use them be vehicles of freedom?
  2. The symbol of empire is the pyramid where it is unambiguous that the "rich are at the top and the poor is at the bottom." Block quotes the economist, Adam Smith, in saying, “It is the nature of man is to be self-interested and if we all pursue our self interest hen the common good is to be served.” However, Block says that this view of human nature is incorrect. How do we gain a better view of “human nature”?  [Note: Block is paraphrasing Adam Smith (1723–1790) in his most influential book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) says, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”].
  3. What are better ways to describe human goals and aspirations?
  4. Block observes, “Consumerism says whatever have is not enough. Empire says whatever you are is not enough.”  How do we, as Americans, often play into these notions of consumerism and empire?
  5. How has the church done so?
  6. How can we begin to see others in the form of “I am,” i.e. the image of God, rather than in something developing because we do not have enough?
  7. Brueggemann compares René Decartes as a Catholic who emphasized certitude to Albert Einstein who “showed as a Jew that all the infallibilities are fallible.” What is the temptation toward certainty that we often seek?
  8. In what ways can certainty bring harm rather than good?
  9. How can embracing fallibility lead to freedom?
  10. Block says that often development is code for "I want to extract all your resources.” Instead, community is based on faith that faces each other. How is having faith more difficult when it is done face to face?
  11. How is community undermined by a need for conformity?

Questions written by Phuc Luu.

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About Altɐr

We believe there is an alternative narrative to the prevalent narrative of scarcity and fear. We believe God is moving and is behind an alternative narrative of abundance and freedom, a narrative in which fear gets defeated and love wins.

We believe God’s narrative requires we altǝr our perspective, that we step, in faith, into God’s upside down reality. In God’s reality we listen for, live and speak God’s upside down voice of faith, hope and love, not striving for ourselves but serving our neighbor. For all these reasons, this is Altǝr.

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