Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jesus As President: A Different Kind of Commander In Chief (Caeser), A Different Kind of Politics, following a Different Kind of God

Notes for discussion, Part Two from the book Jesus as President: Politics For Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haws, for Sunday, Oct. 14, 9:30 am at The Welcome Table conversation before communion and common meal.

Jesus As President: Politics For Ordinary Radicals, part two: A Different Kind of Commander In Chief (A Different Kind of Caeser)

“the construction of a set-apart people into a living temple of blessing is going so-so. The solution: God puts skin on to show the world what love looks like. But here’s the catch: the Prince of Peace is born as a refugee in the middle of a genocide and is rescued from the trash bin of imperial executions to stand at the pinnacle of this peculiar people. A strange way to start a revolution…”

1.     The dangerous radical story of Christmas, of Jesus birth...turning the words of Empire on its head: lord, gospel, faith, savior, kingdom, peace. But Jesus didn’t want to climb on Caeser’s throne. He didn’t pray for the world for governments to become more religious, but for people to be a peculiar people in the culture to show the way of God, not just be a better version of the kingdoms of the world.

2.     Politics of Jesus’ time: constant uprisings, rebellions against Rome; the building of Sepphoris, taking land from the peasants, next to Nazareth. Whole towns were destroyed as Jerusalem would be in 66-70 war. Rebels were often violent too, as the Legion was. Some fled and formed totally separate communities like Essenes. John the Baptist setting up anti-Temple communities in the desert baptizing in the river as forgiveness in opposition to the Temple’s rituals of forgiveness (like church and church versions). Also non-violent protests, like the Israelites who protested the introduction of Roman coins with Caeser’s image on them into Jerusalem. Surrounded by soldiers they exposed their necks. The conflict back to time of Alexander the Great’s Hellenistic conquering of the world. Herod the Great, murdering to stay in power, collaborating with Rome. John the Baptist protest against Herod, killed in response.

3.      People flocked to the edges of wilderness, the margins of Empire, to be with John and with Jesus to get Rome out of their system…

4.     Jesus went to the desert for preparation before he began his public ministry. A vision quest. Tempted to be powerful and influential Power-Over in the world….Tempted to produce quick miracles of stones to bread in a time of starvation, but he says we do not live by bread alone (think of that lesson for our work with food). Rome would give out food to calm the masses and distract them with circuses…He was tempted to be in charge of others, to take back the power from Rome, but he knew the stories of his people when Kings became corrupted. Instead serve God, he said, and so Jesus decides to enter his people’s story, identifying with them, not ruling over them, sharing their blood sweat tears and hunger….Tempted to be spectacular, to throw himself off and let angels save him, but he knew God works not through drawing attention to himself but through others.

5.     Jesus would make for a bad candidate, a bad president, a bad commander in chief, nevertheless he was political. He returns from the desert and gives his commencement speech: Luke 4, wearing the mantle of Isaiah: God’s kingdom in the poor, the prisoner, the blind, the oppressed, the debtor. That was his campaign speech. His solution for the people’s oppression by Rome: The sermon on the mount: an alternative economy: “folks coming together, forming close-knit communities and meeting each other’s needs—no kings, no major welfare systems, no presidents necessary. A practice for the people of God, not suggestions for an Empire. Jesus takes his solution not just for people of Israel but for all.

6.     Jesus’ third way response to Empire force, between aggression and passivity, creative response nonviolently: turn the other cheek, give the shirt as well as coat, walk an extra mile (look them in the eye and make them look you in the eye)….letting the wheat grow up the weeds, hard to distinguish the good and the bad, might destroy good in destroying evil…Is realistic about the continuing presence of Empire and its affects, like parable of the sower: so many seeds lost: but “the blessing of the world through the people of God is not like a quick violent revolution that takes over power; it starts small, grows silently, faces setbacks, but nevertheless permeates the world with love.” Oppose discouragement and cynicism. Mustard seed and leaven kingdom.

7.     To be born again is to be born again into a new family, into a new kingdom, new spirit (moreso than an aspect of personal only salvation). Not that his kingdom was not in this world just not of it, but not out of it either, but differently, not apolitical but differently political, in his kingdom we do not fight to maintain the kingdom. There is a yoke to living in this kingdom, but there is a yoke to living in Rome’s kingdom too; choose your yoke. Is your yoke suffering from the weight of the American Dream?

8.     Jesus’ campaign trail: the healing, exorcisms, meals on the shore of the sea of Galilee. People resisted the transformation, tried to trap him with questions like whether to pay taxes or not: give to caeser what is caeser and to God what is God’s: first, equating the two was radical revolutionary stance; second, what was God’s? All of Creation. You weren’t supposed to have Caeser’s coins, and so he exposes the hypocrisy of the questioners….He preaches to his followers also, the disciples, always arguing over who is favorite, all about their needs; jesus says need to serve, rule with a towel to wash people’s feet in hospitality not with a sword; his last prayer, in John, pray for followers to continue being peculiar set apart, not for the world but for those you have given me.

9.     Jesus’ inauguration, not like Caeser’s with pomp and circumstance and show of might and wealth and with displays of religiousity and showing how God is in your side and not your enemies. Jesus’s inauguration is the crucifixion which was written of in mock form to the inauguration of a Caeser: the first evangelist as the Roman centurion in Mark, just saw him at his most helpless, vulnerable, and says truly this is the son of God. The cross is a completely different way of seeing the world. It is the sign of the Empire, power-over; became the sign of God, forgive them, love lasts not evil….The Temple as sign of power and collaboration is broken at time of death, as it was destroyed by Rome soon; the new temple becomes the body, the people, worship not in temples but in spirit and truth…The cross busted God out of the temple, it reflects God as “the wildest being in existence” as Wendell Berry described God.

10.                        Resurrection Appearances as Inauguration Speech: even those who abandoned him are still his, now go do as he did, share the story and the love and grow others like him too, be the new family, new temple, new polis. Be the body of the Anointed and Jesus lives in them.

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