Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Political Message of Jesus

Hey everyone.

I know that it's been a long time since I posted anything on MidwestMindset but it's mostly because it's been awhile since I've had anything to post about. That changed today when I recieved an e-mail from Matt Jones who is a good friend that is currently touring the country with his lovely wife Steph in a silver Dodge Neon. I'm going to post the e-mail and I beg of you... Please throw up some comments with your thoughts.

Matt Jones to me
2:29 pm (1½ hours ago)
What's up dude. Hey I have a question to fire at you and if you and get some sincere feedback from you and some of your blogging homies if they have time. Since I am computer illiterate, I don't know how to post things for feedback. I had a great discussion about Jesus this morning with someone who is passionate about politics and justice but doesn't believe that Jesus is Lord. Bringing up the idea that I feel that Jesus' message was a political message was news to them. I was downloading the discussion in the shower (of course alone at this point) and I had some things come to mind that I would like some feedback on.

Was Jesus message overtly political (which would mean that he had a intentional political agenda with political symbols and actions) or was he committed to a unique message in which the ripple effects of his message reached the political arena, not to mention all of the other social "sectors." It may seem like a splitting hairs type of question but for some reason it was at the heart of our discussion because then we are talking more about the political aspects and implications of Jesus' message as
opposed to his actual political message. Maybe it is a "both/and" situation.

You know, do we as followers of Jesus want to make political statements with symbols of the kingdom and the love of God and/or do we live out the message the best way we know how knowing that it may or may not have great political implications. Or, maybe these things intersect somewhere in the middle. Like when Jesus does bold things (flipping tables) would you say his motivation is a political message or is he passionately responding in love and obedience to God and it just happens to have political implications or both. What do you think?


At 7/22/2006 6:05 PM, Anonymous Molly said...

No, no way, the message of Jesus is in no way politically motivated. I think He just took a stand and then allowed it to impact all areas of His life--even his interactions with political leaders. And THAT is the model we're to follow--living the life, standing true to our priciples, teaching and telling anyone and everyone. Whether we are "interested" in evangelizing, it's our responsibility to share about Jesus--likewise, whether we're interested in "politics", we (especially as Christians) should be active on at least some level to influence the world around us. That could be a letter to the editor, money to a cause, or not throwing trash out your window...whatever! So basically I'm just saying that Jesus influenced the world around Him...even politics.

At 7/22/2006 10:45 PM, Blogger Dusty said...

Jake is much more knowledgable than I am, as I have tried to read through it twice, but John Howard Yoder's classic writings on Mennonite Theology is called the Politics of Jesus.

I believe (correct me, if I am wrong, Jake), he argues that Jesus message was "political", but not necessarily in the way of American politics. The "politics" or goals and ideals of the Kingdom of God trump any political agendas in this world. However, him claiming to be Lord was political. It did rub people the wrong way, because he claimed authority that had not been given him.

As for any connection to Jesus and American politics, while that makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit, and I have not heard many people I respect offer a good rationalization of why some churches sing patriotic songs at church ever, but that sounds like a bit of a different discussion from what Jones is suggesting...

Basically, I want to coax Jake into a good solid post on this one, because I like reading his stuff, and I miss it!

At 7/28/2006 3:47 AM, Blogger jonny said...

To be honest, I want to argue both viewpoints so very, very bad. But I’ll just stick with one for right now.

Anyways, while Jesus’ message might not have been politically motivated, what he said had political implications for sure. Dusty's right when he says Jesus' claim to be Lord was political. I'm thinking specifically of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but in general, the way his actions fulfilled so many OT prophecy concerning the Messiah had to have raised political red flags all over the political spectrum of his day. Christ was claiming himself to be something that a lot of other political leaders of the past had claimed as well. The impact of his message on the political world of 1st century Israel was enormous, not just within the various factions of Jewish leadership, but within the larger Roman empire as well, starting with Herod in Judea, but reaching to Rome with the missionary work of Paul.

Another point that begs to be made is that the political leaders of Israel during the time of Christ were simultaneously the religious leaders as well. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the leaders of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court for civil and criminal cases – in an age where the separation of church-state would have sounded like crazy-talk.

This why again I agree with Dusty that Jesus’ message wasn’t political in the way we think of politics today in America. We have a highly individualistic, completely liberal (in the old sense of the word), and vaguely democratic form of government that wouldn't have made a lick of sense to first century Palestine. Christ’s message wasn’t Democratic, and neither was it Republican. It wasn’t terribly authoritarian, libertarian, socialist, communist or dictatorial either. It was an odd combination of both reinforcing and overturning the political order of his day. He was both conservative (teaching to give to the state what belonged to the state) and progressive (rejecting the notion that social/economic/political order of was acceptable). Maybe he was just whatever he needed to be when it fit the agenda of his kingdom?

But that doesn't negate the fact that Jesus' message is political in our current climate. Until the eschaton, Christians will always exist in the polis. While there's disagreement to be had on how much participation the church or individual Christians ought to have in matters of state, we can't deny that we exist within a political world. Anytime we say that Christ is Lord, we’re saying that loyalty to Jesus takes precedence over any political allegiance we might have, whether it be to party, ideology or public official. Every act of the Christian exists in the polis. There's no way around that.

So while I don’t want to outright say that Jesus’ message was merely politically motivated, his message did have and still does have political ramifications. Not simply in who we vote (or don’t vote) for, but in our every action within the socio-political context of our day.


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