Politics, of Jesus?

Politics of Jesus?

Isa 9:6-7
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace .
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.

Just a couple of days ago, Mitt Romney chose his running mate, Paul Ryan.  From the looks of American politics, one might imagine due to the emotions displayed among individuals either for Romney, or for Obama, that politics is some kind of religion or something to stir the American soul…

Concerning religion, what about the politics of Jesus?

I am reminded of a book, by John Howard Yoder, “The Politics of Jesus”[1].  The first edition was published in 1972 and it caused quite a stir in Academic circles.   I have read the book and think of it often when hearing news of our political systems.  It is a pretty difficult read.  For a simplified introduction to the book, I recommend the link to http://perthanabaptists.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/politics-of-jesus-simplified-january-2005.pdf.  You will do well to read this synopsis to understand the political relevance of Jesus before reading the original book.  For plenty of in depth study, the link above will suffice to get anyone who is interested started.

What I am thinking of are just a few things about this man, Jesus, and his influence upon his followers for many years since his refusal to accept, pro bono, the kingdoms of the world offered to him by the chief principality and power that still rules over these kingdoms.  Jesus had in mind a Kingdom of a different sort, a Kingdom not of this world.  However, this Kingdom did affect and radically change political systems of his day and the times that followed him, and still does radicality affect those politics as a result of those truly following him.

Are Jesus’ followers to be conformists to the state, whichever state they find themselves living in, or are they to be radicals who follow the social ethics of Jesus?  Should Christians in the United States kill Christians in Germany in WWII, and vica versa?  How about Christians in the United States killing each other in the Civil war?  What about Christians in the United States killing each other in Iraq?  Should Christians kill their enemies or love them?  Which is it?  The way I view it, they are to be radicals, radically submissive to the political rulers over them, except when those ethics conflict with the powers, as those ethics often do.  I believe the heart of John Howard Yoder’s book, “The Politics of Jesus”, reflect these social ethics.

Does Jesus really have any social ethics, and if so, what are they, and should the world believe in them?  Should the political systems of the world believe in them?  Yes? __; No?__.  To me, the radically of Jesus’ ethics is reflected in the unabated and unqualified, unconditional love, that he exhibited, and advised his followers to practice to all mankind, including his political adversaries.  One might think of this active nonviolent love in the Indian term, Satyagraha,[2] coined by Gandhi.  It was a force of love, a soul force, a force of truth that Jesus brought to this earth and left with his followers.

For over two centuries, Jesus’ followers practiced this force of truth force that changed the political landscape and affected the political systems up until the emperor, Constantine, came upon a novel idea, (however, the same one Satan offered to Jesus),  for altering this nonviolent way by offering Christianity political power.  The world has not been the same since, nor has Christianity.  Early Christians affected the politics of their day by willingly giving their lives if called upon in submission to the way they were taught by Jesus.  They sang worship songs as they were impaled and slaughtered in the Roman Coliseum.  Their songs haunted the political rulers in attendance, who could not sleep well at night because of the willing sacrifices of these early Christians, and the songs of those killed for political purposes and personal entertainment, (like we support today by watching violence on TV and in movies), ringing in their ears.  Early Christians also affected the political systems of their day by their refusal to join the military, if they were Roman citizens who could join the military to begin with.  Slaves and those who were not citizens could not join the Roman military. These Christians dispersed throughout the known world, affecting other political systems too…

To me, counting the cost of discipleship and following the path to the cross Jesus speaks of, and the suffering it entails, IS a result of our submission to God and often results in confronting the powers behind the political systems of the kingdoms of this earth.  It is possible that many in political office are not aware of these powers, mostly fallen, but not completely fallen, (originally created good), but radical submission of Christians and others who have Faith toward God affect the political systems, and all systems, good and bad, for that matter, by submission to the will of God.

What are Christians to do now, in view of our own political systems throughout the world, and in the United States?  Can we place our hope in any political system of this world, or do we need to hope for the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed?  Should we jockey both positions?  Would it be acceptable to have no political preferences at all?

How long would an Early Roots Christian last in political office anyway?  One Christian, that is, who followed the Kingdom come teachings of Jesus….., who dismantled the military, confronted the military industrial complex, canceled all debts, released prisoners from retributive justice systems or instituted restorative justice systems, how long?  Or, who in Biblical terms declared the year of Jubilee? Maybe this realization is the reason Jesus proclaimed a Kingdom to come.  Perhaps Jesus’ system was incompatible with the political systems of this world.  Maybe this is why Gandhi did not hold political office.  Maybe this is why Martin Luther King was assassinated…, and Jesus…, and Gandhi….  A change in paradigm from domination to radical submission, to an adherence to the force of actually loving one another in place of ruling over one another, a soul force or Satyagraha, if you please, would radically affect the world’s politics, over time, Just as Jesus so did…, Over time…. One of the greatest political effects of this Gospel of Jesus is the making of Peace between the Jews and the Gentiles by the abolishment of the Old Covenant law as a way to righteousness.  As Christians began and continued to love one another and their enemies, across political, racial, and nationalistic divides, this world’s political systems were and are gradually turned upside down.  Over time…..Resurgences of nationalism and warfare that is inspired by the Powers is principally an attempt to thwart the political movement Jesus, Tolstoy, Gandhi, King and others who subscribe to this soul force have promoted.

I may not be the only one this year asking questions like this.., Maybe you are also.  If so, I recommend looking into the links above and helping me sort these things out…

Love & Peace,

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

About jcooperforpeace
Spiritual Director, Spirituality of Inner Peace

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