|"In God I Trust and No Other." So Then, "Who Is This God We Trust?"|
"The words of Jesus tend to “comfort the afflicted
and afflict the comfortable.” - Rev. Saturnia
"The cross is the end to God’s affirmation of man's power structures through
the installation of God’s chosen Son. The cross is the beginning of a power
that can only-and-always look like weakness. It can only look like defeat. It
is almost possible to say that if we want to be sure to know where God is not,
then we should look not to the one wearing the victor’s crown, [the Roman
crown of victory, but the Jesus crown of shame, of ministry to the despised,
to the powerless, to the oppressed.]" - JRDK / [RES]
Yesterday I asked when people say that they "trust in God" just what kind of God do they trust in? More specifically we are hearing politicians proclaiming God's favor by rallying our nation to a violent, un-Jesus-like gospel. Since when does God favor a nation committed to killing their enemies? I know, I know, we've been preaching a violent bible and a violent end to history (known as end-time eschatology) for centuries. As such, these "good" politicians and their followers are simply following a Bible they have been taught and believe in.
But what if I said we've got it all backwards and inside out? Well, it'd be a scandal right? Many would respond by saying that a God who controls everything by using the means of divine (or angelic) wrath, judgment, and condemnation as His major tools towards obedience, is the right and proper view of Scripture. And yet, for many Christians they are questioning these extremist interpretive dogmas by saying, "Not so!"
Rather than describing God as a controlling God many are now re-describing Him as a non-controlling God. And rather than a God of violence He is being thought of as a very-patient, merciful God who acted very unlike what we humans would have done when challenging violence when sacrificing His own earthly life at the Cross. In beholding God in this way these post-Christians are re-interpreting a violent (OT) Jewish bible through Jesus' presence-filled New Testament acts of charity to the oppressed, despised, and pagan teachings of men and women both then and now.
Perhaps then we must ask if whether Israel had correctly interpreted "God's response to force by using force" in the administration of their kingdom? Perhaps this God they proclaimed was actually their own conscious wish to have an all powerful God full of just fury made in their own image, rather than God's true image?
If so, many Christians today see God through a Jesus-lens and not a so-called "bible-lens." (Thus, instead of reading the bible in a flat, literal fashion it is being read using a more rounded, existential or literary, anthropology. One that is still both narrative as well as instructive.) So then Jesus is the lens which is used to portray God by His life's testimony correcting all our pagan, idolatrous, and mimetic images of Himself. Otherwise this (un)biblical (non-Jesus) G/god was a type of God whom Israel needed in order to 'do to their neighbor the evil in their own hearts" (otherwise known as self-righteousness; the prophet/judge Samson would probably be a good picture of this).
So then, the post-Christian portrait of God is One who is Almighty but who also comes to mankind in humility, weakness, and presence (for those looking for a traditional interpretation here it is... an old interpretation with a new spin). But a God who refuses to control us, or our lives, wishing instead to partner with us in the fullness of His Spirit (again, more traditional teachings but this time given a slant toward "Open and Relational Theism" which is more Arminian based than Calvisinistic). A God who seeks just-justice without implementing a discriminating violent justice.
And if this is so, than our presidential candidates, along with the American nation we live in, must come to terms with which God they wish to follow. If choosing the more violent, unjust God than we may expect to sow what we weep (reap). If a more Jesus-like God than perhaps we as a nation might usher in the very Kingdom of God we have all yearned for throughout our lives. Amen.
February 3, 2016
|Ted Cruz delivering his victory speech after the Iowa caucus | Screenshot from YouTube, ABC News|
Iowa, Ted Cruz, and the Evangelical Identity Crisis
February 2, 2016
Ted Cruz ended last night with a yuuuuge victory over Donald Trump in Iowa. (Sorry, had to do it!) Religion played a big role in Cruz’s victory. The New York Times reports that Cruz’s victory was “powered by a surge of support from evangelical Christians.”
For his part, Cruz reaffirmed his connection with his evangelical supporters by invoking divine favor upon his victory. “God bless the great state of Iowa! Let me first say, to God be the glory.”
But I can’t help but feel uneasy about the God proclaimed by Cruz and his evangelical supporters. That’s because, when it comes to their evangelical faith, they have an identity crisis.
The word “evangelical” has a specific meaning and history. It comes from the Greek word evangelion, which means “good news.”
Evangelical has become a distinctively Christian term, but during the first century it was used predominantly by the Roman Empire. In fact, when Caesar sent his armies off to conquer new land in the name of Roman peace, Roman soldiers would announce military strength as the “Gospel according to Caesar.” Rome waged peace through violence. In his book Jesus and Empire, Richard Horsley states that,
In the Roman world, the “gospel” was the good news of Caesar’s having established peace and security for the world. Caesar was the “savior” who had brought “salvation” to the whole world. The peoples of the empire were therefore to have “faith” (pistis/fides) in their “lord” the emperor. Moreover, Caesar the lord and savior was to be honored and celebrate by the “assemblies” (ekklesiai) of cities such as Philippi, Corinth, and Ephesus.
Now, a good Bible believing evangelical will instantly recognize the politically subversive language of the New Testament. In the face of Roman military that brought the good news of “peace” by the sword, the early Christians delivered an alternative message of good news that claimed “those who live by the sword die by the sword.” Make no mistake, their evangelical message was political. They sought to reorder the world, not through Caesar’s military strength, but through Christ’s nonviolent love.
The early Christians subverted Roman violence through their use of language and their actions. They claimed that the good news was found not in Caesar, but in Christ. Christ, not Caesar, was the “savior” who brought “salvation” to the world. People were to have “faith” in him as their “lord.” Jesus was to be honored and celebrates at assemblies, which would become known as churches.
But for the early Christians, words weren’t enough. They took Jesus’ command to follow him seriously. Jesus didn’t lift the sword to defend himself against the violence that killed him, and neither did his disciples lift their swords. Rather, they continued to challenge the Roman Empire’s “good news” of achieving peace through violence. The disciples claimed that true peace could only be achieved by following the nonviolent way of Jesus, whose evangelical message commanded that his follower love everyone, included their enemies, including those who sought to persecute them. In following Jesus their Lord, the disciples were murdered, just like their Lord and Savior.
Jump ahead about 2,000 years to last night in Iowa and we discover that Ted Cruz and his evangelical supporters have an identity crisis. They claim that Jesus is their Lord with words, but not in action. Cruz promises to “carpet bomb” America’s enemies. He promises to beef up the American military, a military that spends roughly the same amount as “the next nine largest military budgets around the world, combined.” The U.S. military is already the strongest military that the world has ever seen.
René Girard wrote in his apocalyptic book Battling to the End that Christians must make a decision about violence because Christ has left us with a choice, “either believe in violence, or not; Christianity is non-belief.”
Christianity is non-belief in violence because it believes in the one true God who on the cross responded to violence not with more violence, but with nonviolent love and forgiveness.
“To God be the glory,” a victorious Cruz proclaimed to a cheering crowd in Iowa. But I can’t help but wonder – what God is Ted Cruz and his evangelical supporters talking about? Because “Hey! Good News! We just carpet bombed the hell out of you,” sounds a lot more like the gods of ancient Rome than the God of Jesus Christ.
As long as evangelicals proclaim faith in Jesus as their Lord, but continue to believe in violence as the way to peace and security for the United States, they will suffer from an identity crisis. And rightfully so, because that combination is not the Good News.