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Politics of Scripture

Essays featuring a specific Book of the Bible.

Recent Politics of Scripture

“Christ the King” and the Challenge of Symbols

“Christ the King” on the cross offers a way of exposing systemic injustice by hanging in solidarity with victims of a violent system, but refusing to buy into the same violence that sustains it.

Whose past? Which memories? A counter-reading of Isaiah 65

The promise of a new world, all memories of suffering erased, seems like a gift. But for
whom?

The Postcolonial Temple

An occasional characterization of the Book of Haggai is that it is self-interestedly supportive of the ascendant Persian Empire. I elaborate on this description and then problematize it by demonstrating that this pericope reveals the prophet to be subversively mimicking the Achaemenid imperial metanarrative.

The Timeless Power of Hope

How do we maintain hope in the face of a seemingly unending time of strife, violence, and conflict? Seek out beauty, depend upon hope…and dance, even in the face of unending war. Hope does not ignore the struggle, nor does it free us from the scars resulting from our struggles. The people of Israel will always carry the scars of their trauma with them; yet, scars also signify survival.

Active Compassion, Not Self-Righteousness

The theo-political impulse of this parable is this: one needs to address the inequality of perceptions that manifest both in society and sacred places.

Becoming and Transitioning: Names Then and Now

In the book of Genesis, after the changing of Jacob’s name to Israel, no one calls him by his new name. Instead, the name “Israel” seems to exist as his “true name” and Jacob as his “use name.” “Jacob” is the name that everyone calls him, but he knows that “Israel” is who he really is inside. God has named him “Israel,” and consequently, this will become his legacy.

Naaman’s Healing and the Experience of De-access.

What makes this moment prophetic is that Elisha forces Naaman to experience what it is to be restricted of free access to every place. Through that restriction, Naaman learns what it means to be vulnerable and realizes how powerless people are pushed into much suffering because of restrictive laws. In the experience of powerlessness, the healing of Naaman begins.

Violent Fantasies and the Language of the Unheard

While the Judahites were the recipients of physical violence, they only had the power to return rhetorical, fantasized violence. They were forced to entrust actual retribution to other powers: to God, and perhaps to the Persians (envisioned as God’s agents).

When Anointing One’s Head with Oil Becomes the Problem

A truly progressive society is one that is able to feel the wounds and pain of the most marginalized and excluded. Such a society’s task, consequently, is to heal and anoint the wounded. Perhaps, that task is better undertaken by embracing the work of mourning.

God’s Right-Side Up Kingdom

The God of Israel does not get so caught up in the national agenda that God neglects the prayers of individuals in pain. The best antidote to politics-as-usual is proper worship. Praising YHWH can keep our feet flat on the floor. As we worship the God who sees and the God who acts on behalf of the downtrodden, we seek to become like God. YHWH, rather than the human powers that be, becomes our model. In worship we become attentive to the things that God attends to, such as the grieving woman whose empty cradle signals an uncertain future.

Jesus and the End of Neutrality

To be neutral in this world is similar to being cruel and being, ourselves, the oppressor. Following Jesus signals an end to neutrality.

The Crucial Difference between Hospitality and Solidarity

The concept of “hospitality” is inherently asymmetrical. Ones who see themselves as hosts get to determine to whom hospitality can be offered. Viewed from the guests’ perspective … there is no shared humanity in the unbalanced notion of hospitality.