Jesus’s followers seek a “prophet” who serves human desires for control and vengeance: the power his followers think is essential in order to defeat their human oppressors. They forget that the prophet only ever serves the Divine will, which has a vision wider than the cosmos, concerned with re-establishing the harmony that was written into the fabric of creation from its very beginning.
The tendencies of any group of human beings to normalize power and hide harm are themselves, then, subject to the process Matthew’s gospel is describing. The frankness of communication, of subsidiarity mediation and conflict negotiation, the expectation of honest and mutual accountability described here should also be applied, as healthily and faithfully as possible, to the workings of authority, relationship, and power system within the community.
The introduction of radically liberative political concepts has profound implications for how communities understand punishment and vengeance. This particular political moment allows for a reconceptualization of power with regard to racism and scripture.
Without a sustained focus on material inequalities and repressive state power, the conversation on Islamophobia too easily slips into a mealy-mouthed appeal to diversity and tolerance.
God’s vision for reform does not simply replace the one at the center—in God’s vision for the reformation and renewal of the world, the One at the center instead gives their very life and self for the sake of the margins.
The core of the Christian message, that Jesus liberates us from oppression and demonstrates a means of non-violent resistance to evil through his example, is not often portrayed in Hollywood. More often than not, force is met with force, violence with violence. In blockbuster films, explosions, car-chases, and raw spectacles of destruction predominate, and for good reason—violence sells.
This course was conceived as a way to introduce undergraduates to the conversation about religion and politics in Western tradition. I wanted to give them a broad historical overview, with in-depth selections or snapshots to get at ways the relation between religious and political spheres has been conceived in different historical moments.
An article published in the Washington Post this past weekend notes that unlike previous midterm elections, this campaign has yet to see the emergence of a dominant, national theme. No one issue—or even set of issues—has taken center stage, cutting in, through, and across the various races. What we have instead is an election constituted through diverse, often locally- or regionally-defined issues that at the end of the day lack any sort of common ground.
As Christ speaks the truth of his kingdom to power, it is heard as if it were a foreign tongue. In Jesus’s cross-examination before Pilate we see two misunderstandings of the nature of his kingdom and a central challenge of Christian political theology is brought into clearer focus.