As I am getting ready to embark on a new sermon series called, The Politics of Jesus, I am wanting to use my social media platform to test some of my thoughts before I take them to the pulpit.
Spoiler Alert: Before we start, let me state that when we talk about the politics of Jesus, we need to make sure not to box Christ into our conceptions and political ideals. Meaning, we must extricate ourselves and our minds from the American, British or whatever political system you happen to be a citizen of.
If we are going to ask ourselves about Jesus particular political positions, we must try and comprehend it from a multivariate analysis and with fresh baby skin. How would you answer the question if you lived in Spain in the fifteenth century or were a field worker in Brazil sixty years ago or a first century Egyptian?
Until we can do that, becoming as unbiased as possible, we have little chance of escaping the bondage and perhaps tyranny of our own isolated conclusions. This is the bubble that so many people live in today. Here, in this ideological space, there is only one reality, your reality and to hell with the rest. When we lack the ability to identify and empathize with someone other than ourselves, we have little chance of ever defining, defending or even finding truth. In the words of Francis of Assisi, “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.” Freeing ourselves from our own ideologies and intentionally seeking to take on another person’s reality and or social space as best we can for the sake of truth is perhaps one of the greatest charities of all.
Bringing it closer to home. Can you imagine yourself as a lesbian who is deeply in love with another woman and is being told that this is an abhorrence to God? Can you feel the pain of perhaps losing the relationship to follow a different path? Or, if you are black and lived in the South during the Confederacy, can you picture yourself as a white slave owner who was truly trying to follow God, perhaps in ignorance to the truth of freedom, but legitimately seeking to be a “good” person? Or, perhaps you are Chinese and were witness to the Rape of Nanking, one of the least known and most devastating genocides of our time. Can you frame yourself a young enthusiastic Japanese soldier, who entered into his countries service with joy and naivete, not knowing that he would soon be hoisting Chinese babies on his bayonet in a macabre game of keep away?
Jordan Peterson, the Canadian firebrand, clinical psychologist whom I saw two nights ago at the Balboa Theater in San Diego has an interesting challenge. He encourages people to imagine the worst you. “Imagine yourself as a Nazi” he says. You protest. I would never be a Nazi. Ha! And that is the first step in becoming one he says. Do you think that the fresh faced seventeen year old German youth ever pictured him or herself at the death camps of Auschwitz gassing a Jew. No, most did not. Rather they got their incrementally, step by step.
Back to our starting place for understanding the political views of Jesus. When we demonize those we disagree with, we put a robe of virtue upon ourselves that is self-vindicating, and can lead to immense horrors. By imagining the worst you that you could be and defining the steps on how you might get there, we become a little less stable, perhaps a bit more contrite, can we even say more human. To know your weakness is perhaps your greatest strength.
For our own purposes of comprehending the politics of Jesus, we must realize that Jesus was not an American, having self-limited his divine knowledge (Philippians 2) he probably had no conceptualization of it. No Constitution, no free speech, no Bill of Rights. None of it. Rather, Jesus was a Jew, living under Roman tyranny in an occupied territory. Here, slavery was law, healthcare was non-existent, pedophilia was legally regulated and religious corruption was rife. Now, put yourself there, in that place. A place filled with poverty and misery, a place where public executions happened almost daily and widows suffered in the streets, and ask yourself. What are the politics of Jesus?