Monday, December 24, 2007

Jesus Politics

I think the point about Jesus being politically active is very, very important. I have only been studying Theology for 2 hours a week over the last 3 months (half Feminist, half Liberation), and am far from a devout Christian, but the paradoxes just seem so profound to me. I cannot understand the Catholic Church's reaction to Guttierez' hermeneutics. They seem set on seeing Jesus merely as a figure of salvation, and nothing more. They base so much of their values and theology on the scriptures, yet see oppression, poverty and vast inequalities as justifiable because, it would seem, of the spiritual justice of the afterlife. Surely any type of contextualisation would allign Jesus politically with some kind of socialism and revolutionary order? If you agree (at least to some extent), what makes the larger Churches ignore it? -Jacob

Well, I think it has to do with how Jesus does politics, which is really different than how anyone thinks we should do politics today. Just to clarify, I am going to be speaking of the canonical Jesus, here, without historic analysis of the text, but resting on the background of the culture of Jesus' day.

First of all, Jesus' politics were what we would call today "church politics". He wasn't interested in confronting the Romans or gentiles at all, whether violently or non-violently, resistance or non-resistance. He just left them alone. He focused only on the political goings-on of the Jewish peoples. He dealt with the Pharisees in Galilee, where that group held a lot of power, and with the priests, Sanhedrin and Sadducees in Jerusalem, where those groups had power. But he never confronted or tried to reform the Romans in any way. He knew that it was God's people that needed to change, not the world.

Then, Jesus himself spoke of moral reform, but worked to replace the Jewish political system. He established a new Sanhedrin by his 12 apostles, and worked to reform Israel by chosing those who were repenting from their sins to be called the "true" Israel through baptism (which was probably just what John the Baptist was doing).

Lastly, Jesus stated that he was completely dependent on God's effort to make this political change. Although he made a clear protest to Temple practices (which was high priestly work, btw), he claimed that it was God that would destroy the temple and not his disciples. The priests thought he was planning on having his disciples destroy the temple (probably the real reason they had him killed), but we have a pretty well attested statment which says in the passive that the temple will be destroyed. In the first century Jewish culture, the passive is used to speak of God.

So what I conclude from this is that Jesus saw a worldwide change being effected from within the people of God, and that the intial work would be eschatalogical and apocalyptic and he was preparing for it by establishing a community of shalom, developed from the outcast which would be ready to take over once God has done his work.

The modern church, therefore, sees politics out of their realm. But they forget about how they maintain the status quo themselves and how they could change the world from within their own ranks. If the church changes, the world would have to change. But since the church is too concerned with having the world's goods and power and good reputation, they will never enact the internal political changes that Jesus' ethic demands of it.

Steve K

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