1)If Jesus was being ironic and the Kingdom is actually un-Kingdom and his rule and reign are nothing like a King of his day or the Caesar of his day… how would we know?
2)Does the fact that the two most recognized symbols of Christianity in our culture are icons that represent Mosaic Law and Roman Violence? Does that signal anything about our brand of Christianity? The fact that the 10 Commandments and the Cross are the two most visible signs of Christianity… which ,as stand alone icons, are not the problem but they symbolize a Christianity that is legalistic, legislates morality and employs coercive power structures.
3)If we didn’t learn from Jesus what we were suppose to learn from Jesus then our faith might be more Colonial than Christ, more Caesar than covenant love, more strength than sacrifice and more sword than servant.
If someone were being ironic, how would we know that?
How did you separate out what they SAID from what I MEANT ?
If I said something outlandish like “ Of course the church should be in charge! Of course we should kill & violently put down those who oppose us. We have to explode the Holy Land and expel those who who occupy it for it is WHERE God lives!”
How did you pick out my sarcasm and absurdum?
It is because you know me? Did you use the way I live as a lens to interpret?
This brings me to my first suggestion:
Maybe when Jesus said ‘Kingdom’ he meant ‘not kingdom’. and when he said ‘I came to bring a sword’ he meant ‘the opposite of a sword’.* Maybe he was being Ironic… riding in on one side of town on a donkey while Rome’s Man rode in on the other side with a full detachment of powerful and armored horses.
We miss Jesus’ irony because we think as Romans (Citizens of Empire) by default.
This is why people think i am doing a semantic flip when I am not.
I actually think that God is weak. I think God loves weakness and I think that God works weakly… through us.
I am not being ironic about that.
Jesus ‘sword’ that ‘divides up families’ does the opposite of what real swords do which is to defend one’s OWN family and countrymen and make people do what YOU want them to.
“What rises up in majesty from the cross is not a show of might but rather forgiveness, not power but a protest against the unjust execution of a just man, a great prophetic “no” to injustice and persecution, a prophetic death rather than a sacrificial exchange that buys a celestial reward. Something unconditional lays claim to us in that weakness – something unconditional but without an exercise of force. He is tried, convicted, tortured, and paraded though the streets in shame on the way to a particularly gruesome public execution, although a common enough display of imperial power in the Roman world.” – John Caputo
I don’t mind Paradox & Mystery – I believe in those things. but I am not going to play that card for an Imperial Lens or Antiquated Construct.
So let me just ask you the question: Do you think that God is really strong and just ‘playing’ weak as “self-limitation” ? So far, this seems to be the line that people are comfortable going to. And I get that. That is the God that I grew up with and preached for 15 years. I know him well. There is built into that ,however, a dichotomy – a binary implication that leads to round and round arguments that last for centuries and show no sign of resolving. ** ( Us – them, either -or, in -out, Calvinist – Arminian, etc.)
I’m not sure that it holds together either philosophically or experientially but – I get it. I get that conception of God and I understand how that God is compatible with our institutions, denominations and structures. I’m not trying to be a ‘stinker’ for the sake of being a stinker. I’m just saying that it makes me nervous that… well. It seems to me as we conceive of God now, that he is far more interested in helping Christians find their keys than he is in stopping child abuse and domestic violence.
Which leads me to my second suggestion:
There seems to be a fascination in Christianity with restoring the order that is symbolized by the 10 Commandments. This is ironic because they represent Mosaic Law and if anyone has read one of the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the letter to the Galatians, the Hebrews or the Epistle of James you will know that, for the Christian, the Law is … well – to say it kindly – not the fullest expression of God’s desire for his New Covenant community.
The other dominant icon seems to the be the Cross. This is ironic because it is a sign of Roman violence and coercive power and domination. I’m not sure that those who wear gold plated – jewel encrusted icon around their neck have thought of this.
But you have to think: it is more that intriguing that the two universally recognized symbols of Christianity in our age are representative of Mosaic Law and Roman Violence. And while someone my protest and say that I am making too a big of deal our of nothing, the diagnostic seems pretty clear.
Is our expression of Christianity rules based and does it participate in militarized force? Or does is legislate & legalize morality and does it baptize violence in the Name of God?
When people think that the Ten Commandments have anything to do with Christianity… and when they think that the cross is just a means to an end…
it is no wonder to me why they refuse to even engage the Weakness of God.
Here is my suspicion:
If we didn’t learn from Jesus what we were suppose to learn from Jesus then our faith might be more Colonial than Christ, more Caesar than covenant love, more strength than sacrifice and more sword than servant.
So what would I suggest in it’s place? Well, I think that one should be The Bowl & Towel. This represents washing feet and a servant attitude. The second is a hole in the ground. It could represent the hole that was dug in the earth for the cross to be dropped in, the hole in his hands and feet and even the Virgin womb that says ‘may it be unto me as you have said’. It represents receptivity and participation.
I know that they may not be as impressive as the classic icons but neither is our gospel as concern with being impressive as the Imperial view of power that it is replacing.
“The kingdom of God is the rule of weak forces like patience and forgiveness, which, instead of forcibly exacting payment for an offense, release and let go. The kingdom is found whenever war and aggression are met with an offer of peace. The kingdom is a way of living, not in eternity, but in time, a way of living without why, living for the day, like the lilies of the field – figures of weak forces – as opposed to mastering and programming time, calculating the future, containing and managing risk. The kingdom reigns wherever the least and most undesirable are favored while the best and most powerful are put on the defensive. The powerless power of the kingdom prevails whenever the one is preferred to the ninety-nine, whenever one loves one’s enemies and hates one’s father and mother while the world, which believes in power, counsels us to fend off our enemies and keep the circle of kin and kind, of family and friends, fortified and tightly drawn.” – Caputo