Archive for October 20th, 2009

I’m a little more than half-way through Jesus For President. It’s rough, for a variety of reasons, but I’m pressing onward. Here’s something that struck me as rather poignant today:

These religiously inspired settlers, instead of embodying Jesus’ peculiar society, which is both revolutionary and subordinate, aimed to be solely revolutionary by creating a competing state that would exist on the world’s terms of power and violence. They eschewed the upside down politics of the mustard seed kingdom of God, while retaining the language of piety. They refused Jesus’ call to be a humble people (to the surrounding natives, to say the least!) and instead seized land to colonize. If we look hard, we might find some sincere Puritans with admirable qualities (as with any person or group), but essentially their identity was less in being the church and more in becoming a state with church words and practices sprinkled in.

Some congregations have identified this historical mistake and attempted to correct it. But in many cases, the treatment doesn’t get to the root of power. Take the great project to ‘take back America for God’ as an example. This project, of course, is rooted in the thought that the United States was initially founded ‘on God,’ a seriously contested claim. But even more, this grand goal, while it sounds pious, attempts to grasp power the same way the world does. The American project may have been a result not so much of malicious people as of bad theology–or wanting the right thing but pursuing it by the wrong means.–Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw, Jesus For President, 173*

Indeed. The church must not become a ’state’ with a few church words and practices sprinkled in. The church must be the church, the body of Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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*Unless everything all of us have ever been taught about the founding of America and the Puritan ‘conquest’ and the rather ‘gentle’ nature of the indigenous inhabitants of this place, then there is not a little revisionism in Claiborne and Haw’s words.  Or, to put it another way, while I happen to agree in principle with their thoughts on power, bad theology, and the upside down nature of the kingdom of God, I think that for the most part their interpretation of American history is weak at best. And for all their eschewing of the distinctively American politic that is the democratic process, they seem to fall with a resounding thud on the side of the ‘left’ and are far, far too critical of those, and the positions of those, on the ‘right’. This seriously, seriously impedes the flow of the book and the validity of their argument.

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