Monday, January 05, 2015

Farewell to Mars (1)

Great quote from A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd

Salvation is the kingdom of God. Our personal experience with the kingdom of God (including forgiveness) is our personal experience of salvation, but the kingdom of God is much bigger than our personal experience of it. The problem we have today is that the term “kingdom of God” is archaic and obscured under layers of religious veneer. “Kingdoms” went out with the Middle Ages and we tend to think of the “kingdom of God/ heaven ” as privatized Christianity experienced in our personal spiritual lives. But Jesus was [doing something far more radical when He proclaimed the kingdom of God— he was announcing] that the government of God was at long last being established in the world through what He was doing … in light of this , we need to rethink our lives and begin to live under the administration of Christ.

Perceiving the kingdom of God as an actual political reality is a game changer. Once you see that Jesus has his own political agenda, his own vision for arranging human society, his own criteria for judging nations, then it’s impossible to give your heart and soul to the power-based, win-at-all-costs partisan politics that call for our allegiance . Unfortunately, what I’ve learned through bitter experience is that a lot of people don’t want the game changed. They want to win the game— not change the game.

They simply cannot imagine how God’s will is going to be done if “our side ” doesn’t win the political game. This is the game most of the church has played for seventeen centuries— use Christianity to endorse or buttress a particular political agenda. Christian then becomes a mere adjective to the dominant political noun. What is dominant is a particular political agenda. Politics trumps everything. The political tail wags the Christian dog. Christianity’s role is to serve a political agenda. So viewed through the American lens, Christianity is seen to endorse democracy and capitalism, just as it was once seen in Europe to endorse monarchy and feudalism.

The problem with the chaplaincy view of Christianity is the assumption that the kingdom (government) of God has yet to come. If we think the kingdom of God is still waiting in the wings, then our political allegiance is given to one of the players currently on stage. Christianity becomes subservient to conventional political power, a chaplain to offer innocuous invocations, a lackey to hand out “Christian voter guides.”

But what if the whole assumption is wrong? What if the reign of Christ over the nations has already begun? What if the politics of God are already present? What if the age to come has already been inaugurated (even if far from fully established)? What if Jesus has no interest in endorsing some other political agenda because he has his own?!

That would change everything. And it’s clearly what Jesus believed about what he was doing! If we learn to read the Gospels free from the Constantinian assumption that the kingdom of God has not yet dawned, we will find a fresh, new story. If we let the Gospels speak for themselves instead of hammering them into a sword for our favorite empire, we would see a radical alternative. Once we stop trying to use Jesus to endorse monarchy or democracy, feudalism or capitalism, it becomes quite clear that Jesus was announcing the arrival of the reign and rule of God through what he was doing. (Zahnd, Brian (2014-06-01). A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace (Kindle Locations 1543-1574)).

1 comment:

August said...

Since I doubt this person is supporting a natural aristocracy, I find this problematic because it suggests that during all these centuries no one got it right, yet all this time, there it was.
In my own view, there are people who administrate land, and other resources pretty well, and people who are better off being paid a daily wage because they are terrible at self-discipline. Those who administrate well eventually own, so I could make an argument similar to what this guy is saying, and then point out that oppression in the old regimes weren't systematic but personal, whereas now oppression is systematic. The more powerful can take advantage of the less powerful under any system, but it the Church constantly argued against it, even as many in the Church would end up doing it, because they came into positions of power too, especially in the West.

But it is really hard for me to believe this guy has a coherent world view. If it was there all along, then it was really there all along, and there is no magical alternative that will suddenly appear before us.