FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Would Jesus Ride to the Conventions?

As the election draws closer, we will hear more and more about the politics of Jesus, as liberals and conservatives jockey to place the shining halo of Christianity over their own heads. Without saying it, they will imply, “Jesus would have voted for me!”

Putting aside for a moment the rudeness of regularly forcing the inert pill of religious piety down the gullet of non-Christians, I think such politics are an insult to the message of Jesus as well.

My hunch is that Jesus wasn’t liberal or conservative in the traditional meaning of those words. “Liberal” and “conservative” are poles on the continuum of our political system. If the system itself is violent and exploitative, then it is not enough to be on the kindler-and-gentler end of that system. That’s like being the nicest guard in a concentration camp.

Liberals and conservatives may seem very different to most of us in the United States, but for “the wretched of the earth,” a U.S. election boils down to whether the poor will be robbed by guns or by economic agreements. In Iraq, for example, Bush’s shooting war followed by neoliberal economics has meant massive civilian death. During the Clinton administration, the harshest economic embargo in modern history peppered with occasional bombings meant massive civilian death. And through it all, the First World continues to extract wealth from the Third World.

This scenario offers us gloomy choices in the short term. So, even as we debate the merits of candidates and vote, we must keep one foot outside the sorry continuum of available options. If being spiritual means anything it means not accepting the societal conditions one has been given.

My hunch is that Jesus would be closest to what used to be called an “anarchist.” Jesus taught that any system of power is violence in the seed. He implied that any economic system that withholds a living wage from the poor is robbery. The original gospel was not meant to become the basis for the apolitical theological gymnastics taught in seminaries, nor was it a scheme to impose sectarian Christianity on the rest of the world. The “good news” the angels sang at Christmas was, “Peace on earth, good will to all!” The gospel is the message that love must reign on earth. For that peace to become a reality, the weak must be lifted up and the mighty brought low.

True Christianity is one voice in a choir that includes the prophetic voices in all religions and among those who reject religion as well. A follower of Jesus is closer to an atheist who serves humankind than a cruel but orthodox theologian who would impose a sectarian image of God on others.

The common message that every human being should be free is terrifying to those in power, whether that power is political, economic or ecclesiastical. Two thousand years of the church’s capitulation to power and privilege does not erase Jesus’ initial call to stand with the poor and naked and nonviolently resist every empire, especially one’s own.

A Jewish defense of anarchy might similarly point out that, in the book of Samuel when Israel wanted to appoint a king, God was not happy. It might also point out that later, in 2nd Samuel, when Israel wanted to build a religious temple, God was not any happier. So in the founding stories of Israel, God rejects hierarchies of power whether national, economic or even religious (perhaps we should say especially religious.)

I know that the word “anarchist” in the propaganda of our acquisitive culture has come to mean a bomb-throwing nihilist, but the word simply means “without a leader.” It is bitterly ironic that refusing to be dominated by a leader is so frightening in the land of the “free.” Obviously anarchy is not ever completely possible in practical terms; it stands as an unobtainable polestar calling us to a world belonging to us all, where no one is slave to another.

The recent Batman movie is an expression our culture’s corporate propaganda against real freedom. The face of anarchy presented is not an actual anarchist like the Christian pacifist Tolstoy, but is caricatured in the painted face of the evil Joker who “simply wants to see the world burn.” The movie perfectly captures the hole in our nation’s view of the world. Those protecting the system of violence which exploits us are seen as saviors; those who would sabotage the systems of our captivity are lumped with the criminals and terrorists.

Anarchy is the visceral longing for a world freed of the chains of hierarchies of power. Obviously, it cannot become a large-scale political system without become a self-parody. And it becomes a nightmare when we try to impose it on the world through violence. In truth, nothing is less anarchical than violence. When anarchists sabotage systems of power or destroy property, they are not being violent. One can only be violent against living beings, which anarchy chooses as life’s ultimate value. When Jesus overturned the tables of the temple, he did not strike the money changers, but he did destroy the vessel of their exploitation of the suffering peasants.

Anarchy is a coin that does not fit any machine just now, but anarchists remind us that as long as we follow leaders who use coercion, our “freedom” is just a slogan. Christianity, like many of the world’s religions, began as a call to freedom. It’s true that in our day, most religions have become nothing more than sacred bunting for systems of oppression, but while their heart is still beating they call us to freedom even now.

So, as a Christian, while the conventions drone on I will be reading the old-time anarchists. Their simple love of humankind brings me to tears, and their outrage against all that shackles the human spirit always makes me shiver. I will remember the union organizers shot by factory “representatives.” I will honor the peasant workers in other countries who have been murdered for standing up to U.S. financial interests. And, I will remember the silence of Democrats and Republicans alike in the face of this oppression.

Finally, I will hear a call from the core of my religion to move beyond the categories of liberal or conservative, atheists or believers, and to join hands with everyone who works for a fairer world.

Rev. JIM RIGBY is pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, (http://www.staopen.com) and a longtime activist in movements concerned with gender, racial, and economic justice. He can be reached at jrigby0000@aol.com.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail