Wednesday, April 04, 2012

An Alternative Lifestyle

Newsweek ran a cover story this week - mostly retread fluff as an excuse to put Jesus on the cover during Holy Week. However, in it Jesus is described as "adamantly apolitical." So, here I am to rant a bit - not about a misrepresentation of Jesus, but certainly about our extreme lack of creativity when it comes to politics.

There seems to be a problem in this country. Well, likely more than one... but specifically we've come to believe that government and politics are synonymous and it's slowly killing us.

Politics means our public lives, the ways in which we get along with each other. Government is simply one way to do politics. Government, no matter what type, relies on power. Tribal governments have a chief or elders, for most of human existence we had kings. Lately we've been experimenting with oligarchies, aristocracies, and various types of democracy. No matter how we slice it, government means power.

Those with power generally do all they can to stay in power - in our unique US context that has come to mean convincing the populace that government is politics; that there are no other options.

This is essentially the situation an intensely political Jesus showed up in. Rome's most successful venture was not its extensive system of roads or its virtually unstoppable army. Rome's most successful venture was its ability to convince everyone living within its borders of its own inevitability. Rome was life and life was Rome.

Into this rather depressed, vagabond population stepped an unlikely messiah who refused to play the game. His politics were exactly the opposite - no power, no persuasion, simply love. Rome did what it do to those who challenged hegemony. If life is Rome and you aren't down with Rome, they take your life.

The thing is, the cat was already out of the bag. Over the next two thousand years the power changed literally hundreds of times. What didn't change was that those who despised power, those who rejected it - they found a different way to live.

The way of Jesus is an alternative politic. The Church was created to be an example to the world of another way to live - one embodying the Kingdom of God that, like Jesus, begins and ends with love. We are all responsible to each other; we were designed that way. But our politics don't have to be those of power and survival of the fittest. There is another way.

Newsweek wanted to distance Jesus from the petty bickering for power that so consumes our nation. There's nothing wrong with that sentiment; the Church has always been at her worst when she was (and is) obsessed with power and government. It's just vitally important that we refuse the line of thinking that leads us to abandon the politics of Jesus for that is the end of hope.

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