As I have noted, I’ve been reading – very slowly – a book by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President. The subtitle is Politics for Ordinary Radicals. The title had concerned me what it might be promulgating, but that turned out not to be a worry. The book is coming from a Christian POV, but not a traditional one.
Jesus for President shows the political backdrop in the early first century and how subversive Jesus was. “Jesus spoke about a throne, and Herod wasn’t on it… His campaign slogan was ‘Jubilee,'” a topic I’ve addressed recently. Here is a brief video of Claiborne [LISTEN].
The book has a lot to say about war and the environment and patriotism, and I hope you read it. Certainly, in the case of the latter, it spurned my post about the American flag. But let me give you just a taste.
I had the profoundly great opportunity to see the late author Walter Wink speak about a decade ago, and his reflection about “Jesus’ creativity in his teaching” was amazing. Claiborne and Haw write about him at length.
In turning the other cheek (Matthew 38-42), “Jesus was not suggesting that we let people sadistically step all over us. When hit on the cheek, turn and look the person in the eye.. In the orderly Jewish culture a person would only hit someone only with the right hand… if you hit a person with the left hand, you could be banished for ten days…”
“When someone drags you before the court to sue you for the coat off your back, take off all your clothes, exposing the sickness of their greed… ‘You can even have my undies. But you cannot have my soul or my dignity.’
“When someone makes you walk a mile with them, go with them another mile… Roman law specified that civilians had to walk none mile but that’s all…” The soldier could get in a bit of trouble if someone literally went the extra mile for them.
There are lots of examples how Jesus was hardly passive, thus clearly inspiring the nonviolent direct action of Martin Luther King Jr and others.
I previously discussed Zealot by Reza Aslan, who is a Muslim. I find it interesting that these two books, even though they come from very different angles, are clearly saying that one has to understand the context of Jesus’ time on earth to really understand parts of the message. From what I know, it’s clear in both books that Jesus was a troublemaker, showed antipathy for the earthly authorities that oppressed people, and was most definitely not a wuss.
Notes on Jesus II. Daniel Nester’s recollections of being an altar boy.