Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jesus Christ is the President

Cross-posted at IntegralChristian:

And Leader of the Free World.

No I'm not starting a Christ in '08 campaign. Nor WWJVF (Who Would Jesus Vote For?) wristbands.

I'm connecting back to the inherently political message of Christianity: Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen is son of God and Lord.

The Greek word Kyrios ("Lord") was used of Caesar Augustus. Augustus was proclaimed in Roman imperial theology and religion as the son of God. Augustus, through Vergil, had his own poetic mythic divinization and proclamation through miraculous birth of his messiah-hood.

The Gospel of Luke which takes place against the backdrop of a Roman worldwide census is a sharp criticism of the Roman way. With all the hustle and bustle and people transfer of human political systems, in a backwater place, away from the noise, in a manager, a child is born, in peace and joy. Life happens away from the human construction of noise, plans, and regulations. The Lord is not the mighty one carrying out a worldwide census to find all the "lost" and tell them of his greatness, but rather the awakened one is--awake in the night of our dark consciousness, awakened to come and save us.

When Christians today say Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is Lord, they miss the radical nature of that comment. We don't live in a world with lords. Other than as a joke of stuffy Englishmen who don weird ass clothing and smoke pipes.

Not lords who actually rule over the earth as did Caesar. Who have power of life and death over the flesh as with Jesus. To say that Jesus is Lord is to say Caesar is not. This declaration is not all Christianity is saying as unfortunately too many liberal progressive theologies and churches have proclaimed. But it is not saying less than this either. It is not simply an abstract religious declaration about the nature of God or the universe in the ethereal realm of transcendence. It is that God is Lord directly here and now.

Jesus, the Crucified Criminal, the one in human form who took on slavery, a shame, an embarrassment, a horror is Lord. Not some nice golden cross somebody wears around his/her neck and waxes lyrical about how Jesus loves them so....

Caesar is not God nor the appointed son of God.

All of the titles used of Jesus ("Prince of Peace", "High Priest") all were used of Caesar.

That is why for the message to be relevant today I say Jesus Christ is President. Jesus Christ is Leader of the Free World.

Meaning our human politicians are not. Meaning the US President is not THE PRESIDENT.

Caesar's theology, however necessary an evil, is war then peace. He is the anointed ("the Christ") one who will finally bring civilization through military conquest. The overtones to today I am making clear: a president who thinks himself chosen by God, with a messiah-like complex who will bring peace and civilization through military intervention.

God's way, in Christianity, is by becoming a slave. (Philippians 2). It is to be crucified and to die in obedience to the will of God, the just one.

These two theologies have always been twinned in the Western psyche. First they fought, then they aligned when the Roman empire converted to Christianity--or was it perhaps Christianity that converted to Roman theology? [See the Pope's latest statements on the authority of the Pope as the continuation of the Roman imperial religious structure today].

Christianity since St. Paul has typically sought to subvert the order of the world for the order of God from within. Often the subversion to Christian ideals became submerged by the order of the world: whether feudal medieval, european nationalist, or American unilateralis. Others have sought not the subversion from within but revolution from without (liberation theology). And still others have denied the "from within" piece, seeking instead an alternate eschatological order, often pacifist in nature (Francis of Assisi, Mennonite tradition, etc.) But generally subversion from within (see the Letter to Philemon). Because for Paul the "present order is passing away."

So Christians use the symbols of their day--"Lord"--just as the ancient Hebrews, their spiritual ancestors did. The Ten Commandments, for example, is written in the structure of an Assyrian legal code, a covenant from the Assyrian god. But again that form for a different end/content.

In other words, Jesus Christ is the President.

Hail to the Chief.


At 11:30 AM, Blogger Shannon said...


This is a great reflection. It is far too easy to forget about the dialectic relationship between our cultures (including our political cultures) and our religious practices. The modern construction of a separation between church and state works so well on our understanding of the world that we project it back on our history and think that our contemporary rules of separation make them separate, but that isn't the reality. This is especially true for a context like the Roman empire, where the political colonization that expanded the empire only worked because religious colonization was a key aspect of it. Why spend money on keeping armies in the hinterland when you can put up temples and force people to pay tribute to keep the order instead? Jesus stood in radical opposition to this colonial control, disrupting those structures and finally subverting the cross to be a symbol of victory rather than a symbol of death

Too much of contemporary Christianity sterilizes and glosses-over this highly political aspect of Christianity. It's interesting to see new waves of Christians from across a belief spectrum are willing to address political issues - sure they may not be as systemic in their analysis as we'd like, but it's hopeful for me that there are people who are coming to understand part of their Christian calling to be to political action.

there's my two cents.

Jesus Christ is the Leader of the Free World.

peace be upon us



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