"The Politics of Jesus"
With all this talk about "returning to our Christian heritage" from one end of the political/religious spectrum, one wonders when was the last time the Gospels were consulted to determine what the "politics of Jesus" actually look like. But, lest you think this blog is about contemporary politics and the church (that's another blog), my thoughts are really about the "politics of Jesus." I had an eye-opening encounter with the "politics of Jesus" in the eighties when I enrolled in a seminary class at Regent College taught by John Howard Yoder (He wrote a book entitled, "The Politics of Jesus" recently republished in an anniversary edition in case you are confused by my reference).
I was recently reminded of John Howard Yoder the man and the ethic of Jesus he lived and breathed during the teaching of that class. Yoder had the appearance of a typical academic (with apologies to those who are or don't think the average person can pick them out of a crowd of a hundred normal people). Yoder had thick coke bottle glasses and appeared to wear his hair which ever way it happened to fall that morning when he rose from bed (this is assuming of course that academics actually sleep).
When he talked about the "politics of Jesus" in his class, he did so with careful attention to the texts and with the conviction that the church (then and now) has forgotten about the radical character of Jesus' ethic. On the occasion of Jesus' very first sermon according to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells those gathered at the synagogue that the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) had finally arrived. The implication being that wealth and property would be re-distributed from rich to poor. Quoting from Isaiah, Jesus said that life in the kingdom wouldn't look anything like it had until then. At first, the crowd loved it. But, Jesus didn't know when enough was enough. He kept describing the kingdom until some wanted to throw him off a cliff (now there's a model for discerning effective preaching technique!)
Thanks to John Howard Yoder, I was introduced to a "politics of Jesus" that looks alot different from the religious rhetoric I hear from politicians and religious talk show hosts. While I am sure there will be some who will take issue with Yoder's interpretation of the life and ministry of Jesus, I for one am in favor of a "politics of Jesus" that looks like the one Yoder taught rather than the one I see exhibited on the evening news. Thank you Dr. John Howard Yoder for introducing me to "the politics of Jesus" face-to-face.