Politics and Religion – oil and water? I don’t think so. Just listen. No matter your particular politico-persuasion the end of the world seems to loom at sundown on National Election Day come this November. Pay no attention to the preachers. Listen to the politicians and pundits.
Since the Dems are not in “primary” mode via an incumbent President, we are left to look over the Republican landscape. My mentor, Dr. Rick Davis, weighs in with regularity on the shape of the events leading up to “selection day.” You may disagree with his analysis but he is a pastor familiar with Baptist politics. Surely in America this is as near a solid pedigree as any other qualification for political observations.
Analysis usually follows the language game that includes, “If [candidate] gets elected then [policies resulting in great cataclysm ensues].” Adjust the content of the brackets when current Republican wannabe’s target our current President. Every telling of the way it will be is couched in apocalyptic encryptions. And there you have it Politics and Religion do mix.
On my too read list is Jacob Taubes’, The Political Theology of Paul. My college friend Guy Rittger sent a copy to me some time ago. He read it and thought I might find it intriguing. A look around my office reveals stacks of “to read” piles. The book was brought to the top of the list for a number of reasons.
My friend Tripp Fuller referred to Taubes in a podcast conversation where the subject was the “radical move of Paul.” Some may remember the brief spell where it seemed en vogue to announce Jesus we love, Paul not so much. In fact, I have seen the blog tour stops for Daniel Kirk’s, Jesus Have I Love, But Paul? A Storied Gospel for the Followers of Jesus. The podcast from Soularize centered on a way some outside of the Christian Tradition are reading Paul today.
Approaching Paul sans any Christian theological commitments seems to have left many interpreting Paul in a way that sees him making the move to appropriate Jesus to a given political context rather than the accusations of gutting Jesus’ teachings in favor of his own vision. Careful attention to some of these insights looks strikingly similar to Kirk’s proposed project as well as that of N.T. Wright in Simply Jesus and Scot McKnight in The King Jesus Gospel. These projects, at least in part, work hard to see how would those living in Jesus’ day have heard the Gospel, Good News. Throw in the regular writing of Andrew Perriman and it seems we are all being encouraged to listen to the past with an eye to the present and future. Our normal way to read is often reading the present into the past.
Exactly how do we hear the current electio-paclyptic references? Maybe we need to hear them as references to how something new would have sounded as Jesus, or Paul, noted things would change. “Destroy this temple and in three days . . ..” Or, “I think that in view of the present distress . . ..” Rather than immediately signal an end of the world scenario where we are left with a Cormac McCarthy styled vision, or for that matter a Will Smith cinematic rendition, what if we all need to come to terms with the “end of the world as we know it.” Our resistance to the future is often tied up in our commitments to the past. We therefore vilify any approach that would stretch us in ways where real transformation may occur, or would be the aim.
Do we not read Jesus striking at the present, as well as the future, when he introduces the realities of the Kingdom of God? And, when Paul attempts to answer the questions of the Corinthians, is he not attempting to help them think in light of the impending collapse of Rome and on its way the destruction of Jerusalem and the attendant social collapse? Maybe Paul was not predicting the fall of Jerusalem, but his own existential experience of following Jesus in the face of those hanging on to the way things were in light of the eschatological event of Jesus needed some focus on the singularity of the Kingdom of God in the face of the sort of transformation the Gospel was bringing to Corinth.
Christian folks, the sort that tend to get up in arms and use apocalyptic references to American elections, should quickly realize submission to the way of Jesus always renders our own visions of the world moot. We really do, or really need to, experience an “end of the world as we know it.” And, by observing where we find ourselves today, wouldn’t it be a good idea to brace for such a needed change?
How do you understand the election-pocalyptic language of American politics?