Several fellow bloggers were a bit miffed at me for posting a quote from Marcus Borg a few days ago.
While my post was not intended as an endorsement of any and everything Borg has ever written, I suppose I understand the concerns of the more Evangelical folks.
My only point of my post was to direct attention to the "political" nature of the words of Jesus as reported by those who narrated his life and work.
Of course, Borg and his company are not the first to note the clearly social and political implications of what Jesus said and did.
I remember discovering the work of the late John Howard Yoder (The Politics of Jesus) many years ago. His words made a lot of sense to me when I was working in downtown New Orleans and they translated well to suburban North Dallas.
I also need to admit that my entire journey has been shaped by the writings of Catholic Liberation Theologians, led by Gustavo Gutierrez (A Theology of Liberation) and the work of the powerful and prophetic Protestant, African American scholar James Cone (Black Liberation Theology) with whom I studied one summer in New Orleans thirty years ago.
Time gets away from a fellow, doesn't it?
Setting aside these now almost "ancient" voices, I turn to post-modern, emergent church guru, Brian McLaren. His latest book, The Secret Message of Jesus, is a page-turner.
I thought what he has to say might go down better with many of my guests here.
For most of my life, I was like an American pastor I heard about when I was visiting London in 2004.
This American-born pastor was being interviewed on British television. The interviewer asked why so many Christians in America unquestioningly supported the U. S. war in Iraq, when that foreign policy (the interviewer felt) was so clearly against the teachings of Jesus. The American pastor seemed surprised and a little offended, so the interviewer explained, "Jesus talked about peace and reconciliation, turning the other cheek, walking the second mile, that sort of thing. How do you reconcile that with your war?" The pastor hesitated a moment and then replied, "Well, the teachings of Jesus are personal. They have nothing to do with politics and foreign policy." When I heard this story, a chill crept up my neck as I remembered saying similar things myself many years ago. Whatever you think about war in general and Iraq in particular, questions abut the public dimensions of Jesus' teachings are worth asking.
I've become convinced that although Jesus' message was personal, it was not private. I've been convinced that it has everything to do withi public matters in general and politics in particular--including economics and aid, personal empowerment and choice, foreign policy and war. The fact is, Jesus called his message good news, itself a public term that evoked the political announcements of the Roman emperors. When they would win an important military victory, they would send out messengers to announce good news. Caesar Augustus, for example, who ruled the empire from 27 BC to AD14, articulated his good news in the is inscription found in Myra, Lycia: "Divine Augustus Caesar, sone of god, imperator of land and sea, the benefactor and savior of the whole world, has brought you peace."
I've become convinced that if the good news of Jesus were carried in a newspaper today, it wouldn't be hidden in the religion section (although it would no doubt cause a ruckus there). It would be a major story in every section, form world news (What is the path to peace, and how are we responding to our neighbors in need?) to national and local news (How are we treating children, poor people, minorities, the last, the lost, the least? How are we treating our enemies?), in the lifestyle section (Are we loving our neighbors and throwing good parties to bring people together?), the food section (Do our diets reflect concern for God's planet and our poor neighbors, and have we invited any of them over for dinner lately?), the entertainment and sports sections (What is the point of our entertainment, and what values are we strengthening in sports?), and even the business section (Are we serving the wrong master: money rather than God?).
In my religious upbringing, I was not taught the public and political dimensions of Jesus' message--only the personal, private dimensions. Yes, Jesus loved me and wanted me to be good to my little brother and obedient to my parents. But Jesus' idea that God loves my nation's enemies, and so our foreign policies should reflect that love--that idea never crossed my mind. At some point, though, I began to get a hint that I was missing something. At that same moment, I think I began to catch a faint scent of the secret message of Jesus.
[From The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything by Brian D. McLaren, pages 9-11.]
Announcement from Duke Memorial UMC
2 weeks ago