Who Would Jesus Bomb?

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : August 10, 2006

cover-small.jpgThe Pulse, a local Twin Cities rag has a pretty interesting triad of articles, held together under the theme: Who Would Jesus Bomb? The articles, We are Babylon, Jesus in his time and ours, and Radical pacifists face prison and fines for action at missile silos. The articles raise some interesting points, though I don’t agree with all of them. Basically, they make the point that Jesus was a man of peace for the marginalized and we should be too. They don’t go very much in depth, and what depths they plumb aren’t the ones that I would plumb. The thing I find most fascinating is that the Pulse would devote a cover and three articles to the subject. While the articles certainly rip on fundamentalists (which isn’t surprising) they tend to elevate Jesus quite a bit (except the second article, perhaps).

Is this a sign that folks are interested in Jesus but have rejected the Jesus of the fundamentalists? Some would see this sort of “coverage” for Jesus as a good thing–that people really DO love Jesus, and if only the Church would get out of the way, people would flock to him. Such a viewpoint seems gnostic to me. Can we really offer Jesus without his Body? The Church may suck, but what, pray tell, is the alternative?

Others may see such “coverage” as a bad thing–that the Church is caving to popular movements and in-so-doing, they have given up the gospel. Most of the folks that say that sort of stuff are American Evangelical Calvinists for some reason. Probably because their definition of Gospel is uber-articulated. The trouble is, the penal substitutionary view of the Gospel, along with a strong reformed understanding of justification are relatively recent innovations. They gain acsendancy in Europe after the Reformation largely because they fit the cultural mentality so well–the POPULAR mentality. People liked views of salvation that didn’t feel Catholicish and tended to think of things in legal/transactional terms. Today, people like the idea that Jesus is a man of love who purchased salvation by suffering at the hands of evil men. The Pacifist Jesus who took on the sins of humanity (rather than the wrath of God) has a much longer tradition. Anabaptists didn’t invent Pacifist Jesus–he’s been there from the begining. So, while it certainly could be the case that people are watering down the Gospel when they present Jesus as a pacifist, it isn’t necessarily the case.

My own opinion is that people really DO love Jesus and feel like the Church gets in the way…but they most likely love Jesus like they love Dr. King. My suspicion is that these articles show that the people like the Jesus who shows us how to love one another, but probably aren’t interested in worshiping him. My cynical side would probably say that articles like this give people a sort of guilt-release–by simply reading and agreeing with the articles, they identify themselves with the marginalized, absolving themselves from the guilt of the oppressor. It is like the white person who goes to the multi-ethnic church but never makes friends or takes a stand accross ethic boundaries. Such a person can feel absolved from their white guilt because they have taken on a new identity-through-affiliation. And so it is with many who may read this article. They read and agree…and therefore aren’t part of the evil machine. Never mind that their nylon-blend clothing, plastic ipod and ipod accessories, and hybrid car all thrive upon oil purchased with blood.

Jesus didn’t die to simply show us an ethic of love. Jesus shows us a way of love, tis true. But he is the way of love. He calls us to follow him, no doubt, but to center our lives around him. He is Yahweh to us. Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. If we love pacifist Jesus, we can’t simply extricate ourselves from the evil machine by agreeing that the machine is evil. Nor can we be Christians simply by agreeing with a certain set of ideas. If we want to identify with this Man who stands against evil (even as he absorbs the evil in his death) we must give ourselves to Him and his cause. We need to take up the cross. We can’t simply avoid evil and injustice and unrighteousness, we must become peacemakers and lovebringers.

How do we do that? Please comment with your ideas. I’ll come up with some ideas of my own for the next post.

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5 Responses to “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”

  1. jr on August 10th, 2006 4:14 pm

    in my opinion, the pulse articles are not designed to spread the love of Jesus. they are not designed to bring people to Jesus. they are designed to tell the republicans that they are wrong and that the democrats are right. the writers of the article are not attempting to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. rather, they see the world through the eyes of an ideology, and then fit Jesus in accordingly. fyi, i am against the war in iraq, but find this use of Jesus annoying.

  2. Van S on August 10th, 2006 4:30 pm

    jr, you are probably right. But Jesus is elevated nonetheless…not in a “Christian” way per se, but as though he were a Great precursor to Gandhi. The thing I’m more interested in is the reader’s response to Jesus, as depicted in the article.

    I am against the war in Iraq because I follow Jesus, not the other way around. Anytime Jesus is used as a political tool, it pretty much pisses me off. That is the great sin of Christendom. And if we end up with a Christendom of the Right or of the Left, Jesus ends up being subordinated to ideology.

  3. RAB on August 11th, 2006 12:07 am

    Do we ever bring anyone to Jesus? I’ve always believed that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings a person to their knees. Do articles, pictures, the GOP, seeker services, churches bring anyone to Christ? Nope. Unconditional love that flows from one person to another. That grabs the attention so the Holy Spirit can go to work. What is the greatest commandment after all? That is why I love Mother Theresa. She figured it out at an early age and continued to her death. You love. Thats all, thats it, just love.

  4. blorge on August 14th, 2006 2:15 pm

    You’ve been tagged, sucka!

  5. Ariah Fine on September 9th, 2006 12:13 pm

    For all the negatives and what not I think an article like this is great. Mainly because it points out that there is another side to this Jesus guy. If anything I think it might encourage some to open a Bible and take a look at the real deal and think for themselves what it’s all about.

    My two cents, I think it’s a good thing.

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