Friday, July 20, 2012

“Jesus for President”

The Sunday School class I attend each week has spent the last six weeks discussing Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (2008) by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. Claiborne (b. 1975) is also the author of the fairly widely read The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (2006).
During the previous quarter we studied John Howard Yoder’s classic work, The Politics of Jesus (1972, 1994). The content of the two books is quite similar in many ways, and the authors of Jesus quote Yoder repeatedly. But the style of the two books couldn’t be more different. While Yoder’s book is presented in a very scholarly, and somewhat pedantic, manner, Jesus is written in a very jazzy, and somewhat gaudy, style.
As one reviewer has remarked, the design of Jesus for President is “a wonder to behold.” Quite so. I have never seen a book as elaborate (or outlandish?) in its visual presentation. The design is so extreme it is off-putting to some people. But no doubt it is quite appealing to others. (It was most probably designed to appeal to people the age of my older grandchildren much more than to people my age.)
But the content of Jesus for President needs to be taken seriously by Christians of any age. One main point seems to be that the followers of Jesus are not primarily seeking to gain and wield political power in the secular world. Rather, they are seeking to embody a political and social alternative to the dominant society (see p. 228).
The authors conclude that “rocking the vote” may mean “going to the booths and writing in our Candidate, because he doesn’t seem to be on the ballot” (p. 335). But I am not quite sure what the authors are suggesting here. Surely they are not seriously suggesting that that be done literally. But others are.
Bill Keller, an American television evangelist and the host of “Live Prayer,” recommends voting for Jesus literally. On VotingForJesus.com he exclaims,It is time for Christians, true followers of Jesus Christ, to rise up and say NO to satan [sic] this November!” He goes on to say that if God allows the upcoming election for President to be between Obama and Romney, “it would truly be satan flipping a two-headed coin with his head on both sides!
This morning Keller’s website indicates that more than 225,723 people have “committed” to vote for Jesus in November. But what good is that going to do?
True, we need to beware of thinking that any politician is going to be a “messiah.” That is perhaps one of the mistakes the some Left supporters of Obama made in 2008—and that may be a central point Claiborne and Haw are trying to make in their book published that year.
In October 2008 I said more than once that I thought Obama was promising too much (as perhaps most politicians do). And some of his supporters expected much too much. Some seem to have seen Obama as a type of messiah—and his opponents have charged that he had (or has) a messiah complex. Certainly the President has not lived up to the expectations of those who thought he was an American savior.
Our true hope for the kind of change most needed in this country, and in the world, will not come from any politician. That is a major point well made in Jesus for President.

30 comments:

  1. Jesus for President -- Yes, I can truly understand the sentiment...but I am thinking that it still connects with the thinking of those who saw the resurrected Lord on the Mount...those who asked "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6)?

    We face a time that is totally unremarkable in the sum total of our human (un)development: Economic worries, financial intrigue, wars and rumors of wars...good people getting hurt while bad people get the space they need to work out their damnation with fear and trembling. Our Lord knew this was coming.

    But the notion of 'Jesus as President' strikes me as similar to the same notion as, in the Jewish line of thought, 'Jesus as King', or in the early Gentile way of thinking, 'Jesus as Caesar'...or to shock you a bit...'Jesus as Furhrer'...or 'Jesus as Supreme Leader'. Yes, these fit, but because of the stink of human failings, any human affirmation of our Lord's leadership seems to be, as they say in the UK, 'fraught'.

    I am hoping that our Lord's leadership will so disarm us (both physically and spiritually) that we will have to learn new words in English to express what our Lord's reign will mean for us when we stand in that Presence and are overwhelmed with the Awe...

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    1. Greg, thanks for being the first to comments on this blog posting -- and for making such substantial comments as well.

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  2. I can only echo Gregory Hadley's words. Even the Gospel of John, which seems to divinize Jesus beyond empirical recognition, shows him refusing to be king (John 6:14-15).

    I would offer here, off the top of my head, an hypothesis: The major, existential dividing line among faiths and sub-faiths in the world is not so much doctrine, ritual, or belief in a deity, but between authoritarianism and autonomy (Paul Tillich would amend it to "theonomy"); probably a better is "democracy." I'm using "democracy" here loosely to refer to the principle that individuals and communities must take responsibility for themselves and their world, and stop looking for a deliverer. A grownup stops looking for a parent and becomes parent of oneself. Something similar must occur to collectives and communities.

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    1. I meant to say, "probably a better term is 'democracy.'" One should read what one writes before publishing... :-)

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    2. Anton, as I remember Tillich's point, he advocated theonomy over against autonomy and what he called heteronomy. The purpose of faith, according to Tillich, is to break the cycle of autonomy and heteronomy by embracing theonomy.

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  3. There was no "Jesus for Caesar" campaign while he was present on earth. Therefore, a "Jesus for President" campaign is probably not divinely inspired.

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    1. According to John 6:15, people tried to force Jesus to be their king after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, but as you wrote, Clif, it was "not divinely inspired."

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  4. How happy I was to see that you have been leading a study on this book! I read "Jesus for President" back in college, and it is probably one of the few books that has influenced my life more than any other.

    The struggle between political power and allegiance to Jesus as Lord among Christians has always interested me (I too have read Yoder, and while I agree with much of his theology, his writing is so boring!). When I first read "Jesus for President," I immediately began to question—much to the frustration of many of my friends—whether it was even ethical for a Christian to vote. And the most common answer I have received from my friends goes something like this: "Of course you should vote! It's your obligation as a citizen! A vote for no one is a vote for the winner (or the wrong person)!" However, it is easy to make democracy every bit as much of an idol as we make of our politicians. There are many Biblical examples of God's desire for consensus (esp. in the New Testament) and theocratic rule (though I shudder to think of a country run by theocrats), most notably the Israelites' demand for Saul to become king in 1 Samuel 8.

    For Christians to truly be God's "peculiar people" (Claiborne's and Haw's phrase), we are left with the choice of whether or not to participate in the political machine that our "democracy" has become. Is it ethical? Or, like the Amish, should we take no part in such tomfoolery? It is a question with no easy answers, and I appreciate that you have chosen to wrestle with the subject here, rather than offer the easy answers I have been pelted with in the past.

    And Clif, I believe you are mistaken about no "Jesus for Caesar" movement. Much of the pomp and circumstance afforded Jesus by the early Christians was ripped straight from the emperor-worship practices of the Roman Empire (this is discussed both in "Jesus for President" and "The Politics of Jesus"). The Christian greeting "Jesus is Lord" has origins in the Roman greeting, "Caesar is Lord," and even the early church (ekklesia) modeled themselves after the political gatherings inspired by Caesar. Indeed, most of the ministry/teachings/story of Jesus seems to be almost a parody of Roman rule, showing that God makes a mockery of the politically powerful though his suffering servant.

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    1. Joshua, thanks for posting your excellent comments.

      I think we Christians probably should vote. It does make quite a difference, I think, on whether President Obama is re-elected or whether Gov. Romney is elected this fall. But voting is not the only thing, and probably not the most important thing, that we Christians should do to help improve the social order.

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  5. For further discussion along the same lines, I would highly recommend the documentary, "The Ordinary Radicals," which features Claiborne, Haw, and a host of other contemporary Christian voices discerning what it means to live out the Christian faith at the margins of the Empire.

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    1. I didn't know about the documentary; I would very much like to see it.

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  6. Yesterday I received the following (sort of tongue-in-cheek) comments from a local Thinking Friend:

    Last time Jesus ran for President he was crucified!

    Besides, he hangs around with tax collectors and prostitutes...he might be a good Congressman but I doubt he could get elected President! (Winking smile)

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  7. A Thinking Friend in Kentucky wrote,

    "I don't think a Christ against culture approach will help us, Leroy. We achieve more when we interact with culture and lend our weight to people and groups who offer the more intelligent alternatives.

    "To me Obama certainly offers the more intelligent alternative with greater sensitivity to our present global challenges."

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    1. As this Thinking Friend knows well, the traditional Anabaptist (and Quaker) position has largely been a "Christ against culture" approach. And there is, I think, strong reasons for adopting that position. But years ago, as I tried to decide which of H. R. Niebuhr's five positions was best, I realized that I was not completely satisfied with it -- partly for the reason mentioned in the above comment.

      But I was not fully satisfied with any of the other four positions, either. That is the reason I have been drawn to what some call neo-Anabaptism, which maintains some of the "Christ against culture" mentality but also encourages engagement with society and work for societal change.

      As I responded to Joshua above, it certainly will make quite a difference, I think, on whether President Obama is re-elected or whether Gov. Romney is elected this fall. But voting is not the only thing, and probably not the most important thing, that we Christians should do to help improve the social order.

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  8. My Thinking Friend in Arizona who is a retired Baptist pastor wrote,

    "I understand what I believe to be the metaphorical use of the 'Jesus-choice' here. I would be more comfortable with the phrase 'someone like Jesus.'

    "Jesus walked away from the opportunity for political hegemony proclaiming that his kingdom 'was not of this world.'

    "I believe people are becoming more and more aware of the moral and political crisis we are experiencing in this country and are reaching out for better options that we now have."

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  9. Tom Lankford, a local Thinking Friend, sent the following comments by e-mail and gave me permission to post them here.

    "I haven't read this book but I don't think it is in Jesus' nature to be President of the US because he wouldn't defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, he wouldn't be commander and chief of the US military, and he wouldn't protect national security.

    "Jesus has a world-wide concern and to limit him to the benefit of one country is unthinkable. (I don't want to be misunderstood, I do think countries are necessary because they deal realistically with human nature and create a necessary world-wide check and balance.)

    "I don't need to tell you that Jesus' dominion is of the heart and it is the churches' and hence our place to change hearts. . . .

    "Isn't the government's, and hence the President's, job to bear the sword and punish evildoers according to Romans 13, with the House and Senate defining 'evil doing' and the Courts deciding if evil has been done?

    "Of course interstate commerce is a key role for the government as well but beyond these two points I believe government can get very intrusive and/or create to much dependency--and dependency is the tool of evil politicians to get re-elected.

    "Leroy, this is the heart of our disagreement because I believe you think the government should be used as a charitable wing of the church, exercising its power of taxation to force me to be charitable. I believe the government is there to do one thing and that is to protect freedom for all. Your 'forced charity' and give away programs create dependency and enslave people to the government just as you claimed the Salvation Army does in your blog of a few years ago.

    "I will probably never change your liberal mind but where we could probably agree is on good quality and accountable public education like the model of the Livingston charter school in New York, and on limited and accountable charity like the model that Hillcrest Ministries practices."

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    1. Hi Leroy,

      I would disagree with Tom's use of Romans 13 to defend the role of government as sword-bearer. According to Mark Nanos, one of the world's leading Pauline theologians, the "authorities" mentioned in that passage are actually the Temple/Synagogue authorities, and the act of "sword-bearing" refers not to actual violence but to meting out justice according to the sword of scripture (this metaphor is used many times throughout the entire Bible). The passage must be considered within the context of the rest of Romans, and a random chapter about how all Christians should be good little citizens and obey the Roman government because the Roman government was put in place by God is just silly.

      I think many of the people who have posted comments here are far over-thinking what Claiborne/Haw/Yoder were trying to say. They are all thinking within the frame of an actual Jesus elected as an actual President over the United States. The idea that the authors are trying to get at—like your retired Baptist friend in Arizona mentioned—is that the Kingdom of Jesus is indeed not of this world, and that rather than bicker and quarrel over political power, the allegiance of the Christian lies elsewhere. As the Christian musician Derek Webb once put it: "My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man; My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood; It's to a King and a Kingdom."

      This is indeed a very counter-cultural idea.

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    2. Tom, part of my response to you is found on my March 10, 2011, posting, and I would encourage you, and others, to see what I said there about the role of government.

      The only other matter I want to address at this time is your reference to your perception that I think that "the government should be used as a charitable wing of the church, exercising its power of taxation to force me to be charitable."

      The Church, no doubt, can and should do much more than it is doing to help people in need. But in all likelihood it will not do a great deal more than it is doing at the present, and it is almost certain that the Church will not and cannot adequately take care of all the needy people in this country.

      So, it seems to me that the government has to step in and provide help for those who are hurting. I am not interested in forcing you or anybody else into doing "charity." I am interested, though, in people in dire circumstances, people without adequate food, housing, healthcare, etc. getting enough help that they are able to survive.

      And, as we have talked before--and that was the point of what I wrote about the Salvation Army, I think--it is important to deal with the causes of poverty, homelessness, etc, and not just provide "charity" for those who are suffering. But their immediate needs have to be considered, too.

      Today I heard Rush Limbaugh say that the "safety net" that the government seeks to put into place for those who need it is really a "hammock" for many. But I would like to challenge him, or anyone who thinks that those receiving "government handouts" have it so good, to change places with one such person for just a week and see first hand how good they have it.

      So, no, I don't want to force you or anyone into providing "charity" for the "needy." But I would like for us all to work for social justice so some of us don't consume far more than we need while others of our fellow citizens of the country (or of the world) live on the edge of starvation and despair.

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  10. Furthermore, if Jesus wouldn't defend the Constitution against enemies, and if Jesus wouldn't assume command of the military, then why should a Christian? After all, we are called to live the life of Christ, picking up our cross and following him. It is unfair to put Jesus in a geopolitical and philosophical corner that we ourselves are not willing to follow him into.

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  11. How Jesus Finally Became President — The Republican Candidates

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was front-runner from day one. The pundits roundly declared him “Presidential” and it didn’t hurt that he could sit a horse with confidence.
    He had a record that was difficult for opponents to challenge—an honored military commander, a self-made financial success, and a proven leader with a devoted constituency behind him.

    The GOP could tout him as a credible Commander-in-Chief; savvy in foreign affairs; the leader who could bring economic prosperity back to America—for godsakes this was the guy who had turned Arabia around! And afterall who better to confront the terrorist threat?

    On nomination night his delegates chanted, “There is but one candidate!” Some declared that “Muhammad HadIt[h] All!”

    Then he thrilled the convention by announcing the (only slightly lesser) Prophet Joseph Smith as his running mate, and a November victory seemed to be a lock. Smith was a strategic choice. It was known that he could get the voters of key states like New York, Missouri, and Illinois out in the streets, and of course he owned Utah.

    As running mates, the two were totally in sync. Bold and creative, they reframed many age-old political discussions giving them a new spin, or a new meaning, and making them their own. Furthermore, these two wrote (and/or received) the book on family values and good clean living. Case in point: there was hardly enough room on the convention stage when their combined wives and kids crowded together for a smiling wave to the American electorate.

    When the campaign got underway they articulated a clear seven-point platform that resounded with many voters as a refreshing return to practical, common-sense policies. They espoused bringing God back into our schools, strengthening the justice system, and the virtues of various kinds of discipline and abstinence. In particular, Smith spoke out against excesses of vigilante justice and the rising tide of Scientology.

    While their economic proposals may not have been as clearly defined, just looking at the two of them engendered the feeling that prosperity was on its way. A catchy jingle – “Prophets for Profits” – went viral. In chat rooms it was rumored that somehow one of them could find water, and the other one oil.

    As their nominating convention approached, it seemed clear that the Democrats would be hard-pressed to field a pair of candidates with the same sort of charisma and popular appeal.

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  12. How Jesus Finally Became President — The Democratic Candidates

    Democrats are, despite their reputation, down-to-earth politicians. They know that it is not the candidate that matters so much as the machine behind him. No. It isn’t easy to keep dock workers, soccer moms, rock stars, university professors, and Richard Gere under one tent; but if you can pull it off for about 18 months you can just about put anyone you want into the White House.


    That’s why—in the absence of Tip O’Neil—the Buddha was an obvious choice for the Demoratic nomination. “If the suit fits, wear it,” they often say in politics.

    A bit like George Bush Sr., no one really knew what Buddha stood for, and therefore he was unlikely to piss anyone off very much. Those who followed his political career knew the Buddha as a gentle but implacable amorphism who started out in India and then grew a constituency in China, Japan, and eventually even in the West.

    His pragmatic politics of compromise and coalition had allowed him to feed off the energy of Daoism, Confucianism, Asian philosophical wisdom traditions, animism, and ancestor worship; as well as the music of Bob Mould, David Bowie and Michael Stipe. If anyone could hold the Democratic base together it was Buddha. He was everything and nothing at the same time.

    With his consistent serenity and the appealing message that “America Can Be a Happy Land Again,” many Democrats felt Buddha might outlast the GOP candidates in the long game. But few were prepared for what came next.

    “Jesus Christ!” was a common exclamation when John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. Ironically, when the Buddha named Jesus as his Vice Presidential nominee many political analysts invoked the specter of Sarah Palin by comparison. And indeed, apart from his ability to read, Jesus was similar to Palin in almost every way.

    He was younger, more energetic, and far more charismatic than the Presidential nominee. It was clear that from humble beginnings he had been thrust onto the public stage with little preparation— just a rough, provincial upstart with a mismatched little band of confused disciples in tow.

    Despite his questionable pedigree—or perhaps because of it—he often threw caution to the wind, speaking out of turn and voicing controversial views that were off-message and frequently off-putting. Democrats worried that Buddha had chosen a loose cannon, a political liability.

    Like Palin, Jesus was known to make counterproductive statements, some of them perplexing or downright nonsensical.

    For example, while Buddha stuck to his “Happy Land” message, Jesus wept. And as the Republican candidates seemingly glowed with family values and integrity, Jesus was quoted disavowing his family, and advising supporters to leave their families to follow him. He once praised a servant for misallocating his master’s money, and took a soft stance on issues like adultery, prostitution, welfare reform, and equal pay for equal work. No one seemed to know what he meant by, “desolating abomination.” Still, some in the party were drawn to his erratic and controversial style of leadership.

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  13. How Jesus Finally Became President — The Election

    With the two Prophets well ahead in the polls, and the rift growing between Buddha supporters and Jesus fans, the party engaged a team of political consultants to give the campaign a new direction.

    Focus groups showed that swing voters generally saw Buddha and Jesus as “soft, forgiving, and compassionate,” while seeing the Republican candidates as, “firm, masculine, and commanding.” Underlying this perception they discovered that one of their candidates looked like a eunuch while the other was described by older voters as “effeminate” and by younger voters as “emo.”

    This led to a complete makeover for both candidates. The Buddha went back to the thinner, standing look that had worked for him previously in Thailand, and while Jesus continued to wear a seamless garment, woven in one piece from top to bottom, he did submit to a haircut and the dismissal of Warner Sallman from the campaign team.

    Whether these changes turned the tide of the election, or whether other factors were decisive will long remain a matter of dispute. Some historians say that word of Jesus’ hands-on approach to the health care issue is what really began to turn the tide in late October.

    At about the same time, reports surfaced that during Joseph Smith’s tenure as Head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs some inexplicable irregularities had occurred. These claims didn’t help the Republicans.

    Clearly in some electronic polling stations on Election Day Republican voters were confused by the way names were listed on the ballot and may have failed to vote or selected the wrong candidate. Most digital displays could only accommodate names of 20 characters or less and when “The Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him” was necessarily shorted to “TP Muhammad PeaBeUHm” it is likely that few Republicans could have made the connection.

    Finally, one expert has argued that while swing voters received all the right messages from the Muhammad campaign, in the end most voters were simply not willing to cast their ballot for a candidate whose face they had never seen.

    After running second in the polls throughout the campaign, the Democrats seemed shocked by their own come-from-behind victory. The fact that the Buddha/Jesus inaugural balls and celebrations were hastily organized made them all the more exuberant.

    Always ecumenical, the Buddha placed his hand on the Lincoln Bible and repeated the oath of office to the Chief Justice on a frigid morning the following January.

    Then with Jesus by his side he processed to the Presidential limousine and began a slow ride down the parade route to the White House.

    At this point Jesus had risen higher in his political ascension than many had thought possible, and it is perhaps likely that he would never had become President had it not been for the Buddha’s nature. Along the way—as newly elected Presidents since John F. Kennedy sometimes do—Buddha suggested to Jesus that the two running mates step out of the limousine and walk for a few hundred paces along Pennsylvania Avenue, shaking hands with their supporters along the parade route.

    Perhaps it did not occur to him that with so many devout Buddhists in the crowd it was almost a foregone conclusion that one of them, seeing the Buddha on the road, would kill him.

    Or perhaps it did.

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  14. I doubt that I have read so much wisdom in such a small space! Thanks to you all!

    Some thoughts that bear on the discussions:

    I think the idea of Jesus-as-president is an excellent tool, if taken seriously, to force us to think about many things - that have more import than the question itself!

    Jesus and civil authority: When Jesus remarked that the peace he was offering was not the "peace of this world," I don't think he was criticizing wordly peace; specifically The Pax Romana. The Romans made the land and sea trade routes relatively safe for travel/commerce; not a bad thing. He was offering something of a different order.

    The Roman soldier: Jesus didn't advise him to quit/go awol! He told him to carry out his duties with common decency and not shake down people to increase his income. I think here we see a snippet that gets at the tension we all face when we have a job to do, in a human institution (church institutions included) that sometimes makes justice, mercy, truth, God's Will (generally/specifically) very difficult matters to negotiate - let alone carry out.

    Pledge of Allegience/Military Oath: For those whose Untimate Allegience is to Christ, a careful reading of those reveals some serious tension w/out any easy answers. Jehovah's Witnesses view them as blatant idolatry. Pacifists/consciencious obectors seek a middle road of humane service. Nationalists claim "God is on OUR side!!"

    Christ and culture: I was happy to see that problem addressed above. I highly recommend Richard Niebuhr's "Christ and Culture." I also recommend Robert McAfee Brown's "Unexpected News: Reding the Bible with Third World Eyes." Here are some subjects Brown addresses:

    Exodus: God does, sometimes, take sides.

    David & Nathan: God doesn't approve of abuse of power.

    Jeremiah & Jehoiakim: To know God is to do justice.

    Mary's song: Especially the Magnificat turns worldly order, as in powerful/powerless, upside down. In fact (from other sources) I learned that it is illegal in several Latin American countries to publically/in church read/recite Mary's Song - because those at the top of the socio-economic power pyramid - feel deeply threatened.

    Mr. Brown addresses several more passages that are excellent antidotes to many assumptions us "Norte Americanos" are all too prone to accept as "Gospel" w/out question.

    My last offering: The Jubilee Year a la Leviticus 25-26 spells out God's method - for ancient Israel - to keep too much wealth-power (P$W$R) from accumulating in too few hands. (The method was for an ancient agrarian society. The principle still holds though the method of achieving it would be very different today.)

    The promise is that if Israel maintains a socio-economic leveling process - the people will live w/out fear of invasion or even threat from wild animals while they sleep.

    I hope that helps!

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    1. Larry, thanks for posting your excellent comments!

      I also highly evaluate Robert McAfee Brown's book and have used it many times through the years, especially the chapter on "Mary's Song." My blog posting on 12/20/10 referred to it. (On 3/12/10 I also made reference to Brown.)

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  15. I saw something on Facebook this week that would be a good thing for many advocating Jesus for President to remember...especially those who think we have two satanic choices this November. Presidents place a hand on the bible and swear to uphold the constitution, not the other way round.

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  16. In his sermon Sunday, my pastor mentioned "progressive revelation." It was no coincidence that it was in connection with Kings and Chronicles. A long arc of development of church and state is recorded in the Bible, and it has kept right on evolving since then. When Abraham met Melchizedek at Salem, there was hardly either church or state. It was more like Abraham climbed the mountain to meet the guru. By the time Joseph was serving Pharaoh a few chapters later in Genesis, the Egyptians had a well developed sense of both. When Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt later, his father-in-law Jethro had to point out that Moses was wearing way too many hats, and needed help. Yet, when David brought the Ark into the Jerusalem, the boundary between church and state seemed rather thin. Even, so David operated within the sphere of high priests and prophets.

    In the New Testament Jesus famously said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's." (Mark 12:17) This has launched many arguments over exactly what he meant. I will take my guide from the passage where he directed a coin to be extracted from the mouth of a fish to pay a tax. (Matthew 17:24-27) Now some may argue that this was a temple tax, not a Roman tax. Well, look at that word 'tax' and the presence of tax collectors. The temple had its governmental aspects, and nothing says government like 'tax.' The gradual separation of church and state was far from complete, but it had come a long way from the days of Melchizedek.

    A parallel process to this growing separation was a gradual change in how government made decisions. One of the early challenges in the Bible was taming kings so that they would be public servants instead of mere tyrants. David confronted prophetic limits in his conflicts with Nathan, practical limits in his strategic planning, and sometimes cast lots to determine the will of the Lord. The New Testament continues variations of these principles, but strongly adds the idea of common consent. This was not yet a full theory of democracy, but seeds of that were planted. Even the scholarly research of the rabbis was indirectly a step towards group decisions.

    Even mathematics was once part of religion. Early mathematicians such as Pythagorus stand at the boundary line. Philosophy has an intertwined history, too. Today they have independent although interconnected relationships with religion. Government is the same way. Learning how to subdivide spheres of action has been a great boon to developing societies. When Jesus announced that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36) he was participating in this process of specialization. I see no reason to assume we have reached the end of the process. We still have a lot to learn about both church and state.

    Finally, even within our churches we have changing specialization. Most churches today do not have long poles with a feather on one end and ball on the other to wake up sleeping ladies and gentlemen. We do, however, often have music ministers, youth ministers, education ministers, janitors, committee chairs, and a whole host of other positions that would perplex our fore-bearers. So let us grant governments the right to change and grow, and let us give the candidates a fair hearing. In particular, to assume that Obama and/or Romney is demonic is to drown out the very thinking process in one's own mind that is most called for. As that polarizing figure from another generation loved to quote from the Bible, "Come, let us reason together." (Isaiah 1:18, frequently quoted by President Lyndon Johnson) Stepping into a voting booth is a chance to follow in the steps of Nathan, to deliver a message to the government. Do it as solemnly and responsibly as if you were a prophet of God. For on that day you are!

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    1. Craig, how I wish the bulk of voters would view the act of voting as a prophetic act!

      Unfortunately, for the vast majority I am afraid it is far from being that.

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  17. Wow, Truly amazing that people would waste their vote! I am not saying Jesus would not be the best President; but we know that their vote will be wasted. So what if the Christian right votes for Jesus and then Obama wins; will they then accept that. Something to think about, and probably the last time they would do that. Now, I don't think Obama has lived up to the change we expected, and I don't even know if I will vote for him again, but voting with the Christian right seems even more outlandish for me; maybe akin to writing in Jesus for President!

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