Jesus for President

I like the book, Jesus for President.

            It is not easy to read because it is written, I surmise, for a young, hip crowd—it looks somewhat like a scrapbook, with cutout pictures and pasted quotations, and it uses dark paper and light print—more than once I had to take off my bi-focal glasses and squint just to read the text.  

            But I like what I read. In fact, I liked it so much I am using the title and some of the text as reading material for a new class I am convening this Sunday at the church where I serve as interim pastor.

            The book uses much of the recent scholarship about empire and kingdom. By “empire” is meant the political and social structures that are established and sustained by violence (especially the state-sanctioned violence of the military) and that give preferential treatment to the strong and the rich over against the weak and the poor. The “kingdom” is the opposite: political and social structures that are established and sustained by the will and way of God, that reject violence and that give special attention to the weak and the poor.

            The thesis is this: God, and the Bible, and Jesus have been dead set against the empire from the very beginning; but first Israel and then the Church grew enamored of empire and when it was within their grasp, they seized it and used it for their own purposes. Mostly the empire corrupted first Israel and then the Church.

            Jesus is a kingdom person; it was the empire that killed him. God raised him from the dead. The movement that event inaugurated is a serious and sustained threat to empires everywhere, except when the movement itself becomes an empire.

            Too many Christians in America are addicted to empire—the American empire, the Christian empire, and/or the American-Christian empire. The invasion of Iraq was an initiative of the American Christian empire: at least that is how most of the world sees it, especially the Muslim world.

            Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals offers page after page of stories of Christian people launching initiatives that embody the kingdom of God and undermine the dominance of empire. The book is both spiritual and political—and that makes for stimulating reading.  

            It is published by Zondervan. Get your copy. Ponder what it says. Think for yourself. Find a radical way to enter the kingdom of Jesus.


2 comments so far

  1. Philip Wise on

    I am intrigued by the variety of subjects that you address in your blog. This is a good example. I’m sure I wouldn’t have read a review if you hadn’t written it.

    It seems to me that there are two extreme positions on the question of how Christians are to relate to the political/military power where they live. The first identifies the political/military power as evil. It should be oppossed or at least ignored. The second also identifies this power as evil, but suggests that it should be redeemed by Christian leadership.

    My own view is that political/military power may be used for good or evil. Whether it is or not is not determined by whether the leaders are Christians. It is determined by whether it is guided by humanitarian concerns. Christians may work within the system or outside the system, but they are not going to convert the system into the Kingdom of God. They can however do good within or outside the system and thereby usher in the Kingdom of God where they are.

  2. Pastor M on

    How do your Baptist folks in Lexington like Shane’s observations? I heard him speak at the Carmel (IN) UMC in April. He came across well in a gentle, caring way, but, all the while, making his point about what it means to follow Jesus. He was raised as a UM in East Tennessee.

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