Empire and Cross

I’m playing catch up with my podcasts these days, so I just now came across “Nerd Out: Leaving Church, Packing Heat, and Metaphysical Violence” in my Homebrewed Christianity Queue.

The discussion of peace and metaphysics was rich and challenging. Right around the 51 minute mark, you get this stream from Tripp:

Caesar’s editors got a hold of the Jesus story and they rendered unto God the things that were Caesar’s; namely, omnipotence, empire by coercion, cross building, totalitarian ideologies. You see what I’m saying? And when you find yourself needing to defend the patterns of empire’s power on behalf of the cross-dead homeless Jew, that’s when you’ve just got to say, “How did we get here?”

This is the sort of challenge to our celebrations of power that I keep returning to–challenges that the cross of Christ itself should be continually setting before our eyes.

In the course of the discussion, Tripp even riffs on Barth for a few minutes. *shhhhh!!!* Don’t tell!!

The question he asks is this: Is Jesus, as we meet Jesus in the Gospels, truly the revelation of who God actually is? Or is this Jesus a strange parenthesis between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the coming judgment?

That question, too, has the power to transform our understanding of what faithful embodiment of the Christian story looks like in our world.

But it does leave me with some lingering questions. Namely, what about those passages that make Jesus himself look more “violent” than selections in the Sermon might? E.g., what about the Jesus of the narrow way and crashing house from the end of the Sermon?

But then there is also the question of what comes before and what comes after. There is judgment. In the OT there is war and destruction. In Revelation there is a lake of fire.

So, my lingering question for the metaphysics of the non-violent, non-coercive God is this: what do we make of the other parts of the story that make Jesus, and Jesus’ God, look like those forces of coercive power we otherwise see Jesus repudiating?

  • Are those simply bad readings of the passages in question?
  • Or, do we exercise a revisionist hermeneutic in light of [parts of] the Gospels?

I’d love some more discussion on this, because I think that Tripp is absolutely correct. We cannot paint a cross on the sword of Caesar and think we are standing in the presence of the Crucified.

But what does this metaphysical reframing of God tell us about the God who will judge the earth (and who, apparently, has already on more than one occasion)?

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