Jesus for President: Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

I know it’s old hat for many of you radical anabaptists to talk about how Jesus is political. But, none the less, I thought I’d invite ya’ll to an event we’re having down here in North Carolina. A couple of my friends will be making a stop in Raleigh for an event. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw are touring the country for their new book and holding rallies along the way. I know the Triangle (i.e., Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) is far away from Menno country. But if you go through the hassle to get down here, I’ll find somewhere for you to stay. The campaign stop is sponsored by our Mennonite district churches (ECD) and the North Carolina Council of Churches. Here’s an edgy blurb for the event:

On Tuesday evening, July 22nd, we will celebrate the political campaign that has lasted 2,000 years. But this movement of the people is quite different from what the current American democratic parties are up to. It all started in a Palestinian village: a woman from the wrong side of the tracks birthed someone who would change the world. This boy grew up and started a campaign that ignited a revolutionary fire of love across the land. Sure, the empire killed him, like they do all revolutionaries. But the rumor is that his followers are still at it; they have kept the memory alive. Come hear the good news; and maybe pledge allegiance to a very different king. It’s free, so show up early if you want a seat.

Jesus for President: 7pm, July 22nd, Raleigh, First Baptist Church (101 S. Wilmington Street)

Spread the word.

Here’s their website: Jesus for President

** Update **

CNN just did a piece on the Jesus for President campaign. Look here

Comments (9)

  1. somasoul

    Jesus is political? Or Jesus is a-political?

  2. Mark Van Steenwyk

    Definitely political.

    It seems that everyone is interested in subordinating Jesus. Leftists often subordinate him to leftist dogma. Right wingers often subordinate him to right wing dogma. But those who say Jesus is apolitical simply sidestep the issue by taking out of the political realm all together.

    Instead, the task must be to let Jesus be as political as he certainly is, but recognize the way in which he understands his own political message.

  3. IsaacV (Post author)

    Jesus is political, very political, ultra-political. At least that’s what we hear in Mary’s song in the first chapter of Luke: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Then we have Jesus outlining his political platform or the revolutionary “year of jubilee” a few chapters later: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then Jesus goes about doing these things throughout his life, and invites followers to do it with him. That’s a political movement. Jesus inaugurates a people–which is a political founding. And the church is that people–the ekklesia.

    Oh, and the political leaders think Jesus is political, subversively political, and that’s why it’s worth it to go through the hassle of crucifying him. A Roman crucifixion is reserved for subversives. It’s a public display of humiliation that is supposed to deter followers and other wannabe revolutionaries.

  4. somasoul

    I thought the point of Claiborne’s book was that Jesus operates outside of politics. He is calling us to something greater. To not be conformed to the powers of this world but to subvert them.

    Too many people seem to think that Jesus is calling us to enact His philosophies upon the rest of the world, when Jesus never did any such thing.

    I would say Jesus is A-Political. He operates outside of conventional governments. His ends are not their ends nor vice-versa. Nor will they be. Nor should they be.

  5. IsaacV (Post author)

    Somasoul, I’m with you all the way: Jesus’ ends are not the same as the our conventional governments. Right on, man.

    I wish we lived near one another so we could have a conversation about all this–that’s a better way to figure this stuff out. What you mean by “apolitical” is very much what I’m trying to say. As Jesus puts it in Luke’s gospel, don’t rule like the pagans do. But Jesus still calls this thing he’s doing a “kingdom” (ch. 22). That’s decidedly political language. But like you said, this kingdom doesn’t fit into the governments we find.

    Part of what’s going on with what we’re trying to articulate is that what’s called “politics as statecraft” rules the day. The ones who control our language have taught us to think that the only way to be political is to elect the right representatives and presidents. Politics is what they do on Capital Hill. So, we turn into political people when we get to check boxes on ballots. Thus “political” and “governments” are interchangeable, almost synonymous. This is politics as statecraft.

    But Aristotle said that we are all “political animals.” Politics is what we do with our bodies, how we arrange our bodies, where we go and what we talk about, how we spend our money. So, for example, going to the shopping mall is a political act. And so is a boycott. It’s all politics. And, for Aristotle, friendships are the foundation of politics. (Sheldon Wolin’s work is helpful on this–esp. see his very accessible new book, Democracy Incorporated.)

    The Apostle Paul gets at this stuff too with all his talk about the church as a “body.” That’s political language–the body politic. Our individual bodies are limbs and organs of the one body, the body of Christ, a political body. (Richard Horsley is good on this stuff; but also see Dale Martin’s brilliant book called The Corinthian Body.)

    What does all this mean? Well, I think part of what it means is that our churchly life offers a different political vision for how we relate to one another. It’s a politics that’s decisively shaped by Christ’s self-giving life–one of servanthood. We are moved by the love of Christ, through the presence of the Spirit, into a new kingdom of eternal love. And that changes how we engage with people, how we invite people into our lives, how we eat, with whom we eat, where we shop, how we vote (or elect not to vote), where we protest, how we pray, who we worship and with whom we worship, etc. It’s all politics. It’s all the kingdom. We won’t let the powers that be tell us what it means to be politically (ir)relevant.

    Does all that make any sense? Is it at all helpful?

    By the way, I just listened to an interview with Shane Claiborne about his new book and the Jesus for President campaign. He said that he is hoping for “a fresh conversation about what it means to be political.” And his work is “a project to provoke a political imagination.”

  6. somasoul

    That makes sense. No doubt the early Christians used tons of political language. But there’s something here that we need to remind ourselves of. When the disciples said Jesus is a King they didn’t mean one to replace Cesear.

    Claiborne gets at this. Jesus is a King but not a worldly King. He is meant to be followed NOW despite whatever Earthly ruler sits on his Earthly throne.

    Jesus didnt command us to vote or to seek Earthly political advantages over others. Rather he asked us to simply serve others. Jesus’ Earthly Kingdom is served, not through John McCain or Barack Obama, but by us loving others and loving God.

    I was listening to Sirius Left today and the host was discussing Barack’s plan to fund faith based initiatives. All the callers, being the progressive station, mentioned how bad this was for government. How those evil fundies would get the loot and start converting people and railing against queers. All the talk was about how bad this was for the State.

    I tried to call in but the line was busy. I was thinking “How AWEFUL for the church!” Soon we will be saying what they state wants and doing whatever the state demands to get our portion of the gold.

    Politics is absolute authority with the sword at its head.

    Religion is absolute truth with God at the head.

    Never should they be combined. The only one trustworthy enough to wield such power is God Himself. I pray such a weapon as the two above combined stay out of our hands.

  7. IsaacV (Post author)

    Somasoul, you write: “When the disciples said Jesus is a King they didn’t mean one to replace Caesar.” I think there’s something to that. And there’s a great passage to back you up. It’s from John 6, and it’s actually the passage the Schleitheim Confession use to say why we shouldn’t be “magistrates.” Here it is: “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

    But what does it mean to call Jesus “lord of lords,” or “king of kings’? Sure, Jesus isn’t another Caesar. But he replaces Caesar’s authority and makes him redundant, right? We’ve go no lord but our Lord? As Thomas Muntzer put it, “The people shall go free, and God alone shall be lord.” Isn’t there some kind of political replacement that subverts all other authority? What does it mean to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and no other? As Hauerwas puts it, “If Jesus isn’t Lord of all, then he’s not lord at all.”

    Just trying to keep the conversation going…

  8. somasoul

    Jesus Christ is Lord of all?

    Well, I don’t think we can make Him Lord of all. Those early folks wanted to make Jesus King by force. Even the devil offered Jesus a similar deal. Jesus refuses each and every time. Jesus isn’t Lord of all in the sense we might we think. He is the Lord whether or not you realize it. The early anabaptists seemed to have gotten this. He was THEIR King in this world and the next.

    This is difficult for me to explain in this medium. What I really want to say is this: We should not rely on Jesus to be President of the United States, nor should we rely on Earthly rulers to fill Jesus’ place as President of the United States. Asking “Who would Jesus vote for?” or declaring that “Canidate X seems to follow Jesus more” is foolish. No one in those positions can or will act like the Messiah, Jesus himself swore off such positions of authority.

    It seems to me that for too long Christians in this country have relied on the “Canidate X seems to follow Jesus more” philosophy. They have elected one Republican after the next in the hopes of empowering the church. But the church is shrinking, not growing. Political power has not helped nor grown the church. If it has please tell me.

    But there is a “hope”. Christian progressives, long fed up with right wing politics and republicans are changing the game. They stand behind a donkey, they vie for a change in political strategies, and they support liberal politics. A product of frustration with the “moral majority” they are trying to present a new “solution” saying that liberal policies of fairness, and equality represent Christ better than Republican ideals.

    But they will fail to accomplish any of their goals. They will fail because they seek power. They will fail because they want a God-head in the white house. They will fail for the same reasons the “moral-majority” failed. They are putting all their hope, all their ideas, all their belief systems into governmental politics; a divisive system that has failed time and time again to show the love Christ.

    Slowly Conservative Christians are begginning to realize this. But our Progressive brethern have forgotten. It has been too long for them. The memories are not fresh for them. They are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.


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