Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Christian Gospel and Politics

I listen to a lot of conservative Christian and political talk radio, and I also read a lot of conservative Christian and some conservative political books and materials. If nothing else, I feel that repeated connection with those to the right of me helps me maintain relevance. I often notice incongruous platforms between conservative Evangelical theologies and their often associated conservative politics. One such disjuncture is that between the Christian message of mercy for the undeserving and the conservative ideal of "trickle-down economics." Many an Evangelical will gloat in her "I'm not perfect, just forgiven" theology while refusing to extend such a mercy to the many upon whom "the system" bestows the favors of structural injustices. Such an Evangelical will speak of God's mercy and then blame the minority for his apathy and psychology of servility when she herself is part of the systems of alienation that prevent the minority from socio-economic fecundity.

The general Evangelical Christian protection of oppressive conservative political and economic platforms contrasts heavily with the Pauline gospel of increasing inclusivity. Pauline theology, which heavily influenced the content of the four canonical Gospels, was initially focused on the inclusion of non-Jews into the benefits of covenant—benefits from which non-Jews were alienated by birth and foreskin. Galatians 3:13-14 reads:

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

According to Paul, Jesus died as one "cursed of the law," i.e., as one outside of the Torah and the covenants, in order to redeem, to include those likewise outside of the Torah and the covenants—the Gentiles. Hence, Paul's gospel is one of inclusion, bringing the formerly alienated Gentiles into the "family of God." This message was revolutionary—upsetting the social order of Jew-Gentile separation along with the Torah order that fortified such distinctions.

Along the lines of Moltmann, whom I quoted last night, the following comments are worth noting:

Christian identity can be understood only as an act of identification with the crucified Christ, to the extent to which one has accepted the proclamation that in [Jesus] God has identified himself with the godless and those abandoned of God (p. 19).

According to Paul, the Christian is to identify with the crucified Christ (Gal 2:20). Moltmann asserts that identification with the crucified Christ is acceptance of the kerygma, the message that God in Jesus identifies with the alienated. Moltmann goes on to state,

Christian identification with the crucified Christ means solidarity with the sufferings of the poor and the misery both of the oppressed and the oppressors… By alienating the believer from the compulsions and automatic assumptions of an alienated world, Christian identification with the crucified necessarily brings him into solidarity with the alienated of this world, with the dehumanized and the inhuman. But this solidarity becomes radical only if it imitates the identification of the crucified Christ with the abandoned, accepts the suffering of creative love, and is not led astray by its own dreams of omnipotence and an illusory future (p.25).

So much can be drawn from the above. However, I find this to be a slap in the face against modern Sara-Palin Evangelicals. Would that said Evangelicals identify more with the crucified, dehumanized, and inhuman Christ!


Andrew T. said...

It was Paul's unique and extremely controversial teaching that gentiles are "grafted in" to Israel, obtaining a portion in the Abrahamic covenant, through their faith in Israel's Messiah. His message to the Galatians was not that Torah is done away with (as commonly taught), but that gentile believers should not accept circumcision because they would be cheating their faith in the Messiah in trying to become part of an Abrahamic covenant that they already have a portion in through Messiah. It was this particular teaching, and not the suffering Messiah, that got him routinely kicked out out of synagogues and flogged.

Peter said...


I agree. Have you read Nanos?

Andrew T. said...


I haven't read Nanos. I am basically repeating the FFOZ teaching about Paul, which is highly New Perspective influenced.

Interestingly, the Netzarim position on Paul is dead wrong. Paul, unlike Yeshua, was a Pharisee. His teachings of gentile inclusion were controversial, but the idea that he was ever excised by Peter and James is based on tenuous and highly biased evidence.