Tag Archives: Old Testament politics

The Pageantry of North American Politics: Palin, Prejean and Priesthood

It’s like the story taken out of the book of Esther.  A beauty queen becomes God’s woman and saves the nation. These are what I hear for storylines about Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska and Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean. Celucien Joseph of Christ My Righteousness has posted in recent months on the saga of Carrie Prejean and the problematic nature of her (and therefore Christian women’s) involvement in beauty pageants (cuz they are just scholarship contests, right?). (see here and here)

Should Christian women objectify themselves wearing two-piece swimwear? What does this say about the purpose of  human body? For me, the earliest Christians believed that the human body was the Holy of Holies , the sanctuary of the God Most High.  In agreement with the Evangelist in the Gospel of John, the apostle Paul asked the church of Corinth, “Do you not know that you are God’s Holy of Holies and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys that temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. One of my favorite Church fathers, Clement of Alexandria once inquired, “Without the body, how could the divine plan for us in the church achieve its end?” (Stromata 3.17.103:3, 2).  Given that the human body has a divine purpose (the indwelling of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity), perhaps Christian men and women should be cautious of how they present themselves in public.  Christianity is a public religion grounded in the faith of a publicly executed Messiah.

Christians should really consider how Solomon was allowed to build the LORD’s temple and not David. God is Spirit; God needs human bodies to execute his divine plan for creation.  This is the truth of God’s election of the enslaved Jewish bodies during their tribulation in Egypt.  This is the very truth of the Incarnation on which the Church stands. Given the theological considerations, and the scriptural precedent of stories such as queens Vashti and Esther, as well as the strange story of King David dancing, wearing an ephod, the Church may need to prioritize the human body when considering engagement in political life.  Oddly enough, there is in this story of David’s two-step with God something that is rarely pointed out: what happens after the dancing? As the story goes, King David blesses the people in the name of YHWH, the LORD of hosts and feeds them all a cake of bread and a cake of raisins.  David not only cared to praise the LORD with his own body, but he also worshipped God through providing food for those in need, feeding temples that needed to be filled.

That brings me back to American politics, Christianity and beauty pageants. The recent popularity of Palin and Prejean, regardless of whether you agree with their politics or not, should challenge the Church to reexamine not only the way women view and use their bodies, but also the ways that men view and use their own bodies. What is more disturbing than Palin’s or Prejean’s involvement in an ambiguously moral event that parades as a scholarship contest is the Church’s views on the value of human bodies, and which human bodies are valued.  Are American temples of God’s Breathe more valuable than Afghani or Iraqi temples of God’s Breathe? Are there certain human bodies we are more likely to execute via the electric chair or go to war with simply because of the color of their skin? American politics, sadly enough, has become not about what a person stands for or has voted for, but what a person looks like, who that person appeals to.  Do we trust governors who claim to be conservative because he looks the part, but has never once voted that way in his career? Do we elect a progressive politician  who promises to rule from the “center” when in reality he nominates radicals to her administration?  This is the real tragedy that  the pageantry in North American politics has become.  Because looks can be deceiving.

And Scott Bailey, seriously, enough with the haterade! :p

Truth and Peace,

Rod

Frantz Fanon among the Prophets: Prophetic Violence or Christian Nonviolence?

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and saw their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (Exodus 2:11-12, NRSV )

Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there. (1st Kings 18:40, NRSV)

Then the Lord said to him [Elijah], “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill.” (1st Kings 19:15-17, NRSV)

Originally posted at the Postcolonial Theology Network on facebook.

In the past few years, I have gained a reputation among my peers as being a person dedicated to nonviolence.  In fact, according to one of my friends, he says that I am a person who believes Christian nonviolence is the only orthodoxy and I judge everything according certain standards of peacemaking in the Christian tradition.  Also this summer as I was visiting the blog of a friend, I was accused by one particular commenter, of being one of “those Christians,” you know, the kind that believes the Church ought to say something about peace issues, like racism and sexism.  To accentuate my point, some of my peers often deride my dedication to Christian nonviolence because I, they argue, would not be able to apply this ethic to the Hebrew Bible.

But to say that I could universalize an ethic of nonviolence in the reading of both history and scripture is an error.  I confess Christian nonviolent resistance because I recognize the histories of gender and racial violence that have occur and continue to happen in the context of American imperialism.  One of my favorite enslaved African preachers to study is Nat Turner, a preacher who inspired his followers to violent revolution against their enslavers through the use of homilies on the judges and Joshua narratives.  Frantz Fanon, in his Wretched Of The Earth (WOTE), argues that for the colonized subject who is forced to understand violence as praxis (44), the death of the colonizer means that life has emerged (50).  The decolonization process makes violence necessary because the colonial world is a violent, compartmentalized society where the colonized have no space to move (3-5).  Land (spaciality) is important because it allows human beings space to express their freedom.  Land allows the dehumanized to discover their humanity by recovering and discovering their own cultures.  Cultural suppression, then, as a form of violence, only intensifies the outrage of the colonized (172).

If violence is the beginning of the story for the colonized subject who dreams of freedom, that violence must be justified somehow, and this process of justification is found in the stories that are constructed during the creation of a national culture.  “National culture is the collective thought process of a people to describe, justify, and extol the actions whereby they [the various regions that make up the nations] have joined forces and remained strong” (168).  For example, perhaps one person has learned in AP US History class that Abraham Lincoln was right in violating the U.S. Constitution as he waged war with the Confederacy because, by his actions, he is justified because the nation was saved, united, and made stronger and prosperous.  Maybe you did not hear that version of the story; I know I did.  In the same way, maybe the Hebrew Bible in the prophetic tradition particularly, justifies the murderous actions and violent visions of the prophets.  Normatively, one is taught to believe that Moses is wrong for killing the Egyptian in Exodus 2, but do we hear protests about Elisha being commissioned by God to kill God’s enemies? If the prophetic tradition remains true, and Jesus of Nazareth, according to Christian tradition continues and (for some Christians) “fulfills” the prophetic tradition, but at the same time, a group of Christians claim that nonviolence was normative in the life of Christ, how is one to deal with this paradox?

Fanon notes in his final chapter the horrendous mental disorders caused by imperial subjugation.  Issues of race (the stereotype of North African Criminality, 222-223) as well as gender and sexuality (the prevalence of sexual violence against women, 186-189) call into question universal cases for nonviolence in political and religious circles.  Fanon, like the prophets of old, concerned himself with the issues of the day, in the here and not, and not the great by-and-by.  “Up above, Heaven with its promises of an afterlife, down below the French with their firm promises of jail, beatings and executions.  Inevitably, you stumble upon against yourself.  Here lies this core of self-hatred that characterizes racial conflict in segregated societies” (232). The Egyptians were oppressing the Israelites on this Earth, in ancient Egypt; the drought in Elijah’s day had real life consequences for those who were hungry and on the margins, like the widow that Elijah fellowshipped with during those three years of no rain.  The prophets Moses, Elijah, and Elisha did not bother to meditate on some abstract notion of a relationship with a deity above; rather, God was with them, as their contemporary, in their struggle against their enemies.

Truth and Peace,

Rod

Glenn Beck Accuses Jewish Prophets of being communists, fascists, and progressives!

Although the name of this blog is entitled Political Jesus, I normally do not bother with pinhead pundits, but I felt like I had to expose the idiocy of Glenn Beck’s recent attack on the Hebrew Bible.

Beat your ploughshares into swords,
and your pruning-hooks into spears;
let the weakling say, ‘I am a warrior.’ – Joel 3:10 (NRSV)

He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more. – Isaiah 2:4 (NRSV)

He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more; – Micah 4:3 (NRSV)

Playing off the ignorance of the American public of the First Testament, Beck, in the video below, at about a minute 3:25, states that the idea that Swords will be turned into ploughshares is a communist idea from the USSR. Seriously? Am I taking crazy pills here? Beck is capitalizing off of the American church’s lack of interest and knowledge of the Hebrew Bible, particularly, the Prophetic tradition. This is indeed disturbing and must be reversed. Mike Fox agrees.

Truth and Peace,
Rod

HT: David