The Politics of the Cross

The Politics of the Cross July 12, 2016

Allan Bevere Politics Cross

Allan Bevere wrote the following in a recent blog post:

No amount of interpretive gymnastics can soften Jesus’ words here in the Sermon on the Mount. Essentially he is saying, if you are going to follow me and love the way I insist you should love, you have to love in a way quite different from the pagans. If you love only those who love you, if you love only those individuals you consider to be your neighbor, you have nothing to brag about; any atheist can do that. Just as Jesus refused to retaliate against his enemies who beat him so those who claim to have received the salvation he achieved for us on the cross must live in the way of the cross in the world. One cannot be had without the other…

The problem is that the church has had a Christendom addiction since the fourth century. Once the church had a stake in the power of the empire, the cross of Jesus could no longer be how God expects his people to live in the world. So the church in making its alliance with the empire had to commend, embrace, and even participate as pagans “lording it over others.” Thus, the cross was reduced to an individualized get out of hell free card because the politics of the cross, the way of being Jesus in the world, could not rule a violent world where violence was necessary to rule. The cross, which was originally a subversive symbol of the idolatrous pretensions of the empire, came to symbolize the empire in all of its pagan power and ways baptizing it with a thin veneer of Christian vestiges.

Until Christians in the twenty-first century West embrace the politics of the cross as it comes to us in the New Testament and reject the kind of reductionist atonement that amounts to nothing more than a policy for fire insurance that allows us to continue to embrace the governance of pagan ways, the church will be unable to be a suffering and peaceable and healing presence in a world ruled by violence and vengeance.

The politics of the cross and the politics of the nations are not compatible. To make them so is to baptize the secular and paganize what is Christian.

Click through to read the rest of it. See too Tim Suttle’s post on why American Christians trust the 2nd Amendment more than the Sermon on the Mount.

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  • John MacDonald

    The focus on atonement is very early – at least since the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed.

    • John MacDonald

      I think that what Jesus accomplished on the cross was clearly the focal point for the early church before the gospels were written. This early meaning of the cross seems to be primarily one of atonement.

      Paul wrote “For I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).” The focal point for this early portrayal of the cross seems to be Jesus as atoning for the sins of the world (see 1 Cor. 15:3-4), and this was seen in terms of Christ being the “first fruits” of the general resurrection that Paul believed had begun (see 1 Corinthians 15:23). Before the gospels were written, these ideas from the epistles seem to reflect what the main thrust of the meaning of the cross was, and everything else was secondary, which is why Paul said faith is meaningless apart from the atoning meaning of the cross: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).” Atonement was thus probably the primary meaning of the cross before the gospels were written.

      What do others think?

      • John MacDonald

        The work of Christ at the cross that paid the sin debt thus broke down all the barriers between different people, and closed the gap of separation between people and God. Paul writes that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).” The efficaciousness of this work of the cross was later dramatized in the gospels by the tearing of the veil in the temple (reconciling man to God), the words of the Roman soldier at the cross that Jesus was truly the son of God (reconciling pagans and Christians), and the discovering of the empty tomb by women (indicating equality between men and women in being witnesses for Christ).

  • charlesburchfield

    Being One in Christ is experiential. IMHO one lives in a parallel universe with empire. I finally grokked when I worked on my 12 step program in AA. 3rd step: turn one’s life & will over to the care of god. Then be willing to attend to ‘constant contact’. It’s a daily reprieve for us alkies! We have a diseases that can kill us if we don’t do this!

  • Christ didn’t come to establish the institution of Christianity, but to play a part spiritually so we have an example of heaven and its joy being a factor in our life. “There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there.” (Einstein) We can’t prove how we got there because the soul is beyond and encompasses the mind, but from this perspective we witness things happening on the temporary plane coming and going while the mind is involved in self-importance with its fear, worry, guilt and excited emotions.