From August 23, 2017, “Christ and Caesar”
… This is theologically rich stuff, if you’re into that. And, yes, part of why I’m quoting this here is just to say a big “Amen!” to Hart’s theological reflection.
But my main point here is not to affirm this theology or to attempt to persuade you that it is true (although it is!). My main point here is a bit more immediate and practical. It’s also completely secular. It has to do with your neighbors and your fellow citizens, and what they believe, and thus why they do the things they do.
Because millions of American Christians imagine that God’s power is, as Hart says, just “imperial power on steroids,” and they think of the Jesus they follow as a kind of “super-sized Caesar.”
We’ve discussed this quite a bit in our journeys through the Left Behind series, with its portrayal of a warlike, imperial, vengeful Turbo Jesus. In Tim LaHaye’s theology, God is not revealed in the lowly birth, life, and crucifixion of Jesus. That whole thing was a kind of mistake. That’s why the Second Coming is so important for LaHaye — it’s how God will correct the failure of Jesus’ first coming. And how will that happen? Jesus will come back just exactly like Caesar, but bigger and stronger and meaner and deadlier. He’ll kill all the bad people and then judge them from a big imperial throne. And then he’ll kill all the bad people again, perpetually, forever. (The Turbo Jesus of Left Behind is, as we’ve often noted, a monster.)
Those books had millions of readers and devotees, but millions of other American Christians who’ve never read them still have an idea of Jesus and of divine power that looks a lot more like LaHaye’s Turbo Jesus than like Hart’s “crucified liberator from Galilee.”
When that’s what you believe God is like, and therefore what you believe God wants you to be like, well, it creates some problems. And it suggests a way to try to solve those problems which, in turn, is likely to make them even worse. And on and on until kingdom come.