For Speaking Truth to Power
Who was Crucified for Speaking Truth to Power -
GOD IS NOT
If you have been reading my blog it will come as no surprise that I no longer believe that Jesus came to die for our sins, so that we can go to heaven when we die. It is not that I don’t believe in eternal life with God or that we are not imperfect people who need forgiveness. What I object to is the characterization of God that is implied therein. The baggage that often comes with it is that God is and angry judge who must punish humanity for its sin.
ANSELM OF CANTERBURY
This idea about God was articulated about a thousand years into the Jesus movement by a monk and scholar named Anselm of Canterbury. He wrote a book about God and Jesus which he based on his best understanding of the world. When he looked around, he saw that the most powerful person was the king. The way that kings kept
power was to punish those who disagreed with them. Anyone who disrespected the King or the laws of the kingdom must be put down so others don’t get the same idea. This would lead to anarchy. Anselm was just using his understanding of power to try to understand God.
The King in those days was regarded by their subjects as divinely appointed. Throughout history there have been kings and emperors who have actually claimed to be gods. When Jesus came and taught about a new kingdom with a new agenda and a new King, he was using language and ideas that the people understood. It was even part of their past. At one point in their history, the Israelites demanded of God to have an earthly king. The story is recounted in the book of 1st Samuel 8.
ISREAL DEMANDS AN EARTHLY KING
Samuel, who was a prophet and an interpreter of God, had three sons who became “judges.” They disrespected God and Jewish law. Because of this, the Israelites demanded that God appoint for them a King so that they could be like other nations. God reluctantly went along with it and instructed Samuel to tell them that it is God they have rejected as King in favor of an earthly king (not his sons). He had Samuel make sure and tell them that what they want, they will get, and they will grow to hate it. Throughout the rest of Israelite history, the kings screwed things up and caused much undue pain and suffering to the people.
So, God clearly doesn’t punish the Israelites for being rejected in favor of a human king. God lets the natural consequences of their actions take their course. To me, this
relationship is much more like a loving father. Like when your kids are sure they need something. You know it will not work out the way they hope. The loving thing, is to let
them figure it out for themselves and then be there to show love and empathy. God did not abandon them even when they abandoned God. Does this sound more like the
actions of a human king or a loving father?
So, if Jesus didn’t come to save us from God’s wrath, why did he come? There are many answers to this but one of them for sure is to speak truth to power. Jesus didn’t
just speak truth to powerful kings and emperors, he came to speak truth to the notion of power. Just before being handed over to be crucified, Jesus met with his disciples
one last time and showed them what true power is. He took off his outer garment, bent down and washed his disciples feet. This was a humiliating act that was reserved for the lowest servant of the household. He showed that power is perfected in humility.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING
He said that the greatest among you is the servant of all.
Human history is full of extraordinary people who have given up their lives to speak truth to power. Power doesn't much like it and often punishes those who try. One of
the great examples of this is Dr. Martin Lutheran King Jr. He had a dream that all people, had value and would someday be treated equally. He knew that his message was a threat to the power structures of his day. He allowed himself to be beaten, humiliated, jailed and he was ultimately killed in service to this message. Because of his life and his death, the tenor of people changed and laws were passed granting
equal rights to all people. We still have a long way to go to make this a reality and even more to undo the effects years of institutional racism.
Jesus was killed for spreading a message about God that contradicted what those in power believed. His followers were deeply inspired by his actions and his crucifixion.
The power structures of the day hoped to end this Jesus movement through a show of force, a humiliating public death on a cross. The consequences of their behavior were
to light a fire under Jesus’ followers that spread his message far and wide. They picked up where He left off. Many of the were killed in the same manner. This only had the effect of inspiring more Christ followers. The spirit of speaking truth to power lives on today as we work together to dismantle racism, sexism, classism and all the
other ways people are discriminated against. At Spirit of Peace church we call this, “being the good news.”