21 July 2008

God's politics - synchroblog

The theme of this month's Synchroblog is "The politics of God". A bit awkward, that. I could write quite a bit about God and human politics, but the subject seems quite clearly limited to God's politics.

It would be easy to think that God's politics must be monarchist. After all, the synoptic gospels have a great deal to say about the "Kingdom" of God, in which God is the king.

In church services we have the same thing. At the beginning of the Divine Liturgy the priest announces "Blessed be the kingdom of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

In baptism we are asked if we believe in Jesus Christ as king and God.

So the evidence is pretty strong: God's politics are monarchist.

St Matthew's Gospel has a variation. He talks about the "Kingdom of Heaven" rather than the "Kingdom of God", but the effect is much the same, though. Heaven, we are told, was a euphemism for "God" in the first century.

And concerning that, St Paul urges the Philippians not to set their hearts on earthly things, but says that "our politics is in heaven" (Philippians 4:20). Actually the word he uses, politevma, is translated in many varying ways -- "commonwealth", "citizenship" and even (KJV) "conversation". I can't help thinking that "conversation" must have meant something very different in Jacobean English to what it means today. But whatever it meant back then, I understand it today to mean that our politics should be God's politics.

And to the Colossians he says (Colossians 3:1-4)

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Whatever else that means, it means we should not take earthly politics too seriously. Christians can never say, "My country, right or wrong", because our country is heaven, and our citizenship is primarily in the Kingdom of Heaven and not in any earthly republic or monarchy or dictatorship. Our politics is in heaven, and so we cannot take earthly political parties and movements too seriously.

And the Kingdom of heaven is not like earthly kingdoms and republics and dictatorships. As Jesus told his disciples, it would be difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:26) and he went on to say

You know that those who are supposed to rule over the nations lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all (Mark 10:42-43)

So Jesus represents a kingdom that is radically different from the kingdoms of this world, from the rulers of the nations. And this radical difference is shown by St Paul in I Cor 15:24, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, having put down all rule, all authority, all power. What kind of kingdom is without rule (arche), without authority (exousia), without power (dynamis)?

An anarchic kingdom, that's what.

The Kingdom of God is without rule (an-archy), without authority, without power.

That is the politics of God, and that is our politics as Christians; we are citizens of an anarchic kingdom, a royal anarchy.


This post is part of a synchroblog, in which a number of bloggers blog on the same general theme on about the same day. The theme of this synchroblog is "God's politics", and other synchrobloggers blogging on this theme are listed below. Please visit their blogs to to see what others have to say on the topic

Phil Wyman at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
Jonathan Brink enters The Political Fray
Adam Gonnerman explains The Living Christ's Present Reign
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian
Mike Bursell at Mike's Musings
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Steve Hayes on God's Politics
Matthew Stone at Matt Stone Journeys in Between
Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
KW Leslie tells us about God's Politics
Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping
Dan Stone at The Tense Before
Alan Knox asks Is God Red, Blue, or Purple?
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith


K.W. Leslie said...

I think you were right when you said monarchist; not so much when you said anarchist. Monarchist, in its simplest sense, is all the power in the hands of One. In the Kingdom of God, all the power is ceded to God because He is the only One who could handle this power without it corrupting Him.

Anarchy, perhaps, only among us—where no one can rightly claim power over another—but in the Kingdom, Christ Jesus is Lord. I consider Him my rabbi and me His slave. He tells me that if I love Him, I’ll follow His commands. So it’s not really anarchy when I have an ἀρχηγὸν.

Yewtree said...

I like the quote from Mark 10:42-43 with its paradoxical flavour and the idea that the leader serves the people. I dislike the quote from Colossians intensely. Since to me the Divine is immanent in Nature, I prefer the concept that "the Kingdom of Heaven is all around you" here on Earth. See also Fr Gregory's series "Christianity in a One-Storey Universe" at Glory to God for All Things. I like Teilhard de Chardin's idea of the Omega Point.

Pastor Phil said...


Dang I knew I liked you a lot. I am wholly with you here, and a fan of Petr Chelchicky as well. :-)

Anonymous said...

i'm not really sure what you're really trying to say. its almost like you're dancing around the declaration that your pseudo-logical chain of thoughts has brought you to. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to outright disagree, just asking for a more real world reasoning behind suggestions of christians supporting anarchy.

I might also mention that I think it a bit dense to call God's politics a monarchy. First, the context of first century Judea was centered around a single type of government - monarchy. Its a bit narrow to confine God's eternal plan to the words used by early scriptural writers who used words and ideas that would be beneficial to the understanding of people of that time. Secondly, I think it quite arrogant to try to say with any definitive terms what God would want or do if he were in our presence (in the flesh) here and now. And even that thought is rather narrow minded, confining God's presense and influence to a human existense. But I hope you get what I'm trying to say.

Steve Hayes said...

An interesting post, though not part of the synchroblog, is Dionysius Stoned commenting on God's being and anarchy in the writings of Italian philosopher Agamben. I'm not sure I agree, and I'm not even sure I follow Agamben's argument, but it's interesting nevertheless.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve--
Thanks for this interesting post.
I put this info on another post in the synchroblog, but wanted to know if you've heard of the Crisis of Faith series (with Franciscan Richard Rohr as moderator)? It's a series of videos done in 2002. The one I like the most is called 'Portrait of a Radical' which explores the interplay of Jesus's politics as it relates to his humanity. It's a moving, challenging exploration. You can see a trailer on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRoh5BtFbIQ

Thanks again for this post!


Related Posts with Thumbnails