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Did Jesus Spiritualize Israel's Message?

by John K. Stoner (February 16, 2015)

Christendom (for readers who can give that term meaning) has spiritualized Jesus' message and mission by making it future and other-worldly, as the salvation of souls in heaven after this life.  And it claims that Jesus spiritualized Israel's history and message.

In IF NOT EMPIRE, WHAT? we find something very different than this.

In our reading and telling of the gospel story, the life of Jesus (chapters 19 and 20), we do not see Jesus executed for teaching that people can go to heaven when they die.  And we certainly do not see the Hebrew people, in the First Testament,  offering a message of other-worldly salvation.  

The story says that Jesus was executed for challenging the narrative of empire, the idea that the world is run by dominating, homicidal power.  He offered another way to run the world--by the power of compassion, forgiveness, and resistance to coercion.  The "powers that be/were" of his time felt threatened by this other way of running the world, and decided that Jesus had to be removed before he got so many followers that the empire's program would falter. 

The political and religious powers of Jesus time saw that the program and plan (the way) of Jesus were very much in this world, very human, material and physical--with spiritual dimensions, of course.  But the poor, outcast, imprisoned and oppressed whom he welcomed were so numerous that the empires felt threatened, if all of those people should find their voice in the community of Jesus. 

And so in IF NOT EMPIRE, WHAT? we ask, where in scripture do we see the communities of compassion and resistance which are a threat to empires and a hope for the common people?  And we challenge the reader to notice, join and form such communities in our world today.