Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Violence of Jesus

"Nonviolence" is the wrong word for Jesus' Way of remaking the world. Jesus taught us violence. Jesus taught us destruction. He just didn't teach us to direct our destructive violence toward human beings. The destructive violence Jesus taught and modeled for his disciples is a force that transcends the visible landscape. With his presence, his extended hand of healing, his voice calling forth Lazarus, his feet which trod on Samarian land, his blood that flowed from his broken body, and with his nail-pierced hands he let Thomas touch, Jesus exacted a kind of violence upon invisible wickedness and domination that utterly humiliated it. His violence was so perfectly aimed at what truly ensnares us that it was and is peace.

The problem with our violence is not that it is violent, it is that it is unlike the violence of Jesus. Instead of targeting the systems of oppression and exclusion that are often veiled behind religious language and pious acts, we tend to aim our destruction toward one another and God's creation. Then, when someone reminds us that our battle is not with flesh and blood, we accuse them of disembodied theology. Our battle with principalities ad powers takes place in the body. As embodied souls, we must use our bodies like Jesus did to violently oppose spiritual realities. If we are to share in his triumph, we must fight as he fought—and he fought with his body.

The body of Christ is not like Jesus' body. In Jesus' body was a thorn-pierced brow and a spear-thrust side. In Jesus' body were hands that touched lepers and lips that spit in the mud to heal the blind. In Jesus' body he waged war on darkness that blinded the eyes of the religious and oppressed the poor. In Jesus' body there was sorrow for the loss of Lazarus' life and for Jerusalem's lack of spiritual guidance. In Jesus' body he blessed children and drew them near to himself.

The Prizefighter Jesus, the MMA Jesus, who has become popular in US Christianity is an impotent loser. That Jesus does not transform the cosmos. That Jesus does not triumph. That Jesus is not violent enough.

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