“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the unique blog where I think aloud on issues of politics and religion, e.g. was Jesus a socialist? There are plenty of people out there who will tell you he was variously a communist or an anarchist or a revolutionary of some kind. I’m inclined to think they are right, but I intend to examine their claims with great care and rigour.
Be warned I have no training in Historical, Literary, Form or any other kind of Criticism: I’m picking it up as I go along. It is not my intention to be original – that’s impossible; I simply aim to bring to the thousands who dip into the Zingcreed blog the fruits of my research into what other writers, far more expert than I, have said. I shall try to present the evidence in terms which an intelligent teenager can understand (this being the age group I am most familiar with as I have spent my life teaching science to what used to be called ‘sixth formers’, preparing for university.)
I will put my cards on the table: I am influenced by Liberation Theology, and today’s excerpt comes from the pen of – in my view – the most radical of them all, José Porfirio Miranda. More cards on the table theologically speaking; as an atheist, or at least a non-theist, I am sympathetically acquainted with the work of the late Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, which he founded, though he was a Christian, kinda…. I feel less isolated in my ‘odd’ views when I see the church (even the Archbishop of Canterbury!!) edging ever closer to my ‘jesusite non-theist’ stance. See Posts listed below for clarification.
I hope you enjoy what you read here and get something from it.”
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.
Red Christian document #24:
Jesus’s Revolutionary Politics
by José Porfirio Miranda
(edited by Peter Turner)
Official church teaching contradicts what the bible says – an explosion is inevitable!
For example, the church claims that Jesus did not get involved in politics. This is simply outrageous. It shows a complete misunderstanding of the Old Testament prophets and a complete misunderstanding of Christ’s intransigent condemnation of the rich. We know with great certainty that Jesus got involved in politics: here are five pieces of evidence:-
(i) The most incontrovertible of all scientifically certain historical facts is that Jesus died by crucifixion and that crucifixion was the penalty reserved for political trouble-makers. The Romans inflicted it on rebels, bandits, insurgents, slaves, and freedom fighters who strove to gain their peoples’ independence from Roman authority. (Stoning, on the other hand, was the punishment for religious crimes like blasphemy, as Stephen found out. -ed.)
(ii) Pilate’s ‘INRI’ sign on the cross (probably Iesus Nazaretae Rex Iudorum in latin, or “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews” in English -ed.) tell us he was charged with being a royal pretender. From the words of Jesus about his Kingdom, Pilate could only infer that he was a king and that accordingly his action concerned the political sphere. And, remarkably, Jesus admits it “You have said it”.
Jesus was executed for political sedition. This is a fact that no serious person, Catholic, Protestant, or agnostic, can call into question.
(iii) Jesus was crucified between two ‘robbers’; ‘robbers’ being the derogatory term the authorities applied to rebels and insurgents, as can be seen by comparing “Barabbas was a robber” (John 18:40) with “who had been imprisoned for an uprising and homicide occurring in the city” (Luke 23;19)
(iv) When Jesus was crucified side by side with these two other rebels, his was a more serious charge than theirs, so he was put in between them with a placard stating his crime: that of being a royal pretender.
(v) Suetonius in his ‘Vita Claudii’ (25:4) describes the early Christians as “ever in a frantic tumult at the instigation of someone called Chrest” (sic) (Sure sounds like a rabble-rouser to me! -ed.)
As C.W.F.Smith aptly comments “No one would crucify a teacher who told pleasant stories to enforce a prudential morality.” (‘The Jesus of the Parables’, p.17)
No single historical fact about Jesus of Nazareth is more demonstrable than this one: that he engages in revolutionary political activity.
A revealing passage in Luke (13:31-33) highlights in three ways how much of a rebel Jesus was:
“Certain Pharisees appeared on that occasion telling him, ‘Go out and leave this place, for Herod seeks to kill you.’ And he told them, ‘You go and tell that fox, See, I cast out demons and work cures today, and tomorrow, and I go on the next day – for it is unfitting for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.”
(i) the absolute lack of respect with which Jesus speaks of the ruler (“that fox”). This is the language of a rebel, not of an obedient subject.
(ii) Jesus himself realised that his activity and teaching were of a kind that would bring upon him the death penalty (“to die outside Jerusalem”).
(iii) Not only the government of Judaea sought to kill Jesus, but that of Galilee as well – which is understandable only if both saw in him a political danger.
The popular movement that Jesus was stirring up had an evidently revolutionary character. It scared the Jewish leaders who made this analysis:
“If we let him continue this way everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy our place and our nation.” (John 11:48)
The gospel writers pass over certain things in silence, of course. and this is understandable. Their editorial plan is to present Jesus as a martyr, murdered against all reason and justice. But in spite of the selective method that guides them, data filtered through to the effect that, in the only two regions in which Christ carried out his activity, the government tried to kill him (successfully in the second.) This can only be because the revolutionary character of Jesus’ proclamations constitutes a historical fact too massive to hide.
The assertion that the gospel does not engage in politics is one of the most unreal and unrealistic theses ever formulated. How could Jesus’ message be non-political if “the kingdom of God” means that God reigns and not human beings? Jesus went far beyond even the Zealots, who merely wanted Roman rule over Israel to end. He left all nationalism out of his plans; “he tore the rulers from their thrones” (Luke 1:52) i.e. it’s not just a question of Roman imperialist rulers, it is a question of every class of rulers. In his anarchism, Jesus was incomparably more faithful to genuine biblical tradition than all the other Jewish revolutionaries of his time. (See Judges 8:22-23 and 1 Samuel 8:6-7; and Matt 6:24)
Today’s struggle in Latin America and elsewhere for a society in which there will be no rich and no poor is not “a preferential option for the poor”, as the Catholic conferences at Medellin and Puebla so inadequately put it.
It is not an option – it is an obligation for true followers of Jesus.
To the extent that one does not participate in revolutionary struggle, one participates in the benefits of a society which lives essentially by exploiting and oppressing the poor, just like the system did in Jesus’ time. Merely abstaining from the struggle constitutes aiding and abetting this criminal act, and therefore constitutes complicity. The poor are victims of injustice and we are obliged to see they get restitution.
Such is the politics of Jesus. Perhaps one day it will be the politics of the church.
Miranda, J.P. “Communism in the Bible” Wipf & Stock (1982) p.69 ff
Related Zingcreed Posts:
No way, José! (José Porfirio Miranda)
Jesus was a lower class power broker
Jesus the subversive
Jesus’ real political message
Prophets attack profits
Jesus and wealthy people
[329, indexed & linked, t&c]