“Jesus is Lord and everything else is bullshit.”
If Jesus is the present-tense Lord of the cosmos and the response of faith Jesus demands is best understood as allegiance, it quickly becomes apparent that the world is filled with rival lords vying for our loyalty and allegiance.
When the Risen Jesus commissions the disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel he tells them the way they will manifest his lordship is by baptizing and making disciples of all nations; that is, Jesus commissions them to plant communities of faith. The life and practices of the church therefore are the ways we call bulls@#$ on the Powers and Principalities who would have us think they’re in charge.
This is slippery work for Christians in America, more difficult for us than it was for the first Christians.
It’s easy to be shorn of any illusions about the goodness of your nation when it’s making you lion food for Rome’s entertainment.
The first Christians thus harbored no confusion that the Kingdom of Caesar was commensurate with the Kingdom of God so their calling to be an alternative community, a set-apart people within the polis, was more self-evident than it is to us who live in an allegedly Christian nation.
About that nation, presently led (I use that term with no small amount of irony) by The Donald.
Many Christians, primarily progressive Christians but not uniformly so (e.g. Catholic conservatives like Michael Gerson and Ross Douthat and even my muse and mentor, David Bentley Hart, who is Orthodox), view support for The Donald as outside the bounds of Christian endorsement. Rev. Willam Barber, understandably if mistakenly in my view, has characterized even prayer for The Donald as “theological malpractice bordering on heresy.”
The danger posed to America by The Donald, the thinking goes, is so grave Christians must meet it with protest, mockery, and resistance. Certainly all of those are valid forms of prophetic Christian witness, but i wonder if those are the only ways to resist, or, even, the first way to do so.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said the danger of patriotism is not love of one’s country but that very often patriotism does not allow for confession of collective sin nor expressions of repentance. Bonhoeffer writes in Ethics that to profess Jesus as Lord in the midst of this ‘religion’ of nationalism is to confess one’s own complicity in sustaining the very Powers the Church confronts. People forget- Bonhoeffer opposed the Nazis not to save the Jews but to protect his nation from the destruction the Nazis were wreaking upon it.
As a German Christian, Bonhoeffer’s first response to Hitler was to confess his Church’s own complicity in creating the conditions for the Nazism he now felt the Church was charged by God to resist.
Admittedly, the analogy to Hitler and Nazi Germany is an indelicate one. The takeaway from Bonhoeffer however is this one: perhaps resisting The Donald as the Enemy and his stubborn legion of supporters as the other is an insufficient Christian posture. Maybe like Bonhoeffer progressive Christians et al would do better to discern and confess the ways we’re guilty of creating the conditions ripe for The Donald’s demagoguery. What has the Church in America and the Left in America left neglected such that Americans felt only he could give them a voice ? And by what, I mean, of course, who. Who have we neglected?To what extend are we culpable such that those voters accepted The Donald’s (idolatrous) language of “Only I can help you…?”
Bonhoeffer provides a needful reminder in our current cultural climate.
Without confession, resistance only perpetuates the cultural antagonisms, which produced the very president progressives now feel compelled to combat.
In this respect, to call BS, as Hauerwas counsels Christians, entails a willingness for Christians to own and name their own BS; that is, their promiscuity with other lords.