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The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow
to kill the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.
Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;
for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. (ps 37:14-16)
Europe has a lot of experience in killing dark-skinned people, and this has by no means ceased. The Mediterranean Sea is a giant graveyard, where 2000 people have been killed just this year, and 25,000 the last 20 years. These are refugees, fleeing from war-torn countries like Syria or impoverished economies like Libya. Italy has had a rescue mission called Mare Nostrum which has saved countless lives that otherwise would have perished, but it has now ended. Instead, the European Union’s border police Frontex will start a mission called Triton, but it will have a much smaller budget than Mare Nostrum and not be allowed to go as far as the Italian operation could.
Just as Italy halted the Mare Nostrum mission, the British government decided to stop its funding of rescue missions in Mediterranean. They will only provide one “debriefer” to Triton. The reason is that they think that the rescue operation is a “pull factor” that gives more refugees incentives to come to Europe.
The Guardian rightly calls this “an outrageous and immoral act. It suggests a government so alarmed by Ukip that it has lost all sense of proportion. The Italian-funded Mare Nostrum exercise, mobilised after 300 refugees drowned off Lampedusa a year ago, has saved thousands of lives.”
Our news media is right now filled with reports and speculations concerning what the army calls “foreign underwater activity” in the Stockholm archipelago. Foreign media like the Guardian and ABC News have also reported on the story, making comparisions with how the Swedish navy were constantly looking for Soviet submarines during the Cold War (and, from time to time, found some). The Swedish military has not conformed that the underwater activity is either a submarine or Russian, but this is what most analysts seem to believe, and several military experts fear that Russia is either spying on Sweden’s defense capacity, or even preparing for war.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Mt 24:6)
Just two months ago, Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace. While we do have sent troops to Afghanistan and other places under UN flag, and while we are one of the world’s primary weapon exporters, there has not been a war on Swedish soil for two centuries (it should also be mentioned that Sweden sold iron to Hitler during World War Two to avoid Germany to hit us).
The last couple of days I have been busy, partly with a big evangelistic event and partly with following the Swedish elections. The result was dramatic: the xenophobic and racist Sweden Democrats party doubled their support and became our third biggest party, and since neither the progressive nor the conservative coalitions have majority because of the Sweden Democrats, our new prime minister Stefan Löfven has a lot of headaches in trying to figure out how to govern without relying on the racists.
Sweden is obviously not immune to the sad trend that has characterised European politics the last 20 years: xenophobic, racist and fascist parties are entering European parliaments and gain a lot of influence. There is basically no European parliament left without a party that wants to cut immigration drastically and that point out minorities like Muslims, Roma or Jews as a national problem. Some parties, like Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary, are clearly neo-Nazi and uses the same rhetoric that Hitler used 80 years ago against ethnic, religious and social minorities.
Naturally, many Europeans are worried that history will repeat itself, and countless theories and ideas concerning how we will stop the rise of racism and fascism have been discussed. They often contradict each other: some say we should ignore them, others that we should debate against them; some say we should be more generous towards immigrants, others that we should kick out more immigrants. What way is the correct one? How should we as Christians respond?
In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul talks about waging spiritual warfare against arguments and theoretical strongholds that are hostile towards Christ: “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3-5)
What jobs can Christians have? Many would probably answer “all, because Christians should spread the light everywhere” but that would be an overstatement. Should Christians for example be prostitutes? Even if Jesus never said “Don’t be a prostitute”, we understand from the Biblical ethics that prostitution is not a very suitable Christian workmanship. In the early church, the Apostolic Tradition from 215 AD lists prostitution as a non-Christian job, along with some other very interesting occupations:
If someone is a gladiator, or one who teaches those among the gladiators how to fight, or a hunter who is in the wild beast shows in the arena, or a public official who is concerned with gladiator shows, either he shall cease, or he shall be rejected. If someone is a priest of idols, or an attendant of idols, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. A military man in authority must not execute men. If he is ordered, he must not carry it out. Nor must he take military oath. If he refuses, he shall be rejected. If someone is a military governor, or the ruler of a city who wears the purple, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God. (Apostolic Tradition 16:7-11)
According to the early church, Christians shouldn’t be gladiators, soldiers or governor. Ron Sider has written more about this in his book The Early Church on Killing. Even “rulers of a city” is ruled out. They kill and hurt people as well, indirectly. The political power is power through violence. The early Anabaptists and the early Pentecostals rejected political power for the same reason as the early Christians: they wanted to change society through love and the Holy Spirit, not by force or swords.
The far right is on the rise in Europe. Xenophobic, islamophibic and racist parties and movements have gain ground dramatically the past decade, probably fueled by the economic crisis.
In Switzerland, the Schweizerische Volkspartei, the country’s biggest party, depict immigrants as black sheep that needs to be kicked out, and they have succeeded with banning minarets. In Hungary, the third-biggest party Jobbik has formed a paramilitary Hungarian Guard that marches in romani areas, and a Jobbik member of parliament recently said that it was time to “assess how many MPs and government members are of Jewish origin and who presents a national security risk to Hungary”. But the most worrying far-right movement in Europe is, I would say, the Greek party Golden Dawn.
Golden Dawn is the first Nazi party to occupy seats in a European parliament since the second world war. The party themselves denies being neo-Nazi, however, the evidence that Nazi ideology is an inspiration to them is enormous. Their party symbol, an ancient Greek meander, is often depicted black on a burgundy coloured background, which makes it strikingly similar to the Nazi swastika. On numerous occasions members of the party have given the Roman sallute, widely used by the Nazis, and one Golden Dawn MP has “Sieg Heil” tattooed on his arm.
So it is Christmas, and once again we have celebrated the incarnation of Jesus Christ through destroying the climate even further with our hyper-consumption and meat eating, at least in the Western world. In the midst of shopping, Santas and stress, Christians try to remind their Facebook friends that it is Jesus who is the reason for the season. I’m convinced though that to make this message really effective, we have to split from the traditional consumerist Christmas celebration and point to the fact that the original Christmas was a revolutionary event that turned the existing political and economic structures up side down.
God Almighty became a baby. He was not born in the Holiest of Holies to the tones of choirs and harps, but among cows and hay and was laid in a food pot. Herod, the political ruler, got totally mad when he heard that the true King of Israel had been born, and so God was forced to become a political refugee. From this vulnerable and poor situation Jesus was then about to criticise the rich and privileged in His radical preaching, which His mother had prophesied about when He was laying in her womb:
Ramone Romero is posting the most beautiful, heart-breaking and hopeful artwork and poems I’ve ever seen, on his blog Wheeping Jeremiahs. He expresses prophetic tears over the political idolatry of many American Christians. I’ll let some of his paintings and poems speak for themselves:
My children! My children!
Put down your flags!
I am not calling you to carry
the righteousness of any nation,
but to carry the Cross!
I am not calling you to defeat your enemies,
but to love them as I loved you.
“Do not listen to those who prophesy
in accordance with your flags,
for I have not sent them;
they are prophesying lies in My name
and are following a ‘Christ’ they have made
in their own image—an ‘anti-christ.’
“They do not listen to Me when I speak,
nor do they turn from their pride,
but instead continue to follow their passions.
They have become like brute beasts,
unreasoning creatures of instinct
who revile what they do not understand.
“Do not follow the beast,
but repent and return to the Lamb!” (more…)
In his excellent book The Myth of a Christian Nation, Greg Boyd clearly shows that neither the US nor any other state can be Christian:
As we have noted, many Christians believe that America is, or at least once was, a Christian nation. We have argued that this notion is inaccurate for the simple reason that Christian means “Christlike”, and there never was a time when America as a nation has acted Christlike. Indeed, we have argued that it’s impossible for any version of the kingdom of the world to be Christlike for the simple reason that they participate in a system of dominion that necessarily places its trust in the power of the sword.
I totally agree. The church and the state should be seperate since the Kingdom of God is “not of this world”, the cross cannot partner with the tank. No Christian values can be enforced on people because enforcement is contrary to Christian behaviour. Jesus said that unlike political rulers, Christians should be servants instead of exercising authority. (Mt 20:25-28).
Thus, a Christian president is not necessarily a better president than a non-Christian. Rather, a Christian plumber is a better Christian than a Christian president. This is why I don’t see the victory of the Christian Barack Obama over the Mormon Mitt Romney as a giant triumph for the Kingdom of God or something like that. But I know that many American Christians think that church and state should be married and that God’s will is that the US should be a Christian nation. Thus, it is striking how many of them supported Mitt Romney in this election.
When Obama won the 2008 elections, lots of evangelicals tried to “prove” that he was a Muslim. Unlike the citizenship conspiracy theories, the Muslim accusation didn’t try to disprove the president juridically but morally – the underlying assumption was that a Muslim president is a bad president, who is unable to support Christian values (some even argued that he would implement sharia laws). Needless to say, the arguments for the Muslim Obama are horribly bad since he’s been a practioning Christian all his life, but still 20% of Americans believed it in the end of 2008.
One of the best and most inspiring books I’ve read concerning Kingdom Politics is Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. In it, they write about what it means to pledge allegiance to a slaughtered Lamb and to cultivate political imagination and creativity in a world filled with violence and hatred. Because of the American presidential election this year, Claiborne and Haw are going on a tour to campaign for Jesus. Below are some excerpts from interviews with Claiborne at Read the Spirit and Sojourners:
The whole idea of Jesus for President really started back before the 2004 election when we began thinking and talking seriously about making a faithful Christian witness to the State. For years, we had read books, studied this and eventually Chris Haw and I were led to create Jesus for President. It was released as a book for the 2008 election and now  we’re back with a book and a DVD that was filmed in many of the places we stopped along the road with this message.
Even though we’ve been working on this for some years now, we realize that this message is even more relevant than when we began. This is post-Religious Right America and we are seeing a whole lot of evangelicals and political misfits who are trying to find their way to new decisions about faith and politics. The old evangelical and Religious Right messages just don’t work anymore for a lot of us. And I know that the questions we are raising today are really touching people’s hearts.
There are a lot of good things that have been stirring up conversations across the country. The Occupy movement raised people’s awareness that 1 percent of people in our world own way more than their share of the world’s stuff. Now, people are more aware than ever of the deep and growing disparity between the rich and the poor. You can’t read the Bible and not realize that situation matters to God.
Even though it is difficult to say if hurricane Sandy is a result of weather conditions or climate change, what we do know is that these sorts of natural disasters undoubtedly will increase becuase of global warming. Thus, many see the tragic irony in that the US presidential candidates have to cancel important meetings because of the storm while the climate change issue has been absent in their debates. Instead, the main topic has been how to make the richest country in the world even richer. But in the midst of their passionate discussion concerning economy, GDP, growth and the middle class, Sandy knocks on the door and forces them to stop ignoring nature for a while.
However, it’s a bit unfair to speak about both candidates as uninterested in climate change. Even if he has done far from enough, Obama thinks that the issue is important, he is increasing renewable energy and has participated in global climate negotiations. Romney, on the other hand, has a different approach:
I’ve written a lot about how inspired I am by the life and teaching of John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement. The Kingdom of God was the most central concept in his theology, just as it also was the most central concept in the teachings of Jesus. And what Wimber showed quite clearly was that the Kingdom cannot by any means be separated from signs and wonders.
The reason for this is that miracles manifest power. When God does impossible things like raising the dead or multiplying food, it becomes evident that He is an almighty King, and that He alone can save us from sin and death. Therefore, it is not surprising that the gospels tell us how Jesus and the disciples preached about the Kingdom and healed the sick at the same time (Mt 4:23, Lk 9:2). “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (1 Cor 4:20)
Wimber’s teaching got a huge impact. The Kingdom of God is central not only in the Vineyard but also in other Charismatic movements like New Wine, Bethel Church and Global Awakening. However, I’m afraid that they have missed a very important aspect of the Kingdom that is quite evident in the Scriptures. The Kingdom of God is of course also a political term, with political consequences in our lives.