The matters of the kingdom

A new category is added here: religion. The immediate stimulus is the season of Lent and pondering the question about just what Jesus did to deserve his fate. BrothersJudd posts Thine the Kingdom in wondering about the trials of Jesus and just what kind of kingdom he confessed to being his realm. That post refers to, and quotes, an article by Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus before Pilate, that rings some familiarity with what we can see in debates and politics today.

One topic is that of who speaks and who is heard and how people can try to force their views.

So the Barabbas party, the “crowd”, was conspicuous, while the followers of Jesus remained hidden out of fear; this meant that the vox populi, on which Roman law was built, was represented one-sidedly.

We can know about the ‘wisdom’ of the crowd and protests demonstrate a desire to present vox populi over reason and reality. There is an interesting contrast today in the example of legislators running from their posts in order to shout their message louder – hiding to be more visible. They deign to debate in honest dialog but rather attempt to win power via tantrum supported by constructed crowds.

By such experience to which we are witness, we can better understand the trial of Jesus as described in the Gospels as well. We can gain a better understanding of how bad things can happen. That, perhaps, can lead us to seeing our role in such bad things and what we can do to prevent them. We do need to keep in mind humility as our conflicts are not those in the realm of Jesus and the outcomes not as significant. We can see what is important and learn about our own frailties.

In addition to the clear delimitation of his concept of kingdom (no fighting, earthly powerlessness), Jesus had introduced a positive idea, in order to explain the nature and particular character of the power of this kingship: namely, truth.

A question in many fundamentalist – whether Islam or Christian or other – is what to learn and how to apply this testimony. Is the ‘Truth’ that we claim drives our behavior really that of our deity, or is it something to satisfy our lust for power or other base desire?

It is the question that is also asked by modern political theory: Can politics accept truth as a structural category? Or must truth, as something unattainable, be relegated to the subjective sphere, its place taken by an attempt to build peace and justice using whatever instruments are available to power? By relying on truth, does not politics, in view of the impossibility of attaining consensus on truth, make itself a tool of particular traditions that in reality are merely forms of holding on to power?

Truth becomes the issue and many ‘pretenders’ think they really and truly know God’s Truth. But:

What is truth? Pilate was not alone in dismissing this question as unanswerable and irrelevant for his purposes. Today too, in political
argument and in discussion of the foundations of law, it is generally experienced as disturbing. Yet if man lives without truth, life passes
him by; ultimately he surrenders the field to whoever is the stronger.

And that leads us to the matter of how can we tell if we do know ‘Truth’ in our own opinions and views and perceptions.

In Christ, God entered the world and set up the criterion of truth in the midst of history. Truth is outwardly powerless in the world, just as Christ is powerless by the world’s standards: he has no legions; he is crucified. Yet in his very powerlessness, he is powerful: only thus, again and again, does truth become power.

Much of the Muslim extremism that drives terrorism is rationalized on the need to ‘convert the heathens’ and impose the values and truth of Islam. The question becomes one of whether this is really a ‘Truth’ or rather just a lust for power. That is a question in many modern debates where we face the conundrum also presented in the trial of Jesus.

Again and again, mankind will be faced with this same choice: to say yes to the God who works only through the power of truth and love, or to build on something tangible and concrete — on violence.

Are those guys who make a ruckus at a military funeral really proclaiming God’s truth? Do those who turn Creationism into Intelligent Design espouse such Truth? Are those who promote climate alarmism really after Truth or perhaps something else? Is the labor union for the protection of workers or the expression of power? Are those promoting alternative medicine or energy or whatever really after Truth or do they seek some appeasement to some other god? Is our kingdom one of Ceaser or is it something different, such as what Jesus described that puzzled Pilate?

How do we tell? That is something we can learn from the exegesis of scholars trying to understand Christianity, both in terms of message as well as in the lessons of history.

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