The Dick Staub Interview
Tom Wright Comments for Everyone
What did Jesus mean when he said, "deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me"?
They would have instantly heard this in a very, what we would call, "political terms." This means to do something which is liable to get you into serious trouble with the authorities, because crucifixion is not something that happens simply because somebody dislikes your religious ideas. It's something that happens because somebody thinks you're a danger to the State, or to their public order. Now, we have gone so far away from that in the modern western worldand far be it from me to go out of my way to court disaster or to court confrontationbut I think we have to be prepared to say no, this gospel calls us to a way of life which radically challenges the ways of life that authorities routinely foist on us.
It strikes me that these words go straight to the heart of a major flaw in American evangelicalism, which is the desire to be popular, the desire to be mainstream. There is a loss of the sense of exile, and speaking into the mainstream prophetically.
This is very strange, but in terms of the Left Behind seriesand I know that's only one sub-branch of American evangelicalism, but it's very popularthat whole theology, dispensationalism, started off as the literature of the oppressed, of the tiny minority for whom the rest of the world is going to hell and this very small group would be saved. That's very ironic now that literature is sustaining the mainstream, right-wing ideology, where you've got the anti-Christ turns out to be the head of the UN, he's a kind of a Kofi Annan figure who is allowed power because there's a weak democratic president.
It's very bizarre to see the way in which this ideology, which started out as a beleaguered minority thing, has become mainstream and therefore does not even realize just how compromised it is with so many things that are going wrong in our world right now.
So what did Jesus mean when he said, "render unto Caesar."
Just before the time of Jesus' birth, or around the time of Jesus' birth, there was a major tax revolt. I seem to recall that your country rebelled against mine precisely on the issue of tax revolt. Obviously some of you guys are familiar with it. There had been a major tax revolt resulting in hundreds of crucifixions, major repression by Rome. So this is one of those buttons which, if you push it this way or push it that way, everybody knows what's going on and it's very disturbing.
We have a political spectrum that runs from left to right which is from anarchy and revolution on the one hand, to a status quo and solid government on the other. The Jews in Jesus' day and the New Testament simply didn't operate with that spectrum. They operated with a spectrum which spoke about the need to call rulers to account, and calling them to account might well involve actual opposition, but opposition not because you were a revolutionary who believed in a kind of a Marxist anarchy or whatever, but because you believed that there is a God in heaven who wants the world to be governed justly.
Some people say there's no way Jesus would be a movement of the Christian Coalition, or there's no way Jesus would be a member of the Amish. Can you make that kind of analogy from Jesus?
You can and you can't. It's very bizarre to me to say what would Jesus have been a member of because part of the whole point is that Jesus was starting a movement, and quite literally the world revolves around him. I want to rephrase your question. If one hears oneself saying "could Jesus be useful to us in this question?" I want to say that the question ought to be, is there any way we can be useful to Jesus in the project that he has got going forward? And I suspect you would agree with that.
The Dick Staub Interview
- Driving to Paradise
- The Ascetic American Dream
- Dick Staub Interview: Finding God in the Questions
- Dick Staub Interview: Art Lindsley Says Truth Is True—and Absolute
- Craig Barnes Is Getting Restless