Why they killed Jesus

Why they killed Jesus.

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The Romans didn’t kill Jesus because he performed miracles or healed people on any day of the week. He wasn’t killed because he taught (or criticized) spiritual truths or religious practices. They executed him because of his subversive politics and his perceived threat to the stability of the Palestinian region of the Roman empire.

They killed him for his work in organizing a labor movement of disgruntled Galilean fishermen who were sick and tired of being oppressed by unjust Roman taxation. They killed him because he dared to disturb the peace of the “Pax Romana” by causing that ruckus at the Temple courtyard seeking to “reclaim it” from those who were colluding with Rome. They executed him because he was proclaiming a rival empire – a kingdom (literally an “empire”) of God – and their perception of him claiming to be the true King of the Jews – and their perception of that as calling for a coup d’état in Israel.

They executed him because his followers were viewing him with the political terms of “Lord,” “Son of God,” “Lord of lords,” “Prince of Peace,” and “King of kings” – instead of Caesar who had been claiming those titles for himself. Jesus didn’t die to appease God, he was killed by those who who worshiped Caesar as god.

In sum, Jesus’ execution was the inevitable consequence of someone living so radically, loving so unconditionally, and teaching so many subversive and counter-cultural things that defied the ruling powers that be — esp. after the disturbing scene he caused in the temple courtyard where he called out the hypocrisy and collusion of the temple leaders and Rome. Authentic Christian discipleship should come with a warning label.

Jesus was, however, willing to receive the worst that Rome could dish out in order to show how the worldly myth of redemptive violence was ultimately impotent – and that the way of redemptive non-violence has the power to change the world.

xx – Roger

p.s. The top two subjects that Jesus spoke about most were politics and economics – proclaiming and describing the subversive kingdom (literally “empire”) of God; and money and our relationship to it.

Rev. Roger Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor who directs the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity

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Genuine Bullying

Playing the Bullying Card in The Marriage Equality Debate

[An opinion piece from Rev Peter Catt, President of APCV. Submitted to Fairfax Press.]Peter Catt

A few years ago I had cause to caution a member of staff over bullying behaviour towards a colleague. Her first and immediate response was to contact Professional Standards and make a complaint about me; she alleged that I was bullying her. The complaint against me was dealt with and dismissed and in the fullness of time the employee left our staff.

That employee’s tactic provides some insight into the way power dynamics can play out in our community. Over the past few weeks we have seen the Marriage Equality debate become the latest arena in which this power play is occurring.

Next week Western and Orthodox churches will rehearse the drama that lies at the heart of the Christian faith, the events of Good Friday and Easter Day. On Good Friday churchgoers will reflect once more on the events of Jesus’ unjust execution. In St John’s Cathedral we will read the story in dramatic form. Real people will play the characters in the story and so make it come to life in our midst. We will be reminded that those who wielded political power colluded with the religious authorities to destroy Jesus, whom they saw as a troublemaker. Those at the top of the power tree understand that even a non-violent challenge can change the world.

In the Good Friday story, as is so often the case, the populace, who were themselves subject to the excesses of the powerful, were played by the power brokers and led towards legitimising the authorities’ actions. The mob also called for Jesus’ destruction.

On Easter Sunday we will hear of the world being turned on its head. The disciples encounter Jesus anew and the efforts of the powerful are unmasked. The victim is proclaimed as innocent.

This is a radical insight. Until the time of Jesus most people believed that victims were deserving of their fate. Illness was understood to be a punishment and falling under the power of another a sign of faithlessness. This outdated way of dealing with victims is still used by some today when they talk of or to victims. Victims of rape are told that they ‘asked for it’, Domestic Violence victims can be persuaded that they were the cause of their partner’s outburst, those who are subjected to school yard bullying can be lead to believe that they attracted the attention of their oppressors, and the suffering we inflict on the people who are seeking asylum, now detained on Nauru and Manus, is justified using similar logic.

The story of Easter day confronts this. For nearly two thousand years an alternative narrative, driven by the idea that the victim is innocent, has been seeping into our hearts and minds. Our culture, even for those who do not claim allegiance to a church community, has been shaped by the new way of looking at victims. The victims are innocent. They are not the guilty parties. Our modern day interest in progressing and defending human rights is based on this understanding. Victims do not deserve their fate. The perpetrators have to be challenged. The system has to change.

As this narrative has found its way into our communal psyche it has led to different way of looking at those subject to the abuses of power. It has encouraged us to empower the powerless, to provide the voiceless with a voice and to bring the invisible into our view.

Those who wield power never give up power easily. They can see that the Easter day narrative, with its focus on the innocence of the victim, gives a certain amount of power to victims. To be recognised as a victim is to have access to some degree of empowerment. It is the first step in giving one access to support, to the support of allies and the overturning of injustice. As a result some who wield power are beginning to seek ways to harvest this source of empowerment for themselves. They seek to proclaim themselves as victims or to label those who challenge them as perpetrators so that they can have access to the power that being a victim provides.

The bullying employee recognised this and sought to take the narrative of being bullied to herself. She wanted access to the power and protection that being the victim can provide.

For several months now I have been observing this dynamic gathering steam within the Marriage Equality debate. Last week Peter Dutton claimed that equality advocates had bullied businesses into supporting marriage equality and some Christians are claiming victim status. Most of these claims are light on when it comes to specifics and seem to reflect the fact that those against marriage equality are feeling vulnerable as they anticipate the certainty of marriage equality coming to Australia.

Not liking something doesn’t make one a victim. Neither does another gaining equality with you. Lost of privilege and status and a changing world can make us feel vulnerable, but they do not make us victims. Genuine bullying needs to be called out in the marriage equality debate as in all aspects of our living. To claim the status of victim as a way to hold on to power diminishes the plight of those who are truly suffering and we need to call that out as well.

Peter Catt is Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane. He is chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce and President of A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia).

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ARRCC is now in Brisbane – workshop 8th April (note corrected date)

Following our request for more links to groups addressing environmental concerns, we received the following advice from Renee Hills (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change):

Civil Resistance WoARRCCrkshop

 Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and ARRCC1ARRCC2others saw that sometimes a situation calls for action rather than words. Many of us in the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) are feeling that now is such a time. We are planning some specific nonviolent direct actions (NvDA) soon.

To prepare, ARRCC is hosting some one-day workshops with facilitators from Pace e Bene who specialise in NvDA skills development and the spirituality of non-violence.

 You may want to be involved, or you may simply want to learn more about what civil resistance involves and explore whether or not you want to participate in some way. This will be a safe environment, with plenty of opportunity to raise questions and concerns.

Nonviolence is at the heart of the Gospels and all the major faiths.

“To practice nonviolence, first of all we have to practice it within ourselves.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

Date: Saturday April 8th (note correction), 9.30 for 10 am start, finishing at 4 pm

Where: Multi-Faith Centre, Griffith University, Nathan campus, 170 Kessels Rd, Nathan.

Facilitator: Jason MacLeod and Penny Barrington, Pace e Bene

Suggested donation: $50 or $15 concession (but price is not a barrier – contact us.)

Enquiries: 02 9150 9713 or info@arrcc.org.au

RSVP essential: here

More on “What is Progressive Christianity?”

EyeLen Baglow, administrator of our partner A Progressive Christian Voice Australia has extended the discussion on the critical question of What is progressive Christianity?  This commentary can be found at: A Conversation on Progressive ChristianityLen draws on an interview with Marcus Borg, Progressive Christianity.com, and a long list of diverse thinking theologians which is a wonderful resource because Len has given web links to each of them. Enjoy.

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The Churches and the Environmental Imperatives for all of us

For many decades the churches of all faiths have given serious thought and produced powerful statements supporting environmental action that placed the onus on individuals and governments to aEnvironmenatla changeddress related issues of social justice, being good neighbours, saving the planet and changing lifestyles. The challenges have become more urgent and the voices of concern, protest and action become more shrill.

This is an issue that unites all sectors of faith – evangelicals to progressives – and there are many good examples of effective responses.

The Micah Challenge that grew following the year 2000, when Australia joined 188 nations in a historic and inspirational commitment to “spare no effort” to free men, women and children from abject poverty and achieve eight Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015, Micah Challenge began mobilising Christians to hold the Australian government to account for its promise to contribute our nation’s fair share towards these goals. The results speak for themselves.

The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change has played an important role in advocating and bringing all faiths together and share their responses to climate change. Major religions and denominations have made official statements that can be read at this site. A couple of the links are currently not live. It is worth noting that the Muslim Faith topped the leader board in the Clean Up Australia program with 1000 volunteers on 26 sites. The Islamic Declaration before the 2015 Paris Agreement was a very strong statement of responsibility and obligation.

Green Faith is an interfaith coalition for the environment that was founded in 1992.  They work with houses of worship, religious schools and people of all faiths to help them become better environmental stewards.

They believe in addressing environmental issues holistically, and are committed to being a one-stop shop for the resources and tools religious institutions need to engage environmental issues and become religious-environmental leaders.

The Queensland Churches Environmental Network is a commission of the Queensland Churches Together  facilitating the Church’s call to love and care for creation as a vital expression of faith. A major QCEN event was the meeting held in Toowoomba, titled ‘Impact of Mining on Rural Communities and the Environment’, where the conversation with several people from different parts of the Darling Downs was about the impact of mining on their communities and the environment. On Sunday 26th March QCEN is hosting a gathering on climate change in Brookfield (see previous post). Two recent QCEN reports are:

Ecology, War, and the Path of Reconciliation Clive W Ayre (Uniting Church) and

Green Churches: Ecology, Theology and Justice in Practice Coleen Geyer (Uniting Church)

The Uniting Church Assembly through Uniting Justice Australia has passed many resolutions related to the environment not the least being: For the sake of the planet and all its people which includes strategies for engaging congregations, individuals, communities and government in strategic and responsible action for the dealing with environment and climate issues.

We welcome other appropriate links to share with our members.

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Formation of the Progressive Christianity Network – Qld.

The Plan

In line with long held plans to ‘catch up’ with other States and have a Queensland Progressive Christianity group, this concept was boosted considerably on Saturday 11th March. The gathering at the Treston seminar stayed on to discuss a draft proposal prepared by the committee of the Modern church lookformer Progressive Spirituality Network. The plan is to transition the hundreds of members in the latter group into the proposed PCNQ while establishing a close relationship with the ever growing UCFORUM. Of course many of our members belong to both groups. Paul Inglis has accepted an invitation to chair the group in the formative stage.

We now also have many international links and are aware of a need to move forward with them in mind. At the same time, as the Common Dreams Conference proved, Queensland has a lot to offer the progressive movement and there will be much about the PCNQ that is distinctly us.

What’s in a name?

The name for the group is not yet finalised but we are keen to align and link to interstate groups for several reasons. Feedback at this meeting and emails I am still receiving will help us to make the ‘right’ decisions.

What is the purpose of such a group?

The scope and purpose of the group is still under discussion, but the following have been mooted:

  • to provide a safe place for progressive thinking Christians and others to come together and discuss the many issues in the life journey
  • to be an organising group for seminars and conferences
  • to continue the work of the former progressive spirituality network
  • to build links with non-Christian groups with strong interest in progressive spirituality and religion
  • to welcome atheists in the ongoing conversations about the meaning of life
  • to work with similar interstate groups when planning visits from keynote speakers
  • to publicise events related to our interests
  • to make appropriate commentary on contemporary matters
  • to explore the growing literature and scholarship in the field.

 

Some proposed initiatives

The planning team has already begun the process of setting up a Round Table group made up of representatives of all progressive and ‘explorer’ groups and individuals who can informally come together to find common ground and share in initiatives.  A draft paper on this proposal is available on request from Paul. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

We will be considering whether this is part of the brief for the PCNQ.

We want to reach as many interested people across the State as possible and an early challenge will be to find ways to support individuals in isolation from progressive groups. Already we have many members who correspond with us and receive reading lists and other information.

Watch for further developments and please continue to participate in our activities.

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A reflection: Films that break the ‘conspiracy of silence’.

Our friends at A Progressive Christian Voice have recently posted the following commentary:

BEYOND ‘LION’ TO FILMS BREAKING THE “CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE”

by Ray Barraclough

Recently in cinemas around Australia tears were shed in response to the dramatised film Lion depicting the perilous journey of a young Indian boy losing touch with his natural Indian family. But there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of such stories in our own land.

And the children involved did not become lost but were actually forcibly removed from the arms of their families. The Royal Commission, which heard numerous testimonies from what was termed ‘the stolen generation‘, produced its report entitled Bringing Them Home [1997]. It contained dramatic accounts that could be the basis for not just one but many films depicting this Australian phenomenon.

The film Rabbit Proof Fence [2002] took viewers into this sad landscape. But there are many more such stories that Australians need to see on their cinema and television screens.

Bernard Lewis observed that:

History is the collective memory and if we think of the social body in term of the human body, no history means amnesia, distorted history means neurosis. [1]

Suppressed history and neurotic memory – both flow from what has been called ‘the conspiracy of silence’ in nationalistic Australian history. Timothy Bottoms, in his book entitled Conspiracy of Silence, documents what he terms ‘Queensland’s frontier killing times’. [2] But Queensland is not alone in this. No Australian state is devoid of such testimonies, such killings.

It is a challenge to the Australian film industry that that silence be broken. Brief and fleeting utterances have been given of the bigotry and violence that became cloaked in that Australian silence. Thomas Kenneally’s novel, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (made subsequently into a film) attempted to give insights into the life of Jimmy Governor and the ripples of violence that still affect this country’s memory.

Every year on 25 April we are saturated with Anzac memorabilia, leavened with religious salvific terms such as ‘blood sacrifice’ and martyr-like language of men shedding their blood for the Empire and their country.

Admittedly the numbers who died at Gallipoli vastly outnumber those who died at Myall Creek and Coniston. But what of indigenous people – women, men and children – whose blood was shed for defending their own land? Can not a drop of Anzac memorial water be spared for them?

What Australian town, shire, or city, pauses even for a moment on the 10th of June or over the days beginning on the 15th August, to remember and reflect upon the massacre of Indigenous people that occurred respectively at Myall Creek (10 June, 1838) and at Coniston (from 15 August, 1928).

And there are records in white history that document these events. The two trials over the Myall Creek massacre [3] and the records of a Board of Enquiry [4] into the Coniston massacre, would provide ample material for a full length film script to reduce the enveloping silence.

Even an arch-conservative figure such as Tony Abbott can refer to the treatment over history of the Indigenous people of this land as ‘the stain on our [Australian] soul’. [5]

Fortunately in Australia there are film-makers prepared to make films that will break the Australian ‘conspiracy of public silence’ about at least two of the numerous massacres thRay Barracloughat occurred throughout the length and breadth of this country? Notable is the 2012 production of Coniston by Rebel Films, directed by Francis Jupurrurla Kelly and David Batty. [6]

If our nation cannot bring itself to publicly remember Myall Creek and Coniston, perhaps commercial films depicting these events can break the amnesia and neurosis of our country’s limited memory.

________________________________________

1. Bernard Lewis, Notes on A Century – reflections of a Middle East historian, Penguin, New York 2013, p.5.

2. Timothy Bottoms, Conspiracy of Silence – Queensland’s frontier killing times, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2013

3. For an account of the massacre and subsequent trials note Mark Tedeschi, Murder at Myall Creek – The trial that defined a nation, Simon & Schuster, Cammeray, 2016

4. Police Magistrate A. H. O’Kelly presided over The Board of Enquiry which was established on 27 November, 1928. One Board member was J.C. J. C. Cawood, Government Resident in Central Australia, and Murray’s immediate superior. Cawood revealed his own disposition in a letter to his departmental secretary shortly after the massacre: “…trouble has been brewing for some time, and the safety of the white man could only be assured by drastic action on the part of the authorities … I am firmly of the opinion that the result of the recent action by the police will have the right effect upon the natives.” Cawood to Secretary Home & Territories Dept 25 October, 1928. NAA A431 1950/2768 Part I.

5. Speaking in Federal parliament on 27 May, 2013, Tony abbott said: We have never fully made peace with the first Australians. This is the stain on our soul.

6.The documentary film entitled Coniston was awarded the best Docudrama award by the Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) on 21 November, 2012. It was screened on ABC TV on 14 January, 2013.

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Where doctrine meets science – Kevin Treston

EarthA well attended seminar led by Dr Kevin Treston last Saturday heard about the impact of new scientific movements on the Christian story. Based on his new book Who do you say I am? The Christ story in the cosmic context, we were invited into the world of evolution, cosmology and the anthropic principle, connectivity in the universe, God as primal energy of love, quantum physics, emergence theory, morphic resonance, globalisation, DNA and genetics, global warming, consciousness, and inclusive global spirituality.

KevinTrestonWhile Kevin does not claim to be an expert on any one of these topics, he does have a good breadth of understanding of their basic principles. His book focuses on the challenges to the contemporary Christian churches that resists moving their doctrine along with new understandings. Many of these scientific discoveries offer new critiques for traditional views of fall and redemption, understandings of the incarnation and the significance of the coming of Jesus as the Christ. In terms of the latter, was it a result of the breakdown of humanity’s relations with God or the regeneration of life through the Jesus as Christ in the magnificent unfolding evolutionary story of the universe?

All of the presentation was a stimulus to read Kevin’s book where the Christ story is told and celebrated within the context of modern science, especially evolution and cosmology. After hearing Kevin I was even more attracted to the documentaries by Professor Brian Cox! Kevin goes to considerable pains to ensure that all of this links to very practical features for Christian life each day. In his words: The warning for Christianity is that unless Christianity integrates its core teachings with positive features of the emerging modern world in which we live, Christianity will be further marginalised to the fringes of society and lose its treston-bookinfluence for the betterment of people and the earth community.

Published by: Morning Star Publishing $19.95

To order: contact sales@morningstarpublishing.net.au or a local bookstore or

Kevin: kevintreston@gmail.com

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Recommended for ‘entry to’ or ‘refresher of’ progressive theology

We are often asked for recommended readings and we give reading lists to new ‘explorer’s’ of progressive Christianity. Top of my list is Val Web’s Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology: Finding yourTesting Tradition and Liberating FULL COVER B.20.12.2014.indd own voice for many reasons. I am sure many of our hundreds of followers will have already read this wonderful text, but just a few comments for others….

Val is an advocate for theology being done by every Christian. She asks How can the church be a force in the world if its lay people have nothing to offer but dogmatic sound bites that fade into nothing when taken up and challenged by others? Thinking theologically is not the same as believing and we should re-think and investigate what we previously simply ingested by osmosis. In that way we can make sure what we think or believe is not someone else’s formula  for making our own lives make sense.

Many explorer groups exist on the sidelines, or in some cases even have a significant part to play in the life of congregations These are safe places for people to discuss questions without censure and to use their brains and life experience to make sense of everything. Nothing beneficial comes from religious debate where arrogant certainty or disdain, the use of clever words, or refusal to engage are the tools for discourse. These groups often share the growing number of books that demonstrate the great scholarship that exists in this field of thinking.

Val Webb’s book gives a good overview of the field of thinking around progressive Christianity identifying it as part of the stable of liberation theologies that have emerged from greater education, the impact of science and the challenges to the way in which church doctrine has evolved. It is also about a universal spirituality movement because the way God is discussed leaves room for openness to other religious traditions. We can learn more about our faith and ourselves by greater understanding of other faiths and atheism. Important to this is the move away from one meta story or universal truth and its medieval understandings of God as an external interventionist, in contrast with the notion of an indwelling Spirit.

Church historian Diana Butler Bass says that, for centuries, we have assumed religious commitment starts with assent to a set of beliefs that also dictates how we behave. This believing and behaving makes us eligible to belong to a church community. While this may have been the way of past generations, she suggests it should be the other way around – belonging, behaving and believing.This would take us to the way of Jesus who invited followers to join him – belonging – to proclaim and live the way of the reign of God – behaving. Beliefs emerged and these were fluid until the creeds declared orthodoxy.

Val manages, in one book to take us through the foundations of theology, the way in which we can all do theology, the history of the church and its theology, reasons for being bold with our doubts, the spiritual journey of life, and living out our theology in ethical and responsible ways.

I enjoyed this book immensely.

It is available from Morning Star Publishers 

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