This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
The way you look at Jesus changes everything. Jesus as messiah doesn’t go very far on the justice front. It’s great for empire though.
I’ve been fascinated with Jews and their journey toward Christianity for a long time. It’s like JuBu’s – Jewish Buddhists – when Zen was all the rage. Still, there’s something different about this flirtation with Christianity.
Buddhism for Jews is an exploration of spirituality with no strings attached. Whether this is real Buddhism or not is beside the point. You find few JuBu’s struggling with the empire Buddhism that supported Japanese fascism in the 1930s and 1940s or the recent Buddhist-Muslim flare-up in Burma. For JuBu’s that’s a world – and a religion – away.
Crossing the Jesus redline is another thing altogether. Jew-bashing has been a central preoccupation with Christianity for 1500 years. Since a liaison with Jesus is a flirtation with Christianity, it’s a serious boundary to cross for Jews. Lots of red flags.
Of course, neither Kovel nor Braverman want Christianity as it was. Many Christians don’t want it either. What they want is Jesus before Christianity – a Jewish revolutionary naysayer, anti-(Roman) occupation activist and profound spiritual explorer.
Is this the real Jesus? No one really knows much about Jesus in a true historical sense but Christianity’s canonical texts are suggestive. They point to a revolutionary sensibility which Christians rarely follow.
Christian liberation theology has crystallized Jesus’s prophetic sensibility. Christians who embrace Jesus’s radical prophetic message are, like the Jewish dissidents of our time, deep in exile.
There is a two way street in radicalizing Jesus. In order for Christians to find the radical Jesus, Jesus has to be placed in the Jewish prophetic tradition. Jesus’s Jewishness has to be located – and embraced – by Christians.
So whether you’re walking on the Jewish or Christian side of the street, Jesus, separated from Christianity and placed in the Jewish prophetic tradition, can be a unifier – especially when both the Jewish and Christian establishments sell out their own origins for status, power and wealth.
This makes for another strange transposition. Whether you’re walking down the Jewish or Christian side of the street matters little if the pursuit of status, power, and wealth orients your life. If you’re into Constantinianism – having religion bless empire – does it matter if you’re Jewish or Christian? That’s true for Muslims as well.
Jews, Christians and Muslims of Conscience are practicing the same religion more or less. They have to find and embrace the persistence of the prophetic. What better way than to do this together?
Empire Jews, Christians and Muslims are practicing the same religion more or less. They have to root out the persistence of the prophetic. What better way than to do this together?
Still, Jews flirting with Jesus is alarming, don’t you think?
In the end, though, perhaps it’s simply another way of sticking it to the Jewish establishment’s assimilation to power and empire Christianity.