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Christianity and Empire
Christianity and Empire

God’s Supremacy in Love

Friday, October 22, 2021

Christianity and Empire

God’s Supremacy in Love
Friday, October 22, 2021

CAC teacher and author Brian McLaren has spent years calling Christians to a practice of faith that reflects the loving, nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels instead of the conquering Jesus of colonialism and empire:

The God imaged by Jesus exerts no dominating supremacy. In Christ, we see an image of a God who is not armed with lightning bolts but with basin and towel, who spewed not threats but good news for all, who rode not a warhorse but a donkey, weeping in compassion for people who do not know the way of peace. In Christ, God is supreme, but not in the old discredited paradigm of supremacy: God is the supreme healer, the supreme friend, the supreme lover, the supreme life-giver who self-empties in gracious love for all. The king of kings and lord of lords is the servant of all and the friend of sinners. The so-called weakness and foolishness of God are greater than the so-called power and wisdom of human regimes.

In the aftermath of Jesus and his cross, we should never again define God’s sovereignty or supremacy by analogy to the kings of this world who dominate, oppress, subordinate, exploit, scapegoat and marginalize [see Luke 22:25–27]. Instead, we have migrated to an entirely new universe, or, as Paul says, “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) in which old ideas of supremacy are subverted. [1]

In his own words, Choctaw elder and retired Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston “walks two paths”: that of his Native American tradition and that of Christ. Our understanding of God is deepened by his insightful description of Jesus, who experienced his own visions from God and was called to bring healing to his people.

I have come to understand what caused the pain and death that was visited on my nation, and I know that it was not the will of a loving God. The Messiah I knew as a child, the Jesus of my ancestors, walked the long Trail with my people. He was there. He suffered with them. He is not the white man’s god, but a Native healer who made his own vision quest, not once, but four times. He went out to make his lament and he was given visions. He was not afraid of the silence. He was not afraid to speak about what he saw and heard and felt, and consequently, he changed the world.

Now you and I are called to do the same. . . .

The Jesus of the Trail of Tears, the Jesus of the Lakota and the Choctaw, the Jesus who went to a lonely hilltop and made his lament is the One who shows us the way. He found his vision, changed his name, and saved his people. He was purified. He was with his trusted friends. He made himself open to the sacred. The more we come to know him, the more we come to understand ourselves. In the end, his vision and ours are intimately connected. His path and ours are one. [2]

[1] Brian D. McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Convergent: 2016), 92–93.

[2] Steven Charleston, The Four Vision Quests of Jesus (Morehouse Publishing: 2015), 40–41.

Story from Our Community:
As a retired psychologist, I did not believe in evil. One could always provide a diagnosis and explain “bad behavior.” As I reread the words of Jesus, who commanded us to “love one another” and to help the poor, welcome the stranger, feed the hungry… then to witness my own Government take funds from the poor and give it to the rich—I knew this was evil. I look forward to learning more from these meditations. —James M.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image Credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 13 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States.
The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to Dr. B as part of an exploration into contemplative photography and she returned this wonderful photo.
Image Inspiration: Our state-sanctioned history celebrates explorers who chose separation, conquest, and domination. What if we chose differently and looked instead through our own “windshields” with humility, reverence, and awe for the diversity of God’s creation?
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