Jesus Radicals Conference

Jesus Radicals Conference Flyer

This year’s Jesus Radicals Conference will be held August 14th and 15th in Memphis. Jeannie Alexander, co-founder of Amos House, will be speaking in a session Saturday morning entitled “Revealing the Kingdom in the Midst of Empire: Reimagining Citizenship, Reimagining Economics.”  To get more info about the conference, you can visit www.jesusradicals.com/conference. The conference is free (you just need to register) and there will also be free food and options for free lodging (see “housing” on the conference page). We will be driving from Nashville to Memphis and if anyone would like to carpool, let us know and we’ll set something up!

 

(If you visit the Jesus Radicals website, check out the Theology tab where there are some pretty incredible resources.)

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6 comments

  1. This looks like a cool conference. I wish we could go! I like most of the stuff on the Jesus Radicals website, too.
    I must admit, however, that I’m a little surprised/disappointed by their elevation of anarchism as the “best available option” for Christians. Of course, there are various colorations of anarchy, and (at its best) it arguably aligns itself with the absence of a state, which facially appears to be opposed to the notion of empire. However, I suggest that whenever there is a vacuum in governance of a community or people, some movement will eventually and inevitably fill that vacuum. Oft times, this vacuum is filled through severe violence, which is at odds with the proposed intent of supporting anarchy. The end result is often despotism, which is arguably the worst result for the well being of the people or community.
    I posit that followers of Jesus should not be concerned with the advancement of any political philosophy over another nor should they be concerned with the governance structure to which they are subject. Any political philosophy is “fallen” and imperfect and will fail to advance the kingdom of God on earth. Accordingly, I posit that followers of Jesus should not pledge allegiance to any government or political philosophy, but instead engage the culture in which they live (which is subject to a particular governmental structure or lack thereof) and demonstrate the kingdom of God as an alternative to the status quo. Such an approach results in a “bottom up” influence as oppossed to a “top down” influence that is part of any political philosophy.

  2. (Andrew here).

    David, thanks for your thoughtful critique. I’ll weigh in as succinctly as possible, because I trust our sisters returning from the conference may have new insight into some nuances of this conversation…which I look forward to hearing.

    I, too, have ‘struggled’ with notions of anarchy and Christian anarchy. There are a few reasons for this. One, I still have echoes of an ambivalent taste in my mouth from earlier, less mature years when my own (and my friends’) interest in radical politics was rather juvenile and maybe a bit ungrounded. This is a shame, because I feel there are worthwhile and even really important things to consider in the anarchy conversation, and I would hate for the bad taste to eclipse any chance of engaging it. So that’s one struggle, which I’m still making my way out of.

    Another is more similar to yours. Something in me (I struggle to put my finger on it) resists what may prove to be a diminishing or reduction of the gospel story and way of life. There are some ways of talking about anarchy that tend, for me at least, to be a slight reduction of the power of the gospel because it would seek to graft another political orientation onto the gospel. Certainly, it could be argued that it’s not so much grafting as it is locating the basic gospel elements within a political ideology which comes after the birth of Christianity (this could be said to be God at work in the world). If this is the case, then perhaps it’s just deft and attentive discipleship that is able to locate the gospel story in places most refuse to look. But there are times when I don’t think this is what happens, and instead, the fullness of the gospel is reduced–even if there are definite elements of the anarchist framework that meld well with the gospel framework.

    So this wasn’t brief at all, and these thoughts may be refuted or reduced (!) when the others weigh in after being around a bunch of Christian anarchists all weekend.

    Oh, also. I’m willing to wager that I’m basically a “Christian anarchist”, just afraid to admit it. Maybe what I’m addressing, like you David, is the proposal of anarchism as the best possible way–as opposed to Christian discipleship as the best possible way (with acknowledgment to the fact that Christian discipleship shares colors in more than one way with the political ideology that is anarchism).

    Let’s keep this going, eh?

    -Andrew

    1. (Lindsey speaking here.) Okay – I was hoping to weigh into this discussion much earlier, but haven’t felt like I was able to until recently. At the conference, a helpful distinction in language was made that the gospels and even major sections of the Old Testament have “anarchistic elements”; not necessarily that Jesus was an anarchist or that all Christians should ascribe to anarchism as a political ideology (although I agree that the website seems to point toward that suggestion). Some of the “anarchistic elements” they discussed were a critique of the dominant empire (present notably in the teachings/preachings of the OT prophets and Jesus), creating and engaging in alternative socio-economic practices that often stand in direct contradiction to the dominate culture/empire (true for Israelites and early Christians), and an emphasis on redistribution downward and outward rather than upward and inward (Jesus passes the disciples a cup of suffering rather than a seat of power, he instructs them to serve, not to lord power over anyone, and to make themselves the least).

      Another “anarchistic element” cited at the conference was the movement away from traditional monarchic empires that centralize power and create hierarchical models of dominance. To back this up, they cited 1 Samuel 8 which is the passage where the Israelites ask God to give them a king so they would be like other nations. Up until that point, Israel existed as 12 tribes with elders, judges and other figures in authority positions, but no centralized king save God himself. When Samuel tells God that the Israelites want a king, God responds, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do (v. 8-9).”

      Samuel warned the people that a king would take their servants for his servants and their land for his land, that he would assign armies, bring about forms oppressions, etc. The Israelites refused to listen (or rather hear) and demanded a king, so God allowed them to have a king. Fast forward to the New Testament when Jesus chooses the 12 disciples: Many people at the conference interpret this act as Jesus invoking the 12 tribes as a better model of community that is truer to the nature of the kingdom of God than is a traditional worldly kingdom and empire. Furthermore, some individuals think that the Greek phrase “basileia theou” which is translated as “the kingdom of God” would be better translated as “the commonwealth of God” which is a different discussion that I am definitely interested in engaging.

      There was also several interesting takes on events that happened in the life of Jesus. For instance, one presenter referred to Mary and Joseph’s escape to Egypt as civil disobedience to Herod’s decrees and referred to the resurrection as “God’s civil disobedience to the State who executed Jesus.” Again and again, the idea is that traditional empires often stand in opposition to the kingdom (or commonwealth) of God.

      Here are a few of the passages referenced at the conference: 1 Samuel 8, Isaiah 53, Matthew 20:20-28, Luke 4, Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 10:14-17, Philippians 2

      I hope these ideas are helpful. These are good discussions to be having and good things to be thinking about. Thanks David and Andrew for your thoughtfulness, as always.

  3. The politics of the completely invulnerable closed fist.

    There is nothing “radical” about a closed fist. Such is just an extension of business as usual. Looking for someone to blame, and seeking for the inevitable scape-goat sacrifices.

    What about the politics of the completely vulnerable open, and hence freely giving, open hand. The sign of universal friendship.

  4. Good point, Sue. It is unfortunate that “radical” politics often finds its symbols in things like closed fists. Indeed, an open hand is a better idea. Perhaps they’ll consider that next year.

    I would suggest that we be careful, however, not to shut off the avenue of conversation or engagement with something like a gathering of people genuinely trying to seek a more Christ-like way of being in the world (many conversations at the conference, for example, dealt with hospitality and jubilee economics), even if its symbol (it was a create-a-poster-contest, mind you) is a fist, with a nail wound in the wrist. I agree it’s not the best, but so long as the conversation doesn’t stop there.

    Thanks for the comment.

    -Andrew

  5. Hello

    I’ve just uploaded two rare interviews with the Catholic activist Dorothy Day. One was made for the Christophers [1971]–i.e., Christopher Closeup– and the other for WCVB-TV Boston [1974].

    Day had begun her service to the poor in New York City during the Depression with Peter Maurin, and it continued until her death in 1980. Their dedication to administering to the homeless, elderly, and disenfranchised continues with Catholic Worker homes in many parts of the world.

    Please post or announce the availability of these videos for those who may be interested in hearing this remarkable lay minister.

    They may be located here:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/4854derrida

    Thank you

    Dean Taylor

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