Note: Can I Say This at Church is produced for audio consumption. If able, I strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which has inflection, emotion, sarcasm where applicable, and emphasis for points that may not come across well in written word. This transcript is generated using a combination of software and human ear, and may contain errors. Please check the episode for clarity before quoting in print.
Seth Happy Monday everybody! How are you doing? I'm Seth, I'm excited that you're here and I'm just excited today. I'm happy, I’m in a good mood and I hope that comes through, at least in this intro. I don't remember if I was in a good mood when I talked with the guest today but we'll get there in a minute.
I just want to warn you so, today, we're gonna talk about two controversial things: politics theology, and uh religion will just use those interchangeable here. Fair warning, Brad Jersak who's the guest today, he says some things that really speak to the heart of, I think, the crux of the way that so many of us act talk and treat each other when it comes to politics. I like the way that he redefines what it is to have a political theology and how those two words interplay together but I don't want to give that away. Before we start, hit pause, rate and review the show on iTunes because I think that matters. I don't know why but I know that it wouldn't be an option to do so if it didn't have some purpose in the way that the internet does things. So if you just drop me a line, let me know how that is going what you think of the show.
What I could do better? Be honest with me and also shoot those to me as an email, you'll find that contact info at the website.
Another month is halfway gone at recording on this July 15th and another uptick in patron support and so thank you, every single one of you. There is not adequate words, at least not that I've found, to say thank you. Without you, every single one of you, this show would not be a thing; in any way shape or form, and it is a privilege to do this with you all. I'm I know I'm growing and if any of these shows impact you at all, speak to you at all, if you listen to it and think: “you know I should share this with person A or person B”. Consider becoming a supporter of the show at any capacity any level.
Enough of the updates! Here we go, a good conversation with Brad Jersak.
Seth Brad Jersak, it's been over a year, welcome back to the show Brad!
Brad Thanks for having me back. I can't believe it's been over a year, in fact, I have no clue what we even talked about last time a lot of waters gone under the bridge.
Seth The episode with you still is consistently one of the most downloaded. So there's you, and then two or three on hell, and a couple others that just consistently every month after that first couple weeks bump continue to creep back up, month-over-month over a month.
So we talked about the atonement, you made a Men In Black reference about Tommy Lee Jones and sin and death.
Brad very good
Seth We talked about Christus Victor and I believe you were trying to convince me of some form of that. At the beginning of that one you had said you know in your little lead-up of “tell me about you” and so we won't do that again because people can go back to episode 21 or 22, you had said that some of your training is in political theology. You started to talk about that a bit and I wanted to do that but I wasn't prepared for it; but and I said this then and I'll say it again now; those two words don't make any sense to me.
Both of those words are very, very, very, charged, and so when you say “you know I I have training in political theology'“ what does that even mean?
Brad Yeah, good question. So you're really asking me aren't you?
Brad Okay let's let's break down the phrase. I really agree with you that those words are charged and so when we talk about words like politics and theology they're loaded with backstory and accretions and lots of ugliness too. Especially in America right now where politics, if you're a Christian, I wish it were a bad word, a dirty word because Christianity has so bedded itself with partisan politics and policies.
So what do I mean by political theology? I'm gonna back up just a little bit and say that that the roots of politics are not partisan Democratic culture Wars. Politics have to do with public faith, and that is, if we're going to have a faith that is more than private; yes we want a personal faith but do we really want a private faith, that has nothing to say about justice.
Well actually that's not a bad idea. We might want to fast from that for a while just because we've watched it so badly. On the other hand, our attempts at a secularized, or should we say a privatized faith, that our values free; that hasn't worked really well either. So, on the one hand, you get religious politics that has been so violent historically and yet on the other hand when we've tried to expunge our faith from from a public voice, what ends up happening is well…
How about Stalin? How about Hitler? How about Pol Pot? I mean the 20th century saw more secularized violence than all the religious wars in history put together. So simply walking away from a public faith that has a word to say about justice, from a practical point of view, it completely didn't work. But then we ride the pendulum back and we see the church in various forms trying to co-opt the political process in order to get power. Yuck, and so that's not what I'm talking about!
What I'm talking about is this. Rather than trying to take over the state, rather than trying to suck up to the state, rather than getting in bed with partisan politics…
I wonder if we could root our faith in the Hebrew prophetic tradition that cared about justice and spoke as a prophet to the to the political powers. So I'm not saying become a political power.
I'm saying that a good political theology will renounce being a chaplain to the Empire and will be a prophetic voice challenging it; like Micah did, like Amos did. And in subtle ways, or maybe not so subtle, like the early Christians did when they would say things like “Jesus is Lord” when that was on on the Emperor's coinage.
When they would say that “Jesus is the Lord and Savior of the world” that was a direct challenge to things that people like, well, the emperor of Rome for one. Where Caesar Augustus for example was claiming that and so when the church would say those kind of things they're not just talking Christology then, they're doing political theology around allegiance.
Christ wants our allegiance and he wants the values of that prophetic tradition to be part of our discourse as we push back against what, let's say left and right wing, tribalism is demanding you sign up for with their script.
So it becomes truly prophetic rather than a chaplain it shows up before each war and prays with the president
Seth Yeah …
Brad that's what I'm talking about
Seth You said we should possibly take a fast from “that”. Do you mean a fast from public faith? A fast from private faith or a fast, for a time, from justice? Like when you said that, which one of those things were you saying fast from?
Brad Yeah, that's a good question. I would say taking a fast from the political partisan alignments
Seth hmm …
Brad as our way of doing public justice, that's just completely missing the point.
So I don't want to be…I don't want to say no to public faith, but I suppose when I said maybe we need a fast, actually that might be…it might be that we need to do some detox before we do some rehab.
Because it just seems almost impossible that we could speak out on this without sounding partisan without sounding like we've been co-opted by the left or the right or that we're trying to do so.
I mean we've got to say something about what Matthew 25 says about immigrants and refugees and prisoners and compassion to the marginalized. So I don't want to abandon that either it's just so horrendous that when we try to do it we do it so badly.
Seth I find this last year, so I don't know, this'll sound weird but the offshoot of doing this podcast is somehow or another I have been given a small voice
Seth and each week is the podcast grows that voice gets bigger and so I find myself muzzling, no that's not the right adjective. I find myself really intentionally choosing why I comment or say anything;on anything. So when I do comment I try to just echo what Jesus said about things and depending on the topic I'm either called a liberal, and I'm gonna use that word in the real sense of liberal like change everything liberal, or I'm also called…why are you so like you're so far over this way over here, but on this side on this issue you're so far right.
So, how, using a good praxis of political theology, how does one listening that wants to use a voice to talk about justice…and I mean, shoot, just today there's a news article where the my president, luckily you're in Canada correct..
Seth so not your president. My president argued in court that migrant children that are being detained don't need soap and toothbrushes and toothpaste, like they just don't really need those. I don't even know why that's is a concern that matters. I read that and I'm like
“I should say something on this” but I don't know how to do so, well, and I don't know how to do so and represent what I want to represent, well. I don't know how to do both. Speak out and detox at the same time if that makes sense but I'm afraid…I'm afraid that nothing will get said if I can't decide how to do either.
Brad Yeah and silence is complicity of its own sort, isn't it? I mean, and so, I suppose I have two things to say about that, One is follow Jesus. Even if other parties use what you say in Jesus name, to “slot” you into their left/right, conservative-liberal, spectrum and then resist that slotting at the same time. So, let's say on the topic of refugees Christ makes that a criteria for the final judgement so this is no an application of the gospel, it's not marginal to the gospel, it's a criteria for the final judgment in Matthew 25.
So speak on that and when you do you will be called a progressive or a liberal or left-wing and then that opens the gate to say, “no that that kind of spectrum language, the spectrum itself, the whole spectrum is the world system that hates Christ”, the whole thing. Because intrinsic to the spectrum is “other-ing” and exclusion, and on the far ends, even silencing. So everybody…you're going to find yourself with strange allies on the left on the right in any given situation. But it's not because you're on the left or on the right it's because they've accidentally hit on something Jesus said at some point. But if you check their script the script is absolutely not something you're gonna be able to sign up for.
So I have a friend right now, who I color a budding friend; maybe, through my mentor Ronald Dart, who is alt-right and she just got crucified by her own people. And so I'm watching now my men my mentor take her under his wing and say, you've got to repent. Not of being on the right and moving left, you need to repent of spectrum ideology itself. That's the world and so when I talk about political theology that's my platform. That spectrum ideology is what the Bible calls factionalism and it's liberal versus conservative, right versus left, us versus them, either versus or, and so on. And I'm saying if you follow Jesus it can look like he's taking you right or left if that's the worldview you're trapped in but it's a matrix…
Brad and you've got to transcend the matrix by following Christ. And that means befriending people, love of enemies until they're not your enemies, until they are your neighbors; until they are your brothers and sisters. In that way we understand that the best of political theology is opposition to polarization. It's about having the maturity to hold difference in tension with the other. What we've done when Christians try to engage in it we've tried to make it about sameness and forcing people into our script and even making them obey our script by trying to take over the Senate, for example or the Supreme Court or whatever. And I'm just like, oh man, that is so worldly. That is so Imperial. That is so not public faith.
That's just the Christian Taliban;
Brad left or right,
Brad and I'll add one thing to that, sorry to ramble on but, in terms of what I've noticed about the Christian Right is…as ugly as they can be intrinsic to their theology is fear…
Brad and that can make them angry and violent. But what also noticed is on the fundamentalist left they don't have that fear, and so they're free to be more cruel. And I'm like wow!
So there everybody will be mad at me now. I'm just saying that's the matrix and get out of the matrix!
Seth So, I agree with that. So I don't know, maybe four or five days ago, I was mowing the grass and I stopped to turn the lawnmower off, had the AirPods in so I can talk to my phone. I've been trying to get thoughts out as they come to me I don't know why they're there, maybe I'll write about it maybe I don't know maybe they'll go nowhere, but I basically said something similar.
That something to the effect of “I'm in a constant state of fear and right when I feel like I've moved past fear something breaks and it gives me reason to fear again. I find myself constantly falling back to, you know, if the dominoes are coming down and right, when I get where I need to be…which is probably the most uncomfortable spot to be…I find I often revert back to a tribalistic form of mentality. Because it's…it's easier and there's a community there, and I think so often when you're using a voice prophetically; I guess there's no one else there with you.
Brad Yeah, and I think part of us really needs that…that sense of belonging and I'm just saying that if you buy into tribalism to get your belonging…watch your back because that's gonna…that’s when you go off-script that's the problem. And so this person on the the alt-right, she went off-script, and it was her own people that stabbed her in the back.
Seth mm-hmm, yeah
Brad there's this song…I'm not a big Tim Minchin's fan
Seth I don’t know who that is…
Brad Tim Minchin is, he's a I think he's probably like a British pianist, who does very cynical kind of performances. But he's got this song called “Fifteen Minutes” and he's just noted this very phenomenon. Where he talks about in the few he's talking about in the future as if he's talking to Andy Warhol about what's the future gonna be like. He's like well..tell Andy Warhol this…
In the future everyone will have 15 minutes of shame…
See he said (Warhol) we'll have 15 minutes of fame and the song 15 minutes of shame. Where they become unforgivable; and so, he's kind of mocking this. He is saying “look, yeah go ahead. Pick up your pitchfork and your torch. Join the lynching! We'll go hunt the monster down”. But then he says, “but keep an eye out for the uneven ground. We'll turn on you if you stumble.”
Brad and he says that part of the era that we're in now, it's really where we've weaponized humiliation and he's talking about how people of your own tribe will will stab you in the back. And they'll do it in a public way, let's say like a Twitter lynching. I've just seen this with my own friends, and saying I'm like wow this is brutal!
Brad so okay…so we don't want that…
Oh! I see your problem Seth. You were hoping to do this and you thought it would solve your rejection issues.
Seth Me? No, no… :) — ( but maybe )
Brad Ask Jesus about that one right!…Following Jesus we'll run you into problem with your own crowd at some point because you'll go off script, but the good news is this. There are people you respect who love you who. When the crowd turns on you you can say
“yeah but you're the crowd. You're the herd, but I know Brad loves me. I don't even need to agree with Brad and he loves me. So who are you? You're just a herd!”
If you have a little posse of people that you respect and who love you that goes a long way, when it hits the fan.
Seth I don't know enough about history, outside of my own. how did the early church do this well? I don't necessarily mean, like right there, at you know…at that the early early church with Augustus Caesar; because people talk about that. That's pretty much all they'll preach on. Coming soon, you know, as we finish up the Pentecostal season and as we roll in to Christmas. Because we really only go Christmas/ Easter/Pentecost/Christmas/Easter/Pentecost; over and over and over again. So over the first thousand years/two-thousand years, of the terms, how did they practice as well? Or what did they do to model this in a way that will…I mean you and I are both Christians so obviously they did something well,…but what did they do as they're being bounced around, exiled from place to place to place to place?
Brad Okay, yeah and so in terms of public theology, what that would have looked like in the first few centuries was well one persecution by the Empire. But also in the second century the apologists were writing letters to the Emperor saying this persecution is ridiculous because look what we're doing! Wherever we go we're caring for the poor; we're making your your society, the Pax Romana, “the Peace of Rome” we we're actually serving your goals. In terms of peacemaking, in peace building.
Sometimes emperors would buy that and often they wouldn't. In other words when the Empire was their enemy Christians practiced public faith, so there's political, that looked like Matthew 25 caring for the poor the marginalized widowed. In fact some of Paul's cousins and Phillip’s daughters practiced their public faith even before he became a Christian. We called them the un-mercenary physicians because they were in Tarsus, they were well-to-do, and they had healing springs there, like spas, and they bought them because only the rich could use these. They bought them and and they welcomed prostitutes and the sick and disabled to come to their spas. They were even treating the prostitutes for sexually transmitted diseases and they were doing it for free; that's why they're called un-mercenary.
It’s free health care! So those kind of things happen in the first few centuries. Then there's this just, as it's kind of a partial truth and it's a partial myth, that when Christianity was in was endorsed by the Empire when Constantine came to power some treat that as the real fall of the church. Okay maybe in some ways it became dangerous because then the Emperor Constantine would go out and attack other people's in Jesus name. That's not what you do!
I noticed we still do it
Brad it's not what you do. But it's also too simplistic because at times that the church pushed back at the Emperor and was…let's say John Chrysostom was able to confront the empress of Constantinople could confront her corruptions from the pulpit as she's sitting in front of him. So there is a guy who's saying we're grateful for freedom of religion and we will speak truth to power even it's when it's right in front of us. He gets banished, two times, and he's willing to do that. So you'll hear people talk about the fall of the church when Constantine became Emperor and I'm like, that's that's partly true if we get in bed with their military industrial complex.
But on the other hand Athanasius went into exile five times for 15 years so clearly they weren't only giving in, they were speaking as prophets to the state like Nathan was to David. Even at the risk of their lives and many were martyred over that. Even once Christianity was was the official state religion, if they were honest.
Seth As I was researching for this, I'll see the church speak out about something. You know, it will at least here in America and to be honest that's where my tertiary research was. The church or pastors will see something a few of them will speak out about it and then 50 years later something will change. Then there is a lull, is there a way to practice public faith or public theology that constantly calls people to do better to love better, to take care of one another better, without the cyclical nature; or is that just inevitable.
Brad Yeah, it probably goes in and out like the tides but we could have some principles that would mitigate that. One principle would be this:
Do not try to legislate your moral-ism by taking charge of the Senate. If you could just make that commitment that this idea of legislating our moral-ism is so completely anti-gospel. That is not what God has done he hasn't made us obey Him in any way, and so rather, through Christ we hear the call to peace building, What does peace building mean?
On the one hand it means let's oppose that which causes harm. Sure that's true for sure, but, I think there's even a layer under that; and this is why I call it peace building. We're not peacemaking in the sense of you don't make somebody do anything and it's not just passive-ism, as in like you know, passive sense but rather you look at what are the underlying causes that create the desperation that bring about unjust behaviors. A good example of this is when when the twin towers fell some fundamentalists actually are just saying “well this is God sending these Jets”. Like his own missiles
Brad because he wanted to punish America for gay marriage and abortion, or something like that. Right, well, I mean that's really crass. But also there were those who said how dare you ask why they did it it's just evil they are evil. They hate our freedom! That's not peace building!
Peace building is asking what on earth creates the desperation that would cause somebody to do a suicide-bombing of any kind. There was a real attack on peace builders, and I noticed this from the Beatitudes, that there's to be attitude that says blessed are the peacemakers. There's is they will be called the children of God and then the next beatitude attitude says blessed are those are persecuted for the sake of righteousness or justice, it' is the same word in Greek.
Brad in other words…when you're a peace-builder who begins to poke those buttons you will face severe retaliation. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, he didn't die because of the civil rights movement, that was way before, he was doing civil rights preaching in ‘63 & ‘64. The day before he was murdered he was preaching against the Vietnam War and the American military complex. That was, you know like, so he's going after, like, what are we doing here in the world is an empire? And although it never went to a criminal court, in civil court the CIA was indicted. And it's like okay hang on a second I don't know what we can prove…but I do know that in the more American court system, at the civil level, they indicted your secret service with murdering somebody who had been preaching against the Vietnam War the day before.
Okay! Hey, wow now we're back into the Hebrew prophetic tradition and all of that could be, like speculation, well what I just said were facts, I don't know that they actually did it. I'm just saying those are that's the data we have now. Why did I tell you that? It's just because peace builders who question why things happen tend not to be seen in a good light. Unfortunately the most vocal Christian spokespeople for faith right now are as far as I can tell are just buying into the government party or the government's foreign and domestic policies. And it's like wow did we ever lose the plot?
Seth I was having an argument with someone earlier today and he asked me…he's like well what would we do with AIPAC which is American Israel superpac. Because he was talking about Iran and everything else and he's like how do you know? How do we not go to war?
Well, I hope that we don't and, I was like, but it's…it's ridiculous that we would want to force them to demilitarize when we refuse to.
And he's like “but we have to protect ourselves”
Brad from who?
Seth we're adults here. You can't say do this and then refuse to also do that. And he's like but Israel’s our ally. I'm like, okay they also have their own nuclear weapons that we gave them so I don't..,what are we worried about her? He got so angry…
I am curious about this, so very quickly, I don't know how the demographics are in Canada but Christians will not necessarily be the majority at least not, I would say practicing Christians. I don't mean Christians on paper, your Church and Easter only Christians but actually practicing / participating Christians; so we will have to figure out a way to do this interfaith. So I'm curious your thoughts on that like very, very quickly. By the time my son has graduated from high school the political, cultural, and religious landscapes will…will be vastly different than what they are now. So how do we either prepare for that or just proactively engage in it in a way that respects both traditions regardless of the tradition?
Brad Yeah that's a great question because our answers to that have been unbelievably short-sighted. As if there won't be a shift at some point and we'll prevent that shift, you know through anti-immigration laws or something crazy like that,
Seth sure because that's always worked in the past.
Brad so my critics will go “you're just saying open the borders”. No I'm not, not saying that. I'm just saying the way things are going your grandchildren are facing something that you better hope…you better hope people treat your grandchildren kindly when they're the minority. How do you best do that? By clamping down on people now; or by treating them so kindly that they remember and that their grandchildren show gratitude?
Right, so let's take Christianity and Islam for example-there are of course toxic versions of Islam just as there are toxic and violent forms of Christianity. It seems to me and this will come back sort of transcending spectrum ideology. It seems to me that we have really good allies who are peacemaking Muslims, and if we can befriend those peacemaking Muslims I see two stages to really taking that next level.
One is: first of all we find the common ground. Most Muslims in the world, in fact nearly all of them, their hopes and dreams are for a peaceful society where they're not being bombed or wasting their money on missiles. They want to have good hospitals and good schools for their children. They want to see their children grow up and flourish just like us.
So that's good common ground, in fact we have more common ground than we do if let's say the secular Israeli state, for example, and even among our Jewish brothers and sisters we've got real pacemakers that we can work with who are opposing the oppression of Palestinian people, for example. They're not self-hating Jews, they are Jews who have paid attention to their own prophets and so should we.
Okay so having said all of that so the first thing is we can look for some of those common grounds. By the way any god-fearing Quran keeping Muslim is a follower of Jesus. They absolutely believe that Jesus is alive, he's not just a good teacher, he's the Messiah. He's coming again, he'll overcome the Antichrist and establish God's kingdom on earth. That's Muslim theology and for those who push back at that—go learn from them and ask them, ”you know tell me about Jesus” and if their Imam is not teaching that he's gone off track.
So how do I know this? Because I'm friends with Imams. I'm friends with with a Safi kaskus who's a translator of the Quran and he's like of course every good Muslim would be a Jesus follower.
So I'm like, okay, we've got some common ground and then I would go next stage and say…
What if we took the relationship a level higher to where we acknowledge our differences, like, I mean core differences. Where Safi cannot believe Jesus is divine and I must believe he is. How shall we then live? Well, shall we bomb each other? No we will honor difference, we will have the maturity to hold difference, and to love one another even with a covenant love; since the God of Abraham conferred covenants on both Isaac and Ishmael. And to say, you know you see this God very differently than I, and you must if you're a true Muslim, and yeah..we intend to worship the God of Abraham and the God of Abraham has a commission that we're to fulfill and that is that every family and yours would be blessed.
Could we do that even while we disagree on some core theologies like our Christology? Safi says yes and I say yes. So that's working for us and it'll probably happen from ground up but you're also gonna get the nut jobs.
Brad but that's down on the spectrum and we don't live there.
Seth So the next biggest segment that everyone will engage with will be those that hold, you know, that there is either no God or that if there is one I don't really care, you know atheists or agnostics. While we can find common ground in that we're both humans how would you do that when you don't have a similar Christology?
Seth Because I have no religion to fall back on. All you have is politics or maybe shared community or maybe our kids playing the same baseball team, you know something like that. The circle of overlap, maybe I'm wrong, maybe, but I feel like it would be smaller though.
Brad Yeah in some ways theologically it would be but in terms of Christ-like value systems maybe not. Here's what I mean. I know some desperately un-Christ-like Christians who are anti-humanist. They believe that people are fundamentally corrupt and depraved and they really dehumanize anybody who's not in Christ in their mind. So that, and in fact I've been told you know, we need to think of them as zombies they're dead, spiritually. And I’m like “oh my goodness I don't know what that is but it's not it's not Christianity!” and yet it's pretty dominant out there at least in circles we've rubbed shoulders with right?
Brad On the other hand we've got the father of humanism, Erasmus the great Church reformer who chose not to break ties with Rome. But what he's doing is he's riffing off the eastern Greek fathers who said “no at your core every human on this planet continues to bear the image of God even if it's been tarnished and our roll is to see that diamond beneath the tarnish and to proclaim its goodness and to introduce a good news message that actually cleanses that tarnish”.
Well I know lots of atheists who see the dignity of every human being, they would call themselves secular humanists. So who do I have more in common with…the secular humanists or the Christian de-humanists?
So, yeah again, with them I'm like okay we're gonna have core differences but could we agree on some key things that I believe are actually Christian values? The dignity of every human being, the diamond that is each person.
So today I was at a harm reduction seminar and my friend, Ward Draper, from Five and Two ministries was a speaker. So this is in a public college, very secularized society, and he was able to say…”you may see it differently than I because I see Christ in everybody. You might call it something else but could we agree on the dignity of human every human we meet?” and everybody's like absolutely! It was unbelievable and a beautiful common ground. But also he didn't have to shrink back on his core belief system and they didn't expect them to. So that was pretty amazing.
Seth I like that. I don't know much about Canada…do y'all do public theology better on that side of the latitude line then we do? If so, what can we learn from that?
Brad I don't know that we do. We have different problems, I would say ours are in some ways more subtle. What we observe from up here as we look South is…we're shocked and we're kind of smug and we say we have our own “quieter, more passive-aggressive” issues. So I would say it like this, in Canada you might learn from us in terms of the honor that we are trying to restore to our First Nations or Aboriginal peoples.
Really learning from them about things to do with justice like restorative justice. That's something that I think we've seen good fruit from that you might actually be able to bear as well. I will say this though, whereas in America, your highest moral value is freedom. Even if it means killing someone, okay I see that as deeply problematic but our highest moral value is tolerance
Seth hmm I see
Brad and now here's the ugly part about that. When you make freedom your highest moral value you will kill anybody who tries to interrupt your freedom. But when you make tolerance your highest moral value you will demonize anyone who makes a truth claim.
Seth hmm - laughter
Brad and so tolerance becomes very, very, intolerant, which is mostly okay in Canada because we're so far beyond you in terms of secularization. We don't have a powerful Christian Lobby and that's really helped us. But on the other hand it means that Christians can feel defensive and then they start lashing out, or they can be silenced in ways they shouldn't be and so here's the interesting thing. I'm not a pluralist, meaning that all paths are valid, well I don't think that. I think all paths are actually fulfilled best in Christ and my tolerant secularist friends hate that. But pluralism, that's how we do battle, we say hey wait a minute I thought were pluralist that means Christians get a voice. Actually if we have lots of voices and we're one of them we think we'll do pretty good because we have the best news on the block.
So my mentor, Ron Dart, who taught me political theology he serves in a public university and so his battle is with secularism where he says; “What do you mean we can't have a Christian chair and a Sikh chair and a Buddhist chair in a university I thought we were tolerant?”. He is a like a genius at this and I'm seeing people's fath restored as they enter his pluralist classes. He's got Muslims and Buddhists showing up for his Muslim and Buddhist classes and saying he's honoring their tradition.
Brad and then that gives them space to make a case for his tradition. And kids who've lost their way, especially ex-Church kids are kind of finding their way back.
Brad yeah it's so good. So that's a real, ongoing, concern in Canada. Where it's like we're battling secularism using pluralism to give Christianity a voice and we may lose that one but we're working at it.
I think it's more subtle, you can see it's more subtle, than just trying to take over the Supreme Court with conservative right-wing Christians.
Seth Yeah, so earlier, you talked about prophetic voices and I'd like to give people some resources as we wrap up what are two, three, four, whatever voices that people can engage with that are maybe coming at this from a different angle. I don't even care if they're American or Canadian or British or Australian, I don't care where they're from, what are some of those current active voices that are doing work that you find impactful or prophetic. Voice that maybe we won't necessarily realize until what's too late.
Brad I can give you specific examples. I want to start by online education we're I'm part of an online school called IRPJ.org, it stands for the Institute for Religion Peace and Justice. What we're doing is we have Canadians / Americans and also guest lecturers from the UK and from across the sea and Asia; from Australia from India. We are talking about a Christian theology of peace: specifically that peace building that I was talking about where you're looking to to undergird things. Dr. Andrew Klager is the director of that, I'm a core lecturer for it, but we've also got got a whole variety of wonderful guest lecturers.
I'll just name one of them is a grandson of Gandhi, so students could join a cohort with us and you're gonna get like online access even some face-time in as a cohort with with guys like him. So IRPJ.org is a place where you get education. In terms of voices that I'm listening to right now, I think, you've got Stanley Hauerwas he's really good and also Walter Brueggemann
Brad these are senior statesmen in the body of Christ who know how to use the Scriptures as that Nathan kind of prophet, that holds the Empire's feet the the fire; and they're just there eloquent and we're talking like 70s and 80s now that these are guys are seasoned and they know their scriptures and they know public faith and they're really good at it. On the younger front we've got Bryan's Zahnd and so he's the pastor of Word of Life Church and he's written a bunch of books that are about public faith as well. He's really pushing back in terms of against militarism and nationalism and patriotism which becomes an ideology and he's actually saying that much of what passes for “act of American Christianity” is really just civil religion with a thin veneer of Jesus talk on it. He's written books like Farewell To Mars, and that would be a good one by him on that topic.
In terms of activism i also follow Shane Claiborne on Twitter and he's really saying look at if Christianity claims to be pro-life what's with this Christian promotion of the death penalty and I mean Christian promotion. Then there's a Yale scholar named Miroslav Volf, and he wrote an amazing book on called exclusion and embrace and he's a real voice for political political theology of peacebuilding and forgiveness; he's magnificent. So that's some people I'm paying attention to you right now.
Seth Well I know some of those voices, quite a few of I don't and so you see me keep darting over, I'm taking notes on that, because I find and I don't know maybe you agree, as I read and I read a lot for this but also just a lot and I like the bibliography almost as much as I like the books anymore. I'll see somebody says I'm like oh that's number two and then stop, pause, go buy the book, and then I get stuck in that book. I find I'm not finishing books I just keep going from one bibliography to the next which leads me to this…so I know that you have a new book coming out later this year.
I'd like, if you want, what is that about? Why should people get it and then how do they get in touch with you as I listen to this? If they are like, “I kind of like what you're saying Brad I have more questions”. Wrap all that up for me.
Brad Sure, so the book I have coming out…I hope to have two books out this fall. One is called A More Christ-like Way and it is a follow-up to a previous book I wrote called A More Christ-like God; and in the first book we're talking about how Christ shows us the very nature of God as self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love. We see the image of God in clearest focus on the cross, where God is love and he's not retributive. He's all about restoration and redemption and that's where this world is heading. But A More Christ-like way then says, '“What does this look like in practice"?” and we're not looking at Christian examples for that. We're looking at Jesus’ humanity, in his teachings, in terms of…here's the way of cruciform, that means cross-shaped love. What is a way of living look like that involves self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love?
And so in that book I'm gonna do, like I have, I critique four counterfeit ways. I critique moralism, I critique partisan a-moralism, I critique this spectrum factionalism, that we talked about, and I critique, sort of, nationalism and civil religion. Then I go into seven facets of the Jesus way. That the radical ,meaning roots, going back to the roots what are the radicals of his way and it's that involves forgiveness it involves inclusion it involves surrender and so on. So that's where that book is going…
The other book you might find interesting is called in IN; and I'm still working on the subtitle, but the idea is that we've got these two ditches. In one ditch we want to uphold the uniqueness of Jesus but that can go into a ditch of exclusivism where we're God's little club and everyone is out, you know. And we also want to talk about God's all-inclusive love, but that can go in the ditch of pluralism. Where it's like everything counts…who cares anyway?
What I want to do in this book IN, is to say, we need to hold these two truths together. The unique revelation of God's all-inclusive love, and I use as a starting point the story of Cornelius who before he's a Christian God already calls him clean and righteous and accepted.
Brad So there's the inclusion. But then Peter doesn't say “Oh! Then he doesn't need Jesus!” he goes, “Oh you're ripe to hear about Jesus!” and then he shares this unique truth claim of Jesus that leads to this profound experience of the Holy Spirit and such that Cornelius comes to know God in a way he didn't before. So, I think that story holds together the uniqueness of Jesus and the inclusiveness of God and so that's what that book is about.
Seth Two at the same time though, that seems to be a bit…
Brad Well it had to do with word count and content. A More Christ-like way used to be longer; and so I extracted elements of that, on the inclusion issue, that makes sense and made it its own work. That's what's going on there.
Seth I was like, “Yeah, I can't hardly read two books at one time and you're writing two it the same…”
Brad Well good, it's as bad as it sounds and you're right.
Seth Well, Brad, as always I love your voice and thank you so much for coming on. Appreciate the work that you're doing and I just, on-air, I'll ask…I'd love to have you back on to talk about either of those other two topics, specifically IN, something in that piques my interest. When are those out?
Brad A More Christ-like Way is out in September and IN, I'm not sure, but it'll be this year. So you can visit me at BradJersak.com or you can find me on Facebook and Twitter. But if you have an actual question I don't want it to fall between the cracks and so your listeners are free to email me at BradJersak at gmail.com. That's the best way to get hold of me where I won't just lose your message.
Seth Absolutely! Thank you again so much for your time tonight I've really enjoyed the conversation.
Brad I'll be back.
I'm really struggling with a lot of that. So some of the things that Brad says really impact me. Really, really, really, impact me; and I know personally, I had the conversation and then I edited it I've listened to it again since then and I'm probably gonna have to listen to it a few more times after release. So, so, much in here. I hope that something that Brad said you can take home. Specificallycthe way that you make space for one another in the way how that forces us to allow voices from the minority positions and the majority positions to have equal say in conversations. I think that's important, I think so often we forget how to do that well. I think, you know, alot of what I talked about with Jared, (a few weeks ago) and a lot about what I've been dealing with lately; I think it's because, you know, the political climate is engaging this time of year.
There's just so much that goes on with all that at least here in America, so let me know what you thought of this show. Shoot me an email, hit me on Twitter whatever works for you really.
Thank you so much to the band, Wimberly, you'll find links to their music that was used today in the shownotes. They had their album that came out recently that I'm really enjoying you will find links to them and how they get in touch with them as well as Brad and all the other information for the show in the notes and you'll find that music in the Spotify playlist for Can I Say This at Church.
I appreciate every single one of you. I will talk to you next week.
Be well and blessings to you all.