Volf: against the tide: leaving Jesus behind

In this piece from Against the Tide: love in a time of petty dreams and persisting enmities, Miroslav Volf reflects on how both the American Right and Left all too easily leave Jesus behind …

Sure the Left has frequently been charged with turning Jesus into a radical revolutionary or socialist or liberator of injustice.

But here Volf argues that the Religious Right can leave Jesus behind in its own way. He mentions two. The first one echoes what James Davison Hunter talked about in his critique of the religious right that I posted on back here

1. Politics

Evangelicals who belong to the religious right insist that Jesus is their Lord and savior, but nowadays many of them hardly ever talk about Jesus, at least not in public. They talk about politics – how to get their people elected to local, state and federal governments so as to advance their religous, moral and political causes. They pour all their energy into political battles with none left for Jesus …. Jesus is no longer the centre of their attention. The struggle for power has taken his place.

2. Leaving Jesus behind in Left Behind

Take the famous Left Behind series. Jesus is all over those books. But what kind of Jesus? … I felt more in the world of Terminator movies than I did in the world of the Gospels of even the world of the book of Revelation. Violent struggle dominates the imagination of these writers, struggle carried out with the most deadly weapons of the flesh. Jesus who came to redeem the world by the power of his self-giving love and who demanded of his would be followers to take up their crosses and walk in his footsteps is nowhere to be seen.

How can you and I leave Jesus behind?

How do we make a Jesus in our own image that fits our personal agendas?

Or, what takes his rightful place in our lives – what do we become more passionate about, more consumed with, more motivated by?


4 thoughts on “Volf: against the tide: leaving Jesus behind

  1. The special relationship between the Republicans and the religious right would seem to be strictly one way. The GOP do very well out of it: it ensures them massive financing, a huge core vote, and highly motivated volunteers. But they give very little in return. Despite the token gestures, abortion is still legal and probably will always remain so. The pro-life lobby in America are very gullible.

  2. All very good questions to ask ourselves periodically. For me, losing track of Jesus can usually be traced back to a couple of things…
    1. Getting hung up on secondary (even if important) details in my life or my theology–forgetting the big picture of God’s revelation of himself through Jesus and the simple but challenging command to love God and others with all I have.
    2. Choosing to find my ultimate identity and value in something other than who God says I am (Success as a spouse/mother, success in “ministry”, the approval of others, my own talents, abilities…).

    I’d also like to add that the observations of Volf ring true to me. I certainly have more sympathies with the religious right than I do with the liberal left, but even amongst sincere believers, it is not uncommon to find much more passion, time, and mental energy spent on the realm of politics than the business of kingdom work or seeking God.
    I am thankful for Christians who are involved in the political sphere, but I question the motives behind any passion that overshadows one for knowing Jesus.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  3. Hi Shane, you’re very welcome. Yes, politics while important, cannot and won’t deliver spiritual reformation & renewal and to invest hope in it to ‘turn a nation around’ is, I think, naive.

    Crystal – those 2 are what I think I would have said, except you’ve said it better than I could !

  4. I think we can leave Jesus behind when the programmes in our churches become more important than Him, when we discuss more how we are going to create new things to attract people to the gospel, and we forget to present the most attractive and challenging person, Jesus Himself. I can leave Him behind when I want Him only to be a nice god that does what I want, when I want Him to solve of my problems, when I call on Him only when I needed it, when I look for his niceness in my life and not His challenging words, when I only invite Him to be part of my life in certain areas only, the ones that I feel I cannot manage.
    Interesting that in Jesus’ time, he did not side with one political group or another, nor do we read from the apostles condemnation towards the government of their times, which it had a lot to be desired. Jesus always offered a third way, as S.McKnight would call it.

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