Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:
“Jesus was the most active resister know perhaps to history. His was nonviolence par excellence.”
-Gandhi -Vol.84, June 26, 1946
I too hold that Jesus is not less than, as Gandhi put it elsewhere, “the greatest practitioner of nonviolence in history.” And while we could whine and moan in long self righteous diatribes about the extent of the distortion of Christianity today that often merely provides a ‘spirituality’ to accompany the satanic destruction of God’s good creation and the oppression of the poorest of poor all in nice sanitised suburban packaging that has somehow separated the nonviolent ‘Way of Jesus’ from ’Jesus being the Way’ making a mockery of the cross with it’s pro-power, pro-war, pro-greed stance, …that’s a little to easy 😉 and all gets a bit tiresome.
So instead like to suggest some Australians who might also seem odd at first when considering people to help us gain an imagination for one aspect of Jesus’ controversial and crucifixion inducing nonviolence that is often overlooked. His provocative, disarming, larrikin-like humour. I want to make the case that nonviolence, Jesus’ nonviolence that Gandhi considered “par excellence”, is what we were created for, as St. Irenaeus put it “The glory of God is a human fully alive” and to be fully alive is to be creative, fun and often funny! In considering this God given creativity to reflect the ”disarm[ing of the] the powers and authorities, making a spectacle of them” APEC comes to mind and the actions of… The Chaser boys!
For those that missed it here’s a link to the BBC’s coverage on youtube (click here)
In all honesty sometimes I hear nonviolence, (or love, or justice) being talked about… and it’s so bloody boring! Asked to think of creative ways to get back at our enemies our imaginations run wild yet invited to imagine blessing our enemies in transformative ways that speak truth to power and we often go blank.
We’ve been sold the lie that loving our enemies is just for saints or super humans not recovering sinners like me. As if those words where abstract philosophies to be written about in big books that gather dust instead of those words being evocative of our experience of the God revealed in Jesus. Nonviolence (or love, or justice, or beauty) sadly become words that no longer open us to what God wills the world to be ultimately, (that we have seen start in Jesus) but instead stagnant principles that don’t challenge the empires we are living through.
One of the most humbling shout-outs EPYC has received has come from that mega-phone of amazing grace, Shane Claiborne author of The Irresistible Revolution who said reflecting on his time in Iraq,
“One of the doctors I met in Iraq said (with tears in his eyes), ‘This violence is for people who have lost thier imagination.’ Jarrod McKenna and the good people of EPYC are prophets of imagination. They are on a mission to create new heroes and sheroes and to reclaim God’s dream for this world. And as they help young folks to learn not to hurt each other, hopefully the nations will take some lessons.”
I believe the Holy Spirit empowers us all to become prophets of imagination. Prophets of Jesus’ creative way out of the cycles of violence and retaliation. Then we’ll be able to resist the temptations to have our understandings of ‘nonviolence’ (or love, or justice) be made sanitised, safe, nice and all a bit Fat-Cat-Humphy-Bear-Barney’s-Worldish.
Jesus’ nonviolence provocatively and prophetically turns over tables in the temple while much we often consider ‘nonviolence’ is cowardly concern for owns own innocence rather than confronting injustice. This is only compounded when our understanding of Jesus gets separated from the earthy and engaging Jesus of the New Testament. (evangelicals are not exempt from when they treat the Scriptures like a context free collection of memory verses!) I’m not sure if it’s been in the interest of keeping Jesus ‘holy’ that we’ve often lost his earthiness, playfulness, creativity, anger, edginess, and humour. We’ve taken an amazing human and in the interest of saying he’s also ‘fully God’ made him less than ‘fully human’ (which is as heretical as saying Jesus isn’t the full revelation of God). We’ve made Jesus a bit 2-D. A bit plastic toyish. A bit weird and other worldish. A bit not as human as us. Comic bookesk. A bit cardboard cut out. A bit hard to call ‘brother’. And ultimately a bit boring!
I think the opposite is true. I think the more we witnesses to the fully humaness of Jesus the more the sandal of the incarnation comes to light. I think the New Testament witnesses to a fully alive, larrikin Jesus. As N.T. Wright puts it “the humility of God and the nobility of humanity.” Or as St. Ephrem the Syrian put it in the fourth century contemplating the Christ who reveals God to be a love that does no harm,
“it is so right that humans should acknowledge your divinity,
It is so right for heavenly beings to worship your humanity.”
Let’s pray we’ll have the imagination to follow the larrikin Jesus, the miraculous Patch Adams of Palestine, in his way of disarming humour. We’ll hear the call to be practical jokers of the peaceable kingdom that pull the pants down on our suicidal society bent on unsustainabllity and self destruction. We’ll walk the narrow road of the sacred silliness of love in a world of satanic serious which spends each fourteen times the amount of money we need to end absolute poverty around the world on weapons whose sole purpose is to take life.
May we come to see a messiah, God’s idea of a real king, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfils prophecy in such a surprising and disarming way that it makes an ass out of the Roman military war horses and the Jewish expectations of a violent messiah in an inspired and moving act of holy clowning that’s as ridiculous as the expected liberating leader arriving on a tricycle when everyone is expecting tanks. Maybe the Chasers boys can help give us eyes to see.