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The Cross and the Sword
by Maina Kabukuru
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"The Cross and the Sword"

"For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:4)

This I bet you is not the last word on our series on Church and Politics, a view on Kenya and the world at large. It is here that we will attempt to arrive at a cohesive conclusion on the nascent volatile relationship between religion and politics per se. It is my presumption in this treatise to look at the issues from a broader perspective.

That the term religion is not limited and exclusive to Christianity only but includes all forms of religious thoughts and philosophies.
We will be dealing with issues that will be uncomfortable and that will alter acceptable conventions and norms; that could mostly have been posited on wrong premise and mysticism.

That the Judeo-Christian religious texts, the TanaKh and the New Testament Canonized texts are liberal in their presentation, is indeed a plus and something to be proud off. After all, the Judeo-Christian texts are the most sought after and well-researched documents to date.

Both friend and foe agree that the Judeo-Christian texts in themselves can stand to the very harshest, rigorous form of textual criticism. However, the very esoteric nature of the texts and this is not limited to the Judeo-Christian texts, inherently creates multiplicity of differing shades of opinion with regards to its application.

A case in point is the incidence observed some moments before our Lord is betrayed by one of his own and taken to the cross. It is here our Lord literally tells his disciples, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves." (Luke 22:25-26)

The afore-mentioned text does not deny nor stop the disciples from engaging in seeking political leadership positions in the larger society. Instead, it verifies the very premise on which true Christian leadership should be based upon.

Can our current crop of religious leaders acquiesce to the call of servant-leadership?
Without casting aspersion on anyone, the very history of religious leadership is filled with leadership shenanigans that shame even the most ardent machiavellian.

It is for this reason, we posit the question, What difference will the religious leadership offer in politics that they have failed to effect in their current 'non-partisan' positions? Will they guarantee the freedom of those who differ from them? How will they integrate their form of hermeneutics in translating the laws of the land?

Ours in this treatise is not to fight against religion or religious thought but to seek to have guarantees from the religious proponents that they will respect individual choices and personal judgements from differing schools of thought. We are also using the 15th century Protestant Reformation in the European sub-continent as a basis for our argument.

Our argument being that, while the Biblical law is perfect, those who interpret it and those who use it as the basis for their beliefs and political leadership remain human and have human frailties that succumb to corruption and all forms of human abuses.

A case in point is the setting up of the New World in the Americas. Slavery was condoned and segregation laws were formulated to deny others the same rights that had made them migrate to the New Worlds. The very people whose parents had suffered segregation; persecution and even lynching in the European Sub-Continent because of religion – biblical hermeneutics to be precise' perfected and even legalized bigotry.

We also want to query a very curious portion of the gospel text that as it were charges the followers of the Nazarene to carry the sword. ". . . 'But now if you have a purse take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." (Luke 22:36) There is no where else in the texts that we see the swords being used, apart from the 'cutting of the ear' incident that prompts our Lord to confront the user – Simon Peter, by telling him, "No more of this" in the Lucan text. While in the Matthean text, it says, "Put your sword back in its place," . . . for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say, it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:52-54).

It should be noted in the above-mentioned text, that our Lord did not necessarily rule out the use of arms in his or their defense in future. Instead, he wanted to prioritize his role in offering the supreme sacrifice on the Cross-; which was most important at the time. That he is also called the Lord of Hosts is in itself a witness to the role He plays in the use of arms towards his enemies as it were. It should by now be understood that the God revealed in the TanaKh is the same one revealed in the New Testament through the Nazarene.

The use of arms in the propagation of the gospel or governance for this matter is not ours at this time to deal with. However, it is incumbent on us to deal with in light of the realities that are in the Christian Religion involvement in politics.

Of course the usurpation of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine and the Edict of Milan of 313 AD that saw to it the legalization of Christianity and the making of it as the official religion of the empire created precedence.

It is probably for above-referred to reason that the great African Theologian and Church father, Saint Augustine penned his treatise, titled, The City of God which essentially is perceived as a polemical peace that seeks to allegorize and form the future basis of hermeneutics framed in symbolism.

L. Michael White observes this when he says: "The City of Rome, had been [Thought of] since the days of Constantine as now being the protectors of the church, the ones who would make the church the kingdom on earth, had failed. And Augustine looks at the destruction of Rome kind like the destruction of Jerusalem for an earlier generation and says, " How could this happen?" His response is as he writes in his very important work, the city of God, is to realize that the city of Rome [is not], and indeed no political entity is, the true city of God. The city of God when Christ comes in judgement and anticipates the final New Jerusalem."

Augustines' frustration in observing that no religious-political system or elements can truly represent the Kingdom of Christ; is the basis for which mysticism is couched on. It is the essence of the interpretation of the words of our Lord when he said, "The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom is within you." (Luke 17:20).

Abraham controlled great wealth and was a well-known personality, who incidentally was a foreign citizen who lived in tents in Canaan - the Promised Land.

The writer of the book of Hebrew says, this about Abraham the fore father of the Abrahamic faiths – Christianity and Islam: "By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrew 11:9-10).

Currently the US government as it were is a Christian led government – it was overwhelmingly voted for by the evangelicals and those who sympathize with Judeo-Christian value system.

However, does it reflect justice and fairness; does it promulgate any vicissitudes that truly accommodate the rest of social political topography? The students of diplomacy and international politics see George Bush differently and think differently about his reasons for what they refer too as fundamentalism.

(Interactive: maichk@yahoo.co.uk)

Kabukuru F.Maina
P. O. Box 5251 - 00506
Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi, Kenya
East Africa.

Copyright 2006 Kabukuru F.Maina

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