Waking up the Jesus followers

Christian faith is not only personal, but political

The word "anarchy" usually makes me think of angst-ridden teens who listen to punk rock, wearing ski masks and spray-painting graffiti on the sides of buildings late at night.

Ronald E. Osborn wants to claim "anarchy" as a term for Christians. Osborn's idea of “anarchy" is identical to Christian thinker Jacques Ellul's "anarchy:" if our allegiance to Jesus is absolute, our Christian faith ultimately calls us to resist every other authority that claims authority over our thoughts and actions. In other words, following Jesus eventually puts Christians at odds with every other political, economic, social, or religious source of authority.

Osborn's powerful and moving essays lay out profound social and political consequences of following Jesus, especially the Christian calling to be peacemakers. He's never so shallow as to try to tell us who we should vote for, but he makes it very clear that being a Christian is political, not just personal.

In the opening chapter he challenges our understanding of military victory in the 20th century. Like Robert McNamara revealed in the film The Fog of War, Osborn shows that the winning side whitewashes victory in moral language while the truth is that war is a false god with an insatiable appetite for blood. Osborn examines the moralizing and religious language used to defend violent American imperialism, the war in Vietnam and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, contrasting the language that justifies violence with the Christian message of love, peace, and reconciliation. His writing has the clarity and vision of an Old Testament prophet like Amos, or contemporary prophets like Jacques Ellul and Bob Ekblad.

These essays reflect some of my favourite sorts of writing, reading contemporary culture and politics through the lenses of literature (Homer, Elie Wiesel, Simone Weil), theology (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas) and Scripture. His chapters "War, Fate, Freedom, Remnant" and "The Trial of God" are beautiful, moving, inspiring and challenging, and his chapter "Language in Defense of the Indefensible" is a thunderous wake-up call for all of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus yet find ourselves easily swept up by political rhetoric used to justify violence against our enemies. For a book with "anarchy" in the title, this collection of hard-hitting essays is thoroughly saturated in Christian teaching about peace and love.

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