Friday, July 16, 2010

Was Jesus a victim?

I recently wrote a bit about a certain Mr. Glenn Beck and thought I would be done with him. But he's back. I don't really care about politics much these days, but when someone smears the Gospel of Christ, I think I should respond (not because I'm particularly important, but just because that's what I do).

Mr. Beck made the claim recently on his television program that
"This is kind of complex, because Jesus did identify with the victims. But Jesus was not a victim. He was a conqueror...Jesus conquered death. He wasn't victimized. He chose to give his life....If he was a victim, and this theology was true, then Jesus would've come back from the dead and made the Jews pay for what they did. That's an abomination."
The whole context is a smear job on Rev. James Cone, a leader in the black theology movement. I don't really want to get into defending black theology (I already have); I just want to focus on the basis of the Christian message, which Mr. Beck has been subverting to oppose the policies of the current President of the United States of America.

Why is it important to address Glenn Beck?

It is important to address this claim because people listen to him. They look to him for guidance on their world views, including their political, philosophical, and spiritual views. I'm not sure why a former morning radio shock jock should be a spiritual advisor, but he is that. I'm sure people wouldn't claim him as such for themselves, but they use his words almost verbatim to defend their existing views. (See: Confirmation Bias.)

The above highlighted text from Mr. Beck is what I want to focus on; because I have heard several people use that exact language over the past few days (since Beck's show aired). I haven't heard anyone say this before, but now I'm hearing it nearly verbatim.


Breaking the sentence down, it appears that Mr. Beck is making the claim that black theology demands vengeance ("and this theology was true" [sic]). Black theology doesn't demand vengeance against anyone, but restitution. It is a peace-theology, rejecting all forms of violence - individually, corporately, and systematically.

I just want to briefly touch on this part of it because this is the context Mr. Beck is using: He was trying to make the connection between black theology and violent organizations like the New Black Panther Party. He's trying to make the argument that black theology adherents want to "kill cracker babies" (his words), reparations, and make white people subservient to blacks.

Of course this is all a huge lie, but that shouldn't come as a surprise from Mr. Beck, who frequently fabricates things to scare his audience.

But people I have heard quoting Mr. Beck's claim haven't broken the sentence down, and they assume that this "pay back" is just inherent in the nature of God. "If Jesus was a victim, he would have sought revenge," they say. They reject the notion that Christ could have been a victim, and picture him as a conqueror.

The Gospel story

What these people do not understand is the complete picture of the death and resurrection of Christ. Perhaps if they attended a liturgical congregation they would have a better understanding of the passion story. Black Friday is a day of mourning, and Easter Sunday is a day of celebration. They forget the resurrection part. Christ died a victim, and arose a victor.

So let's set the record straight: God died a victim.

Let's look at the claim again, more closely:
  • "He wasn't victimized." The Bible and the Apostles' Creed would differ.

    • From the Creed: "[He] suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell."
    • From the prophecies: "My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'" (Psalm 42:10)
    • From the trial of Christ: "While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: 'Don't have anything to do with that innocent man.'" (Matthew 27:19)
    • The Apostle Paul: "Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead." (Acts 17:2-3)
      "For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (2 Corinthians 1:5)
    • Letter to the Hebrews: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." (Hebrews 2:9)
    • The Apostle Peter: "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ... When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:21, 23)
  • "He chose to give his life." This is true, but he chose to be victimized. He chose to suffer unjustly on our behalf. If he was not wronged by those who killed him, there would have been no need to "forgive them for they know not what they're doing."
  • "If he was a victim ... Jesus would've come back from the dead and made the Jews pay for what they did." This is such a great claim I will devote a whole section to it. It goes to the nature of God and the idea of sin.

The big pay back

This last claim of Mr. Beck attacks the very work of the cross. The death of the Christ was precisely to avoid making anyone pay for their sins against God. But Mr. Beck exclaims that one cannot sin against God without him making them "pay for what they did."

It was because of what man did against God that Jesus came into the world. Because of man's sin, they were worthy of justice, they were worthy of punishment. Christ came to redeem mankind by taking upon himself the violence of man, to become the victim of man's violence, to take the sins of man onto himself, so that man can be restored to God.

Praise God! Jesus defeated death! Now we all can live! We can all be free from sin, from our violent nature, and free from death itself!


Steven Kippel said...

I'll note I had a conversation with someone who did espouse Glenn Beck's view, and after a few back and forth comments we agreed we were just coming about it, but in different ways. On an eternal perspective, Jesus was ordained to suffer. But as a man, he was a victim. Jesus chose to be a victim.

His Name Extoled said...

I'll have to finish this not on my break, but it almost seems as though we must define victim here. since time is quick I'm using the definitions offered by Mac's dictionary.

"a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.
• a person who is tricked or duped
• a living creature killed as a religious sacrifice."

There is a narrow sense in which I can see Becks point that he is not a victim by the fact that he lay down his own life. I think this might be incomplete or need to be qualified, but later I'll try and get around to looking at what he said more in depth and finishing your post.

So far I'm inclined to agree with you that by nature of the violation of Christ's humanity AND his deity, he was a victim, willing victim but victim no less.

His Name Extoled said...

I finished the article and am just getting back to you. Overall, on this topic, we agree. I'm actually wondering what type of environment you travel in where Glenn Beck is so idolized. I like some of the things he has to say, but he goes over the top quite a bit. Anyway I'll sparee us the rabbit trails and just say I agree with you on this topic.

Steven Kippel said...

Many older people watch Fox religiously as part of their suport for policies. They vie Fox News ratings as a scientific poll showing the overwhelming support for Fox News policy ideas.

People in the Tea Party Moveent recognize Beck as the main driving force behind their movement. Its not uncommon tosee Teapartiers with signs extolling Beck.

I spent the past week with such people. Last night, I dozed off to sleep with Beck's voice pouring in through the room next to me as they got their daily fix.

His Name Extoled said...

Hmm. My mom's a tea partier and we butt heads regularly. Guess that makes sense. Though she also clings to the "Underground Republicans", whatever that is exactly. I can see how that get's frustrating.