1. The doctrine of the ascension is the basis of all political theology – and why there can be no such thing as apolitical theology. The church cannot be a cultus privatus because Jesus of Nazareth, “crucified under Pontius Pilate,” reigns and his edict is public truth. Remove Christ from the forum and it does not remain empty: nature abhors a vacuum; idols love one
and soon fill it.
4. With a shrug of their shoulders, conservatives love to quote the text, “You always have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7), as if poverty were an order of creation (cf. “the rich man in his castle, / the poor man at his gate”), and there is nothing we can – or should – do about it. But Jesus was not being cynical, or even realistic, about the inevitability of an excluded underclass,
rather he was reminding his disciples where they will be found if they are faithful – among the poor and oppressed.
5. The point is not that the poor and oppressed have a monopoly on virtue, let alone that they are an elect group, rather it is simply that they are the ones who get screwed – and God doesn’t like people getting screwed. So God sends his servant Moses, his spokesmen the prophets, and finally his Son Jesus, their Big Brother, to take care of the bullies, though he fights with his mouth not his fists. Not, of course, that God loves the oppressor any less than he loves the oppressed; indeed his rescue mission is to liberate them both, the latter from their humiliation and suffering, and the former from their pride and violence.
8. The flipside of an apolitical church is a sacralised state. This is “the Constantinian rap” (Lesslie Newbigin). And a sacralised state easily becomes a demonic state. The cross is draped with the flag, and discipleship is absorbed into citizenship. The German Christians are the paradigm nationalist idolaters; history repeats itself in the farce of the Religious Right. “Never was anything in this world loved too much,” wrote Thomas Traherne, “but many things have been
loved in a false way, and all in too short a measure.” The true love of ecumenism trumps the sentimental love of patriotism.