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The Politics of Surrender

In current American political discourse the rhetoric of hope, change, peace, and justice is ubiquitous. Of course, the irony of it all is that this source of rhetoric is consistently deployed as a weapon, both rhetorically and physically. The language of hope, justice, and peace is everywhere, but it is always a venture toward victory without loss, hope without suffering. This stands in stark contrast to the politics of the cruciform and grave-shaped Lordship of Jesus. Here again is Alan Lewis,

“Though there is an Easter victory, a fecundity of life in the midst of death which shall redeem and transform history, the only way to that future and to its temporal anticipations here and now passes through barrenness and negativity. God can no more come to the divine tomorrow of consummation and fulfillment than we can to ours, without firs embracing suffering, defeat, and death. More specifically, our non-optimistic hopes of participating in history’s future of justice, peace, and freedom cannot be separated from the imperative upon us, as upon the God of history’s own self, to countenance the varieties and costs of surrender: the pain of giving away, of giving up, of letting go.” (Alan Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection, 324)

The politics of Christian mission and eschatology cannot support any promises of peace and freedom outside of the openness to surrender, suffering, and cruciformity. Any rhetoric of hope and freedom that eschews the costliness of confession, the pain of discipleship must never be confused with the language of Jerusalem. For those of us that name the name of Christ there can be no rhetoric of resurrection that is not underwritten by the practice of the cross.

5 Comments

  1. adamsteward wrote:

    “For those of us that name the name of Christ there can be no rhetoric of resurrection that is not underwritten by the practice of the cross.”

    That’s a zinger if I ever heard one.

    Saturday, October 4, 2008 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  2. Byron wrote:

    Let the reader understand.

    Monday, October 6, 2008 at 3:57 am | Permalink
  3. Doug Harink wrote:

    Halden,

    While I appreciate and affirm your comments in this post, I find the quote from Lewis troublesome:

    “Though there is an Easter victory, a fecundity of life in the midst of death which shall redeem and transform history, the only way to that future and to its temporal anticipations here and now passes through barrenness and negativity.”

    First, the Easter victory is not the triumph of “a fecundity of life in the midst of death,” but the triumph of the God of life against the power of death. Lewis makes the victory sound like an all-too-immanent process.

    Second, there is no human “way to that future.” It is, rather, a future that comes to us in its own power, and on its way “passes through barrenness and negativity” only because its advent is resisted by the powers of death and sin, and not because of some negative necessity intrinsic in the way things are (as Lewis’s next sentences seem to suggest — a la Hegel?).

    But I have not read Lewis’s book, only the several quotes you have provided. Perhaps he is better overall than this quote suggests.

    Monday, October 6, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Doug, Lewis is a complex thinker, informed largely by Barth and Jungel. As such he is a profoundly Christological thinker. Any “human” ways to that future only come by virtue of humanity’s union with Christ. As such, it is not an immanent process, but rather a Trinitarian event which catches up all humanity into it in the event of Cross-Burial-Resurrection.

    I think what makes Lewis sound a bit too immanent is his commitment to see death, as well as resurrection as a divine Trinitarian event which is revelatory of the kenotic being of God.

    In other words, it is not that Lewis thinks there is some sort of historical process of life-through-negativity, rather he thinks that the event of Christ’s surrender to death and the ensuing overturning of the powers of death in resurrection define the shape of all the world’s being.

    The point he’s making here is a political one: we cannot seek a peace or a justice that eschews suffering, sacrifice, and death. Given the reality of sin and the raging of the principalities, the peace of Christ must always pass through the cross to the resurrection. He wants to insist that that is true in our lives by virtue of our union with Christ by the Spirit. We cannot seek a form of justice that denies our need to sacrifice and suffer in cruciformity.

    Monday, October 6, 2008 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  5. Doug Harink wrote:

    Halden, thanks for clarifying some of Lewis’s moves. Clearly there are trinitarian theological issues (and Barth-interpretation issues) in the background here which have received extensive discussion on your blog (and on Faith and Theology). I won’t weigh into those at this time.

    Monday, October 6, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

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