Tag Archives: politics

Trump, the Pax Romana, and Palm Sunday

This Sunday, many churches around the world, including our own, will take time to remember and honour Palm Sunday: the moment when Jesus enters into Jerusalem and begins the events prior to his arrest and crucifixion.

Two particular things happen on Palm Sunday: Jesus rides a donkey colt, and a number of people wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The symbol of riding on a donkey colt was meant to conjure up the image of a King riding into Jerusalem.  Solomon rides on a mule when he is anointed as King over all of Israel.  Zechariah also prophesies that when the long-awaited Messiah, the great King of Zion, will enter Jerusalem “riding on a donkey’s colt” (Zech. 9:9).

The addition of palm branches is interesting.  Palm branches were already a common symbol of royalty in Jewish culture at the time; but palm branches were particularly connected to when the King entered the Temple and performed a sacrifice upon the altar.

Palm Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry as a King into Jerusalem and we see two things quickly emerge in this image of Jesus: 1) the donkey colt was also a symbol of humility and 2) Jesus is going to be a King performing a sacrifice.  But instead of sacrificing an animal on the altar, he sacrifices himself upon the cross to heal the world of its sins.

Now try lining up this image of King with that we see quickly emerging in our beloved Donald J. Trump.  As a leader or ruler, Trump says things like:

“We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning. Believe me.”

[Speaking of a protester] “I want to punch him in the face.”

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. Okay?”

“See, in the good old days this didn’t use to happen [people protesting], because they used to treat them very rough. We’ve become very weak.”

When asked about the recent assault of a protester who was subsequently manhandled by three police officers (not the man who actually assaulted him), Trump says, “He deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”

Trump represents what we could call the Pax Romana or “Peace of Rome.”  Just before the birth of Christ until about 180 A.D., Rome enjoyed about a relative peace for about 200 years.  Their claim was that the civilization and military expansion of the Roman Empire had engineered this peace.

However, the Pax Romana was anything but peaceful.  The Empire engaged in widespread torture and executions in order to maintain power over oppressed cultures, and it still engaged in warfare.  It just didn’t have any major civil wars during this time or any major opponents who threatened the stability of the Empire.

But the basic concept of the Pax Romana was that physical force and violence against your enemies creates security and peace.

This is what Donald Trump believes will happen when he uses physical and verbal force against protesters.  This is also what also lead Trump to say things like: “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.”

This was the logic of the Pax Romana.  Use whatever physical force is necessary in order to ensure peace.

Two different leaders.  Two different concepts of “King.”  One leader advocates that because he is so rich and powerful, he will make America great again.  The other leader rides on a donkey colt to announce his arrival.

One leader says you have to sacrifice people on the altar of peace and security in order to be safe.  The other leader sacrifices himself to save the world.

This Palm Sunday let’s ask ourselves “What is truly the peace that we want for the world? And which kind of King will we ultimately follow?”

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The Ontario election and the Ascension

I have just received a glossy brochure from Elections Ontario.   On the cover the word “VOTE” is enscribed in big, bold letters.  Along with the brochure came my voter registration card, entitling me to vote in the provincial election on June 12.  The same mail also contained a flyer urging me who not to vote for.  In our culture, an election is an important, often passionate, event.

On Sunday, June 1, we at The First Mennonite Church, along with the wider church, will celebrate the ascension of Jesus.  Jesus’s ascension to heaven, as reported in Acts 1:6-11, marks the end of his 40 days of appearances following his resurrection.  Though it comes as a bit of an afterthought in the fading glow of the Easter season, the ascension is also an important event.

What do the coming election and the ascension have in common?

Well, not much, if you think the ascension is only about physics.  Sometimes that is how it is portrayed–as a miracle of physics, in which Jesus contravenes the law of gravity and levitates upward into the sky.  (Once in a Vacation Bible School class I used helium balloons to illustrate the ascension.  They went, up, up, up, rising heavenward over the skies of Huron County, Ontario to land, who knows where, probably in the watery depths of Lake Huron 2 miles away.)

But the ascension is not about physics.  It is about politics.  It is about what government is running the cosmos, and who is in charge of our world.

The ascension declares an important truth that is not self-evident—that Jesus has become Lord of the world.  Elsewhere the New Testament speaks of Jesus being seated at the right hand of God (e.g. Hebrews 12:2).  The right hand is the hand of power and authority.  Your “right-hand man” or woman is the one on whom you rely to get the job done, the one to whom you delegate authority and vital tasks.  Jesus “going up” to God’s right hand means that a new government has been formed, with him as its head.

And that is the gospel.  Jesus’s ascension confirms that his death and resurrection have defeated the powers of evil.  Even though those powers are still active, their reign is over, and one day they will disappear.  Because of Jesus’s ascension, and his lordship over all things, we have the sure hope that God’s work to establish a society where people from every nation, sex, race and social class can live harmoniously together will be accomplished.

I expect to vote on June 12.  But regardless of which party wins and forms Ontario’s next government, we know who is really in charge.  Thanks to his resurrection and ascension, our premier is Jesus, who rules in ways quite different from worldly governments.  Thanks to Jesus’s enthronement as Lord over all, we have confidence that God’s will one day will “be done on earth as it is in heaven.”   And that is really good news, much, much better than my favorite political party winning on June 12.

 

 

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