Among the questions that inform a worldview is the question ‘what is wrong?’ Often times, we ask this question and point fingers at others; I did so just this morning. What’s wrong? People in this city can’t drive, period! On a much larger scale, that’s what Wright sees going on in the Israel of Jesus’ day. What was wrong? The Romans occupying Israel’s territory were a convenient target, and the holy war tradition inspired many to short-lived rebellions.
Jesus comes against this from within the prophetic tradition, pointing to Israel’s failure to live within its calling; “they had misread the signs of their own vocation, and were claiming divine backing for a perversion of it. The call to be the light of the world passes easily into a sense of being the children of light, looking with fear and hatred on the children of darkness (446).” The pseudepigrapha and dead sea scrolls attest to this intensely black-and-white mindset which paints a picture of good guys and bad guys, divided neatly among battle lines. Only problem is, that’s not life, and Jesus sees that “that which was wrong with the rest of the world was wrong with Israel, too (446).”
That insight’s elementary, but easily forgotten, and we do it all the time. One example that comes to mind is the anti-Islamic bias that many Americans have carried since 9/11, often against more than the radical Islam that Bin Ladin represents. This tends to be fused with a ‘Christian patriotism’ which closely resembles, in my eyes, the violent nationalism which Jesus renounces (and was not alone in doing so). What follows is an endorsement of whatever means are necessary to eradicate the threat, and our foreign and domestic policy decisions testify to this, and to the dehumanization of the other.
Jesus pointed Israel to the real enemy, the satan, who had taken up residence within Israel. He engaged this foe in conflict, and it was within this struggle that his exorcisms were imbued with significance. While it’d take a lot of groundwork before we could begin to draw such parallels to our world (that’s what the paper’s for!), I do think that the satan is active today, and that accusation is one of his favored tactics. One counter-tactic that comes to mind involves churches standing behind those who are falsely accused, whether politically or through simple interpersonal slander. International students and immigrants, particularly those from the middle east, get a LOT of flak here, and it may be in coming alongside them and offering friendship that the church can join Jesus in his prophetic vocation.