Book Review: 'The Politics of Jesus'
IN CHINA, politics is an old and difficult concern. Dealing with politics could easily make one frustrated, fearful, angry, depressed or indifferent.
Political pessimists point out that even if there were political reform, it would be in style rather than substance. Still others stick with the reform process, trying their best to bring about an improvement, no matter how slight it would be.
The critical question is, where are the new ideas? And is a genuinely new - and feasible - idea even possible?
It turns out that a book published in 1972, titled The Politics of Jesus, could be just the thing to help us in China make sense of politics anew.
The author, John Howard Yoder, was a 45-year-old professor of Christian theology at the time he wrote The Politics of Jesus. In 2000, the evangelical magazine Christianity Today ranked Yoder's work as the 5th-most-important Christian book of the 20th century.
Unlike The Politics of Jesus, the other books on the Top 10 list, such as C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, did not directly address the issue of politics.
On December 29, 1927, Yoder was born in Smithville, a village of northern Ohio, in the central USA. His parents and ancestors were Mennonite Christians. Mennonites owe their origin to the 16-century Protestant movement named after Menno Simons, a Dutch theologian.
Though Mennonites have numerous sub-denominations, they share a common characteristic of commitment to nonviolence. Mennonites also have their own universities. Yoder was educated at Goshen College in Indiana. In 1949, Yoder went to Europe where he took part in the Mennonite relief program in France and North Africa.
Apart from work, Yoder studied at the University of Basel in Switzerland. He earned a Doctor of Theology in 1962. His teachers included theologian Karl Barth and philosopher Karl Jaspers. Since then, Yoder spent the most of his life teaching theology at American universities, first at his alma mater Goshen College and then at the University of Notre Dame.
The Politics of Jesus is Yoder's strongest statement of what the Christian faith really taught about hope and way of politics. He found that there were often divisions in the faith-life relationship among Christians. For many believers, what Jesus Christ has said and done seems of relevance to only some part of life.