What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture)

What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture), by John D. Caputo.  $13.59

Amazon:  This provocative addition to The Church and Postmodern Culture series offers a lively rereading of Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps as a constructive way forward. John D. Caputo introduces the notion of why the church needs deconstruction, positively defines deconstruction’s role in renewal, deconstructs idols of the church, and imagines the future of the church in addressing the practical implications of this for the church’s life through liturgy, worship, preaching, and teaching. Students of philosophy, theology, religion, and ministry, as well as others interested in engaging postmodernism and the emerging church phenomenon, will welcome this provocative, non-technical work. Winner of the Gold Award in ForeWord Magazine’s 2007 Book of the Year Awards.

From Bruce Prescott’s Mainstream Baptist blog:

Not only is the Christian Right’s bumper-sticker Jesus a cheerleader for lowering the taxes of the wealthy, but their Jesus is also a militarist. If we ask, “What would Jesus Deconstruct?” about many Christian churches, my own guess is that he would not know where to start — with their militarism and imperialism or with their greed and indifference to the poor. The closest thing they represent to anything Jesus encountered in his own lifetime was called “Rome.” He simply would not recognize himself. But you can count on it, if he reappeared in their midst protesting the war in Iraq, he would be spotted and denounced as a left-wing radical, a deconstructor, who has come back, uninvited, to make trouble for the church, and then subjected to a vicious smear campaign by wealthy right-wing “Christians.”

Caputo’s book was published in 2007, well before the Tea Party movement became a distinct phenomenon, yet he wrote a couple paragraphs wittily shredding the ideology of Christian libertarianism that pervades much of the Christian Right:

I may be forgiven (I depend a lot on that Christian virture) if I have concluded that the private-charity argument is a cynical cover for greed, which has a way of working things out so that I get to keep as much money as I can for myself and let the poorest of the poor go to the devil. . . . The more Jesus-inspired thing to do today, in my opinion, is to translate the gospel’s commitment to the poor into an effective public policy that would actually implement an evangelical imperative, to come to the aid of the weakest and most defenseless people in society, above all the children. On this point, it is not (only) the government that has its hands in my pockets, but Jesus, and rightly so. If Jesus ever said, “My money is mine, I worked hard for it and I want to keep it for myself and there are other things that I would rather spend it on than those Samaritans,” we have lost the manuscript. For “Samaritans,” read poor and black! One can say this is not a white-and-black issue, but the plausibility of that claim is right up (or down) there with a six-thousand-year-old world.

Indeed, I would imagine that if the New Testament is our literal guide, then the standard tax rate for Christians should be set at 100 percent. The early Christians lived in common and distributed to one another according to their needs; in fact, one of the first disputes to break out in the church was whether this distribution was truly equal (Acts 6:1). I am still looking for the text that supports the idea that “Christians” means people who should be free to accumulate as much wealth for themselves that they possibly can under the law while letting the needs of the poor be met painlessly by “charity” — by people of means who will voluntarily give of their overflow — so that they do not have to share any more of their wealth than is unavoidable.

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