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Thursday, January 9, 2014

What I’m Reading: The Political Teachings of Jesus

Adequate. Decent.  These are the two words I would use to describe Tod Lindberg’s book The Political Teachings of Jesus [i] - which is, in itself, a sad thing. There’s nothing terribly wrong with the book.  But it’s not very invigorating. Which is odd because if there are two topics you shouldn’t discuss in polite society they are politics and religion.  We set these topics aside at dinner parties because they stir up fierce and strident conversations.  But Lindberg’s book doesn’t stir very vigorously.

The thesis of the book is that Jesusian (which he pronounces jay-SOO-sian) politics can –and should be- embraced even without a belief in Christian Theology because they are good for society in the here and now, and not just in the promise of the afterlife (Lindberg, 1).  There is a brief introduction of this idea, followed by an examination of the teachings of Jesus in two parts (1 – The Sermon on the Mount, 2 – The Parables and Sayings) followed by a brief application to modern society.

His exegesis of Jesus’ teachings isn’t particularly striking.  He breaks no new ground.  It’s all a bit routine. And his applications are vague and generic.

I was also a little irritated by his use of the “notorious 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City” (Lindberg, 184) in his discussion.  He cites this story of numerous neighbors who witnessed the murder but did nothing to help as a true story – despite the fact that it’s been shown to be a grossly exaggerated urban legend. 

I give this book a rousing “meh,” and a shrug. 

[i] Lindberg, Tod The Political Teachings of Jesus, Harper Collins, New York, NY, 2007.

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