Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Kingdom of Heaven

"What is Jerusalem worth?"
"Nothing... and everything."

In the movie, Kingdom of Heaven, Jerusalem is believed by both Crusaders and Muslims to be the literal Kingdom of Heaven. And standing over a field of corpses after a violent, destructive battle for the city, Orlando Bloom's character Balian comments, "If this is the Kingdom of Heaven, then God can do with it what he wills." In other words, God can have it, 'cuz we want no part of it.

If only most Christians, then or now, felt the same way about winning the Kingdom through force and power. In the movie Balian understood that the Kingdom of Heaven was in our hearts and in our minds, that it was a kingdom of conscience where even committing a small evil for a greater good was not permitted. Sadly, it seems too many Christians these days are eager for a new round of Crusades, though this time we try to cover our intent with words like "freedom" and "security".

But it is too convenient to view ourselves as liberators and heroes, when in truth we are still fighting for the same old things: power, wealth, control, and the dominance of our civilization, our way of life, our values and beliefs. I don't exaggerate. I have talked with pastors who cast our current struggles against Muslims once again in terms of a clash of civilizations and suggest that there can be no peaceful resolution with Islam until the West has succeeded in complete military dominance.

And one has to wonder what happened to the gospel of reconciliation preached by the Prince of Peace. What happened to "love your enemy" and "blessed are the peacemakers"? Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within us, and yet we still too often believe that it can be won by force, whether by force of arms or force of law. We seek to seize power and wield it to impose our vision of the Kingdom of Heaven on the rest of society, forgetting that our Savior was one who gave up the power he had, made himself nothing, and submitted himself to an unjust death as a revolutionary who refused to use violence to start his revolution.

The Kingdom of Heaven will never be won through the weapons of this world. When we seek to achieve God's will through violence we deny the very thing we seek. And even a small evil does not justify a greater good (and war is never a small evil). The Crusades did not bring about the Kingdom of Heaven, and neither will our current war in Iraq bring about the peace or justice that is supposed to characterize the true Kingdom of Heaven. Only foolishly cheek-turning, physically powerless (but spiritually powerful) love can do that.

So what is Jerusalem (i.e. the Kingdom of Heaven) worth? If Jerusalem is a kingdom of stones and oil and power and cultural/political dominance, than it is worth nothing. But if Jerusalem is a kingdom of the heart and the mind, if it is a kingdom of conscience that belongs first to the poor, the meek, the defenseless, and the merciful, then it is worth everything.

posted by Mike Clawson at 12:49 AM | Permalink |


At 5/11/2005 09:43:00 PM, Blogger Dave

Haven't seen the movie yet but your post is enough to help strengthen what I believe.
Good points, we are no longer in a colonial society but often the church still uses terminology and methods that resemble barbarian tactics of the colonial era.


At 5/12/2005 12:56:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

When I look at America's behavior in recent years however, and listen to the imperialistic rhetoric of the neo-conservatives controlling Washington right now, I start to fear that perhaps we're on the verge of a new era of colonialism. I pray that it will not be so.


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