There are some things we have to understand (and help our people understand) if we’re going to “get” the Bible.

The Bible was written in a world controlled by the pre-modern domination system. People were ruled by a few. These few ruled by so-called divine right. These domination systems funneled riches to the few, the powerful. They were economically exploitative.

The Exodus is the story of a people freed from a domination system: slavery in Egypt. The prophets railed against economic exploitation by these systems of domination. In his preaching of the kingdom, Jesus offered an alternative to the systems of Herod and Rome: the kingdom of God.

Rome referred to itself as a kingdom, not an empire. Basileia. Kingdom was the way the ancient world organized politically. If Jesus wanted to avoid political interpretations he could have used other language. He intentionally used kingdom language to spark his hearers. This is most likely why he was crucified. Sedition. If we over-spiritualize this we miss the point.

So another thing we have to get is that Jesus was killed. He didn’t die a natural death. Moses lived to 120. Muhammed into his sixties. Jesus was executed by the state, by a kingdom, a system if domination. Christianity is the only major religion whose central figure was executed by the powers of this world. And Peter was executed. And Stephen. And many martyrs. So, was this a strain of bad luck? Or is something really unique and important happening here vis-a-vis the domination system of the day.

These are some of Marcus Borg’a comments summarized. It seems to me our preaching underplays the importance of the death of Jesus though our hyper-spiritualizing of it through the theory of vicarious satisfaction (substitutionary atonement a la Anselm). For that matter, a high christology often deemphasizes the humanity of Jesus. We miss what a remarkable human being Jesus was, when we make the mortal Jesus (who dies, really dies) into a super being.

Now the question becomes how we who claim to follow Jesus relate to domination systems of our day. Are we in collusion with systems of economic exploitation? Are we truly walking the footsteps of the martyrs, or are we loyal citizens of the empire, giving them lip service?