This study of Jesus turns into a statement on American politics.
Hendricks (Biblical Interpretation/New York Theological Seminary) begins with the questionable assertion that Jesus has not been viewed by the church as a political figure or as having a political message. He characterizes Christian views of Jesus as somewhat meekly emphasizing personal moral lessons. Though this argument is largely irrefutable, his claim that viewing Jesus in political terms is new and revolutionary is simply far-fetched. He seems not to have considered entire schools of thought, such as liberation theology, or the fact that his own book’s title is borrowed directly from John Howard Yoder, who brought a similar message to the foreground more than three decades ago, in his own The Politics of Jesus. Hendricks argues that Jesus was a political revolutionary whose teachings and actions were aimed at alleviating the suffering of his people at the hands of Roman occupiers. He doesn’t simply portray Jesus in general political terms; he contends that Jesus was an adept political activist who utilized specific tactics and techniques that we can emulate today. Inserting references to contemporary politics throughout, Hendricks turns in Part Three to his own analysis of how such modern political figures as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush fail to live up to Jesus’ political teachings and example. He goes on to compare “conservatism” and “liberalism,” concluding that though both theories are flawed, liberalism is more closely aligned with Jesus’ own politics. Hendricks’s strength is in theology, not political theory, about which he displays a pedestrian level of understanding. Attempting to press political points, he allows his original arguments about Jesus to trail off into the realm of afterthought.
A more appropriate title for this would be The Politics of Hendricks.