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The Political Jesus

April 27–28, 2018
East Lansing, Michigan

The Jesus of history resisted the political and social realities of his day. Early Christians did the same. Neither one was necessarily successful in their aims, but what do we know about their attitudes toward the economy, immigrants, and war? How did Jesus and emerging Christ communities express concerns for justice and peace? Looking at the world today, what would they say about American politics?

Photo of Arthur Dewey

Arthur J. Dewey (Th.D., Harvard University) is Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Formerly a regular on PBS’s Saturday Morning Edition (WVXU, 91.7 in Cincinnati), he is the author or editor of many works including Inventing the Passion (2017), Wisdom Notes (2016), The Gospel of Jesus (2d ed., 2014) and The Complete Gospel Parallels (2012).

Photo of Celene Lillie

Celene Lillie (Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary) is the Director of the Tanho Center and on the pastoral staff at Boulder First United Methodist Church in Colorado. She is the author of several books, including The Rape of Eve: The Transformation of Roman Ideology in Three Early Christian Retellings of Genesis (2017).

Program Details

Jesus, Empire, and Us

Arthur Dewey

Donald Trump won the election of 2016 with the promise to make America great again. Augustus Caesar had the same promise for ancient Rome. He promised to make Rome great again, and the Roman Senate foolishly believed him. Jesus, in his world, had a different version of what greatness means. Might this be a time in American history to listen closely again to what Jesus had to say?

Friday evening, 7:30–9 pm

Jesus & the Art of Resistance

Arthur Dewey

The resistance of Jesus to Roman Imperial theology was subtle. It was couched in parables and expressed in aphorisms. It included his practice of open commensality. Though subtle, it did not go unnoticed. Emerging Christian communities did not know a lot about the historical Jesus, but they did know that being part of a Christ community meant resisting Imperial theology. Does America need to re-hear this good news?

Saturday, 9:30–10:30 am

Christ Communities and Resistance

Celene Lillie

Christ communities slowly emerged and came into definition years after the death of Jesus. Prior to the time of Constantine the Great, these communities continued in various way to resist the oppressive nature of Roman Imperial theology. What communities do we know about, and how did they practice resistance. What can these communities say to the political situation in America today?

Saturday, 11 am – noon

Christian Resistance Today

Celene Lillie

Except in minor cases, early Christ communities lived within the realm of Roman Imperial theology and sought to resist the oppressive nature of life in an empire. Eventually, Christianity became an Imperial religion of its own. It became the religion of an empire. In some ways, Christianity today is returning to its former status of being a movement of resistance within an empire. What might we learn from early communities who can define some important questions for today?

Saturday, 1:30–2:30 pm

Discussion (Q&A)

Celine Lillie and Arthur Dewey will hold conversation and field questions about the political Jesus and our response today.

Saturday, 3–4 pm


East Lansing University UMC

Local Contact and Information

All events at:

East Lansing University UMC
1120 S Harrison Rd
East Lansing, MI 48823

For local information, contact:

William Bills


All Sessions

  • Individual Rate $75
  • Pre-registration Rate (by April 13) $60
  • Additional Family Members $50

Single Sessions

  • Friday Evening Lecture $20
  • Saturday Morning Workshop $30
  • Saturday Afternoon Workshop $30

Refunds are available until two weeks before the event if requested in writing, minus a $10 administrative fee. No refunds will be given after that date.


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