[Grid::Blog::Via Crucis 2007] Game Theory: Jesus Loses | The End of Strategy [3]

Via Crucis 2007-2In the previous two posts I’ve looked at the figures of Paul and Judas and proposed that both of them, in their separate ways, were ‘strategists’. They wanted things done, wanted to give Jesus an amazing opportunity. And they had ideas about how to do that. Judas and his catalyzing a revolution; Paul and his appeal to Caesar. Jesus can begin to fight, and Paul can declare Christ’s message in Rome: the centre of power.

But Jesus appears to confound all strategies. His incarnation is without fanfare. He tries to stop people talking about healings, he slips away for days at a time, and refuses even to defend himself against trumped up charges.

In the recent Adam Curtis documentary, ‘The Trap’, Curtis suggests that much of the distrust we see in modern life is rooted in the Game Theories that became popular in the Cold War. In a popular Game Theory problem, ‘The Prisoner’s Dilemma’ it turns out that our best strategy is not to trust one another. If we want to win, we need to be selfish.

It struck me during that documentary that what Christ is doing when he stays silent at his trial is refusing to even enter the game that the strategists plotting against him have set up. It is as if he deliberately loses, because by losing he is totally subverting the very idea of the game.

And this is where Paul and Judas go terribly wrong. Presented with amazing opportunities to ‘do something for Jesus’, they fall into strategy, they throw their chips in and enter the game. Why didn’t Paul imitate Christ and keep his mouth shut? Because his strategy was always to get taken to Rome, and to take part in a ‘power play’ with Caesar.

On the cross the religious leaders taunted Jesus – if he’s so powerful, why doesn’t he save himself? This was the final temptation Jesus faced, the same one the devil ended with in the desert: take part in the power play. Jesus emptied himself of all that power, emptied himself of strategies, because he had to be emptied of the Self – the Self that pretends that it is powerful and influential. The Self that pushes the ego forward, rather than looking to the Other.

It is the same temptation that we face today. And my concern is that the movement known as the ‘Emerging Church’ is going to be tempted to be ‘strategic’ – to enter power-plays. And I think this would be a very wrong route. Which is where I’ll end in the next post.


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7 responses to “[Grid::Blog::Via Crucis 2007] Game Theory: Jesus Loses | The End of Strategy [3]”

  1. so your strategy is not to have a strategy ?! 😉 nice set of posts…

  2. do you think the emerging conversation has already been a bit about power play ? i look at all you middle class, rational, white, male book writers who are positioned quite centrally within a conversation that at times has overtones of spiritual, intellectual, theological and philosophical game playing – i know you will probably reflect that it is unintentional – but i wonder if the conversation was amongst a more diverse group whether it would be inherently less ‘strategic’ in essence or less in danger of taking itself too seriously and falling into the ego trap you mention ?? peace, j

  3. At a recent small gathering of people involved in ’emerging church’ I was interested to see how many people introduced and defined themselves as being members of a Leadership Team at the churches and communities they belonged to. I don’t think this would have happened a few years ago when those same types of groups would have identified more with ‘alternative worship’ where leadership seemed to be a dirty word. It did make me wonder why they felt it was important that we all knew they were Leaders.

  4. Kester – this is all thought provoking stuff. I’m involved in the EC as you know, but also have a foot firmly in the institutional church by virtue of my job. The struggle I have is with the institutional pressure to strategise for the EC. I keep arguing that by imposing a strategy we may end up killing genuine emergence, but I’m not sure this is heard. However, in the light of Jonny’s tongue in cheek comment above, is not having a strategy still a strategy?! I can imagine my colleagues arguing against your posts by saying that the actions of Jesus are incredibly strategic in order to subvert the status quo and promote the values of the Kingdom. Maybe we can’t avoid strategy at all! The important consideration is what underpins or roots our strategy – is it focussed on power and empire building or on the kingdom as Jesus described and modelled it?

  5. It’s interesting how you equate strategy with power plays. I’d argue that a strategy can be about vulnerability and not power – it prevents the nameless leaders abusing power and sets an inclusive direction. A direction to include and welcome the vulnerable, most broken people into a community. If you do not spell this out then people will retreat into their comfort zones, what strategy does is it enables communities to be intentional. Strategy does not need to be about power, but about brokeness, and perhaps this is God’s strategy in the person of Christ – the strategy of a broken man dying on a cross.

  6. in terms of Jesus:choosing to enter a city at a religious highpoint, a city packed with tourists high on religion
    allowing a crowd to welcome you the way they welcomed early Zealots,
    seems that Jesus was incredibly strategic to me. I’ve always liked the way he doesn’t withdraw from politics on palm sunday, instead still choosing to participate, despite the risk of being misunderstood.
    surely to not enter a power play is still a strategy. if i choose not to speak about global warming or slavery today, i am still being political, still part of the power game.
    i’m blathering,

  7. {quote} Via Crucis 2007] Game Theory: Jesus Loses | The End of Strategy [3]
    It struck me during that documentary that what Christ is doing when he stays silent at his trial is refusing to even enter the game that the strategists plotting against him have set up. It is as if he deliberately loses, because by losing he is totally subverting the very idea of the game.{end of quote}
    I am not one for analyzing the ‘different text’ that is around. I learn from the people who surround me. At the end of the day, I reflect upon ‘my day’, people I talked to, thoughts I may have had.
    You are making this very complex, like we are pawns on God’s Chess Board.
    I agree with Malcom’s thoughts and will probably change the direction of this discussion.
    There are questions we have to answer.
    Get back to simplicity.
    Who did Jesus Christ represent?
    I have been riding Malcom’s wave for the last while.
    Malcom mentions, ‘look for brokenness’.. In one of Malcom’s discussion groups, it was around Christmas time, Malcom introduced the thought, ‘In times of deep distress God gives Light’.. deb expands.. and/or Enlightment.
    This past December, I was typing a story for Chanukah my thoughts were along the lines of Malcom’s thought. The story of The Maccabee, Judah, and the Great Temple of Jerusalem. This story definitely confirms Malcom’s thought about God gives Light.
    The path I am being led down is that of Jesus, the Greatest Rabbi known to mankind. The Human Jesus Being. My Chanukah story ends with God Bless! Judah for winning back Israel and giving Jesus Christ his rightful birthplace.
    Also, courtesy of Malcom, came in one of the first of Malcom’s discussion groups, I attended. Malcom referred to ‘us’ as being Jew/Christians. This really grabbed me and made so much sense. I have so many thoughts, I haven’t been able to put into words.
    Another thought of Malcom’s of recently was while he was watching the TV program of the ‘proposed finding of Jesus’ bones’..
    Malcom pieced together, Jesus, The Messiah, was born in a time of deep distress in Israel.
    This is my thought
    Jesus was not a ‘Power Tripper’ however, Jesus had great power over his followers. It was ‘charismatic power’, in the most graceful ways imaginable. Did Jesus not love everyone back, 10 Fold? Did/Does Jesus lead us all by example? Was Jesus humble, honest, compassionate, non-materialistic, very charismatic? How do you suppose, Jesus, was able to retain all these qualities, throughout the trials, and tribulations, and knowing exactly who was conspiring and plotting against Him. Would you not think Jesus had the Greatest of Inner Peace. He was definitely not a ‘wuss’ as you may be thinking. Where do you think Jesus’ Inner Peace comes from? The Grace of God, Our Father?
    How do you figure Jesus loses?
    I think whole heartedly Jesus was The Winner? Did Jesus not earn a greatest of love and respect from the people? Even, in today’s world, Jesus has a great abundance of followers. The World has expanded and grown so much in the last 2007 years. We are spread out all over the world. Not isolated, to Rome, Israel and Egypt. Malcom’s very famous good words… Step outside of ‘The Text’. The Gospels are not a historical recount of the Life of Jesus Christ.. It’s not like the Paparazzi were following Jesus, taking notes and pictures and documenting everything Jesus said. Try to think like Jesus may have.
    Happy Easter! Jesus has Risen and is sitting at The Right Hand of God, ‘Our Father’.
    Shalom! (Peace on Earth)