The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America

By Mark Lewis Taylor | Go to book overview

introduction:
The Executed God

If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us
larger, freer and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got
rid of Him.

—James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

To consider the executed God and the spiritual practice that it entails will demand some important preparatory work. Christians have written a great deal on the notion of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. What new turn is taken when we emphasize today, as this book does, that Jesus’ death was an execution?

I will begin by acknowledging the ways some traditional theologians have spoken of Jesus’ death as disclosing a crucified God and will then suggest the difference it makes to speak of an executed God. This is the concept of God I will be developing throughout the book, as disclosed in the way of the cross. In Baldwin’s terms, this concept of an executed God can help make us “larger, freer and more loving,”1 especially when we confront imperial power today. Such a concept is a gift to be welcomed.

The phrase executed God links the state-sanctioned killing of Jesus to God, then forces us to ask what precisely we mean by that three-letter term, God. After clarifying how that term functions in the phrase, I will suggest that we allow to die some alternative but all too common views of God (other gods, as I call them). These are the concepts of which, to recall Baldwin again, we do well to rid ourselves. These concepts, many of them quite prevalent in the established religions, are not gifts but constructs that reinforce exploitative power.

Let us begin by acknowledging the debt we owe to theological discourses that have used the concept of the crucified God.


The Crucified God

Jürgen Moltmann’s important book The Crucified God reminds us just how central the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion is to Christian faith in the God of life. Moltmann and many others have reminded us that the God of Jesus Christ— though risen and living, powerful, grace-full, liberating and reconciling, salvific, if you will—is the one who was also crucified. Jesus’ crucifixion,

-1-

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