Ye olde English ballads of Sir Robin of Loxley depict the plight of Jesus People living under the tyranny of The System, whether by design or accident. In Robin Hood:
- The true King is surreptitiously deposed by the evil Sherriff of Nottingham.
- The usurper oppresses the peasants with unbearable taxes and tyrannical rule.
- Robin of Loxley, a noble yeoman, refuses to be victimized and He gathers “The Merry Men,” a band of outlaws.
- They “steal from the rich and give to the poor.”
- They become folk heroes by harassing corrupt church officials and scoffing at the Sherriff’s threats.
- The Merry Men are difficult to snare because they care little for the material comforts of the Sherriff’s realm.
- They build a community of Outlaw Love that is a festive and philanthropic life in Sherwood forest.
Jesus People should be Outlaws, as the summer edition of the Zine points out, but this got all confused because somewhere, somehow, Jesus People lost their Outlaw Love.
The Lost Outlaws
Too many Jesus People are afraid of living in the Outlaw World, even though it’s a big blast of freedom, as the Merry Men would testify. Jesus People are living like the poor, ignorant peasants, their souls crushed by the oppressive, daily grind of The System. Jesus People who forget the hostility in the spiritual realm imagine their suffocated spiritual lives are the fate of ignorant and helpless peasants. Defeated peasants endure by a weekly ration of rather trite, spiritual bliss still allowed once-weekly, but what a poor substitute it is for the continuous joy and freedom of a Jesus Outlaw!
Such hapless victims can be (and should be) helped. Sometimes these poor peasants are simply young and ignorant believers who know little about their standing before the throne of the King of Kings. But even older Outlaws might submit to those superstitious, peasant-fears of lesser, dark powers scuttling around this realm:
Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself…And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:33,38 (NLT)
Some Jesus People who should be Outlaws get super-confused and join law enforcement instead! Their blunder is not vocational (an Outlaw can even be a policeman—and what good fortune it is to have an infiltrator!), but an Outlaw who forgets the real identity can get pierced in the heart:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 (NASB)
This is not a warning against distraction, nor punishment from an angry Father. It means the conflict between God and “the world” (literally,”Kosmos”, or “The System”) is so pronounced, any divided affections become spiritual poison. It is a practical issue, not God’s revenge. Our tender hearts hold a finite emotional capacity, so every ounce that “loves the things of the world” subtracts from “the love of the Father,” by necessity.
The greatest confusion lies in two versions of “love” from two different worlds. Both versions of love produce love feelings, but in vastly-different ways, and their effects are polar opposites. One is a noble love, highly significant to others touched by it, and it builds substance–power may be a better word, but it’s too polluted with power-abuse. This substance is given by others to the one who loves. This is the response God’s love elicits, because lives touched and healed by God’s love respond with gratitude . It yields an ocean of love feelings besides gratitude, like loyalty, security and well-being, warmth and safety, deep intimacy, and all these are amplified by the significance people place on someone who authentically loves. In a cold and oppressive kingdom ruled by tyrants, what a treasure it is to meet someone with infectious love!
God’s definition of love results in authentic significance and all the emotions associated with the concept of glory:
They sang in a mighty chorus: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered— to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” Revelation 5:12 (NLT)
To “love the things in the world” also generates love feelings (and powerful!), but useless feelings for “things” and institutions “of this world.” The big jolt from Kosmos-love is a thrill, but actually deceptive, because it actually degrades and diminishes whatever substance (or power) we carry. God calls it lust, even if the whole world calls it love, as the passage goes on to say:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:16 (NASB)
These jolts of feelings leave the heart empty and lonely because they come and go so quickly, as it explains:
The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17 (NASB)
Kosmos-love poisons the joy of freedom by reducing humans to slaves, always starved for jolts of love-feelings. Crack cocaine is insanely-addictive because it delivers strong feelings of love, addicts claim, but when the jolt disappears, the heart is an empty tomb. The obsession with video games or Web-surfing are not caused by evil technologies, but rather the investment of our finite affections spent on short bursts of emotions. A day of video gaming ends in feelings of how useless and draining it was…and no emotions remain for real relationships, beginning with God, where all love begins.
Emotional wars rage in the heart that “loves the world” when vocation consumes “the love of the Father.” When a job becomes a lover, it poisons the heart. Slowly, gradually, worn-out Jesus Outlaws are melded into henchmen for The System. It is an anti-love world system that reduces humans to machines, slaves passing time, producing slaves, and resigned to sub-human life.
Jesus Outlaws and the Outlaw World they build is defined by Outlaw Love, which is so strange, foreign, and nonsensical, it must be opposed by the spiritual powers and principles of this present darkness.
But the greatest tragedy of all occurs when Jesus Outlaws are taken hostage by The System through their heart affections. The hostage actually becomes a traitor, and threatens their own kind! They call it the Stockholm syndrome:
The captive sees the perpetrator as showing some degree of kindness. Kindness serves as the cornerstone of Stockholm syndrome; the condition will not develop unless the captor exhibits it in some form toward the hostage. However, captives often misinterpret a lack of abuse as kindness and may develop feelings of appreciation for this perceived benevolence.
Too often Jesus Outlaws held hostage in their hearts become allies and advocates of the Kosmos, their own oppressors! To become a zealot or an architects for The System is a truly a hideous turn for a Jesus Outlaw:
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4 (NASB)
Such hostile words! “Adulteresses! Hostility toward God!” They seem over-reactionary today only because Christianity in the Free World no longer breeds Jesus Outlaws.
Everything changes if you were a kid and your parents were suddenly dragged off to the arena and you were sold into slavery. Such a kid would become a devoted Jesus Outlaw. “You adulteresses!” he would rightfully say to those who betrayed other Outlaws. It is not the cry of bitterness, but utter disbelief that any Jesus Outlaw could drink the venom of The System. Such is the grizzly picture given in Revelation of drinking this venom:
I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and [hateful words] against God were written all over it. The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand she held a gold goblet full of foul sexual abuse and the stench of her own sexual filth. A mysterious name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Gross Injustice in the World.” I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement. Revelation 17:5-6
When Jesus Outlaws drink out of that “gold goblet” they drink blood and the foul stuff that fuels of The System!
In one brief moment, director Ridley Scott unveiled the hostility The System unleashes against Jesus Outlaws. We see a child peering over his mother’s shoulder at Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator. Moments later, a lion casually begins feasting on the mother and child. It was an historical depiction of the Roman arena when Jesus People were savagely persecuted, and the crowd roared mindlessly. Crowe was a seasoned killer, a veteran warrior, but even he could not bear watching this savagery. Yet somehow these Jesus Outlaws faced death courageously, and no panicked shrieks were heard.
Is it possible that American Christians are growing so naive, they forget the savage hostility swirling around their families? If they could, the spiritual overlords of The System would feed women and children to wild beasts, still today.
Without question Jesus and his followers were serious Outlaws, hounded and persecuted by the police following orders from The Establishment. The historical facts are simply too well-known to ignore any more. Despite 2000 years of censorship and distortions portraying Jesus as a pillar of The System, most people today can see the crude Jesus puppets created by petty monarchs and emperors. (Remarkably, the claimants were often enemy-combatants, and everyone knew at least one side must be lying, but few ever thought perhaps both sides were lying—so Jesus was pro-Roman empire, a Nazi, an imperialist, pro-Britannia, pro-France, and now pro-America, according to the shifting rhetoric of the day!)
We don’t need the historical record to prove Jesus was an Outlaw (although it is a glaring record–and, incredibly, still suppressed and ignored in The System). The evidence from the Bible alone is so overwhelming, it is astonishing that so many people still can be told it’s a tool of warfare and oppression! Everywhere we read Jesus pronouncing an Outlaw message echoed in the recent Robin Hood movie:
“The laws of this land enslave people to the king, and the king offers nothing in return!” Russell Crowe in Robin Hood
To believe Jesus laid out a blueprint for oppression or persecution is to pitch the historical record of Jesus in the trash. Of course, oppressive regimes did precisely that in order to hijack the “Christianity” name and use it to kill Jesus People who knew better. One famous example should demonstrate the incompatibility between Jesus and oppressive regimes. Consider how he undermines the economic power required by all regimes:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB)
What banker in The System would give such advice–unless the banker was actually an outlaw-in-disguise? More common in Institutionalized Christianity are bankers disguised as Jesus Outlaws!
The Disinformation Campaign
Jesus Freaks actually once believed, “do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth!” Old photos with long hair and bell-bottoms are embarrassing when the kids find them, especially if when explaining the old disillusionment with “treasure on earth.” Freaks-and-Harries packed their kids off to Yale and Harvard and preened them for life-in-a-cubical. When the old Outlaws get angry at their kids for apathetic career development, when they stick “treasures in heaven” in a dreamworld, is it difficult to suppress the rising sense of hypocrisy?
Some old Jesus Freaks are long-past suppressing their hypocrisy, and actively engaged in a disinformation campaign against younger generations of Christians. “Disinformation” described how the KGB in the Soviet Union lied about current events in the state-run press. Some old Jesus Freaks are now earning piles of money selling their hypocrisy, like Pop-writer Brian McLaren. He tells Christian kids to dig for “treasures on earth,” and he sneers at the folly of “treasures in heaven.”
When McLaren betrayed the Jesus Freaks because he enjoys much better pay turning Outlaw kids over to the Sheriff of Nottingham. He teaches The System is actually the friend of Jesus Outlaws, where they can make real changes, and where Jesus People belong:
Very often you end up with an anti-institutional bias among people involved in social movements. But then you look at, “What is an institution?” I would like to suggest that an institution is an organization that conserves the gains made by previous social movements…If the social movement succeeds, its gains are carried on by the institutions that currently oppose it. So Dr. King succeeded because President Johnson got some laws passed. Ghandi succeeded when systems and institutions were changed. McLaren, Berkley
Even a Junior or Senior High student knows the teachings of Jesus were not conserved by the Roman Empire, European monarchs, or Institutionalized Christianity. Far from being a force that “conserves the gains,” the historical message of Jesus was pitched by institutions hijacking the name “Christianity”. Astonishingly, he credits President Johnson for M.L. King’s work, when King actually credited Jesus Christ and had tremendous struggles with Washington!
Their cause was so welcome, their love was so significant, and the oppressed population was so numerous, Roman Emperors were forced to outlaw Jesus People. God’s love is inherently seditious in regimes driven by fear.
To the present day, the most oppressive regimes on earth persecute, torture and kill Jesus Outlaws for no justifiable reason. The System cannot tolerate them! Outlaw Love undermines the dark fears that fuel all regimes, but tyrants dare not reveal their real irritation, so quiet, unreasoning violence elevated Jesus Outlaws to folk-hero status. It is baffling to understand how the Outlaws thrived under persecution—unless one considers the Robin Hood ballads, which evolved in-parallel with the real folk heroes who spread Outlaw Love repeatedly across England. As with Rome, the overlords of Britannia tried and failed to suppress them.
Clint Eastwood directed, produced, and starred in a surprisingly-accurate movie about a Jesus Outlaw who brought courage into a helpless community of peasants. In Pale Rider he played a mysterious “Preacher Man” who arrives at a town oppressed by a powerful landowner. The tyrant immediately recognized the danger of allowing a Jesus Outlaw to infect his realm:
“The Preacher Man is the most dangerous enemy. He brings them faith, and when people get an ounce of this faith, our efforts [to oppress the poor] won’t be worth a Moose-tit!” Oppressive landowner in Pale Rider (loosely quoted).
Pale Rider is probably the only Hollywood movie where Jesus People are allowed to break the Hollywood mold of useless, crazy Christians.
Where Outlaws Thrive
People who read the Bible and see how Jesus brought freedom to spiritually-oppressed people are drawn into his Outlaw world. For centuries it was clear to Jesus People they were Outlaws. They still work in nooks and crannies, like Outlaws. The beliefs they spread, the communities they build, and the places where they gather are the hallmarks of Jesus Outlaws:
- Their savior was an executed outlaw, who told them to “pick up a cross and follow me…”
- They gathered in catacombs and shabby facilities, caring little for the massive, expensive temples that dominated pagan religions.
- They used secret symbols to identify each other.
- They settled legal matters internally, rather than relying on the courts: “It is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” 1 Corinthians 6:7 (NASB)
- They historically thrived as an Outlaw movement, but faded away when they joined the lawmakers.
Jesus Outlaws don’t make sense to average citizens, yet they hold an attraction. This is what Paul experienced:
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;
to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NASB)
People may not understand why Jesus People are such outlaws, but they detect noble intentions, like “an aroma from life to life”. But oppressors immediately fear Jesus Outlaws, like “an aroma from death to death” (and they know why).
Crackpots who form militia groups and claim to be Jesus Outlaws are fakes, easy to spot: they build cowardly, fear-driven communities resembling terrorist camps. They claim to fight tyranny, but do nothing to help the oppressed. They perpetrate fear like other regimes, not the compassion of Jesus Outlaws. Their leaders are oppressive authoritarians like all the other tyrants embedded in The System. They end up as weak counterfeits because they use unbiblical and defective models.
Jesus Outlaws are successful when they look to the New Testament and follow Jesus, the original Outlaw. The Bible gives detailed blueprints for building a positive, redemptive mission led by courageous and cool folk-heroes:
- 2 Cor. 6:1-10
- 2 Cor. 4:7-12
- Rom. 8:36-37
- Heb. 13:12-14 à 15!!!
- Heb. 12:26-29
- Heb. 11:13-16
- Heb. 10:34-39
There are two solid questions arising from this introduction and primer into the Outlaw World:
- Jesus People must decide if it is worthwhile to become Jesus Outlaws.
- Jesus Outlaws must understand their strategy as outlaws.
These are the questions to be addressed next time.