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Kingdom vs. Kin-dom

The staging of Jesus’ parade into Jerusalem on this day we celebrate as Palm Sunday, was deliberate. The day was chosen because Jerusalem was filled with around 200,000 Jewish folks coming on pilgrimage to the Temple for the Passover. Even Passover was significant, it celebrated the Israelite's escape from slavery in Egypt. The donkey was chosen because it used symbolism from the prophet Zechariah in the Hebrew scriptures. According to Zechariah (9:9), a king would be coming to Jerusalem (Zion) “humble, and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey,” and this king would banish war from the land. No more war horses, no more chariots or bows, he would bring peace to the nation. The crowds and palms make it clear that this wasn’t a spontaneous celebration. People must have been tipped off that a “new king” was coming, they prepared palm branches and waited. Perhaps finally life would begin to get better. A new kingdom was being established and celebrated – the kingdom of God.

This demonstration was very subversive, because for the Kingdom of God to be at hand, that meant that the Kingdom of Rome was about to be overthrown, and the “kingdom” of the Temple as well for that matter.

Here's a quick history lesson. According to Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book The Last Week, "The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of both a local and an imperial tax system. The local taxes, commonly called “tithes,” were on agricultural production. Most tithes were paid to the temple and priesthood, and the rest were to be spent in Jerusalem. The tithes amounted to over 20% of production. There was also an annual 'temple tax' paid by Jewish men over a certain age, including millions of Jews living in the Diaspora, Jewish communities in other land. And, beginning in 6CE, the temple and temple authorities were also the center of the imperial tax system. They had the responsibility for collecting and paying the annual tribute due to Rome.” 

Consequently, the kingdom of Rome and the temple were inextricably connected. Both kingdoms were threatened by this new one proclaimed by Jesus.

People in Jesus' day were used to kingdom language and all that it implied: a patriarchal, hierarchical, oppressive, exclusive, exploitive, often violent, controlling system.

Jesus used "kingdom" language all the time. Many of his parables talked about what the kingdom of God looked like: a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds that will grow into a huge tree; a treasure hidden in a field; a pearl of great price. It was a kingdom that the Beatitudes proclaimed belonged to the poor in spirit as well as to those persecuted because of their struggle for justice. The kingdom of God belonged to the poor, for oh, how hard it was for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.

Even though kingdom language was common for Jesus, I would submit that “kin-dom” is truly a better word for his vision for the world. Kin-dom may not be familiar to us, but has been used for decades by people who have wanted to get away from the imperialistic, patriarchal language of kingdom.

Unlike a kingdom, a kin-dom is inclusive, non-hierarchical, relational, compassionate, justice-oriented, and anti-imperial. The kin-dom recognizes the importance of each person's life and seeks to make decisions based on the common good. The presence of the kin-dom of God begins within each person to change hearts and minds until it hopefully becomes manifest in the world around.

The concept of kin-dom was brought to the theological table by Cuban immigrant, theologian and activist, Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz in her book Mujerista Theology. She points out that removing the “g” from kingdom may not sound terribly different, but it can have a huge impact on how we understand the word. “Kingdom” suggests a vertical hierarchy and power-over, “kin-dom” suggests a horizontal solidarity and power-with.

True solidarity cannot be cheapened. The Rev. Dr. Stephen Cherry, Dean of King's College in Cambridge writes that kin-dom, is the union of “kindred persons” who have a common interest and whose relationships are imbued with mutuality. Solidarity is the virtue of those who accept their interconnectedness and then respond to the oppression, pain, and injustice experienced by others as if they were members of the same caring family.”

Looking at the Human Rights Watch website, we can see that kingdom is alive and well all around at the world. But we would be like a horse with blinders on if we didn't also acknowledge that kingdom mentality exists here in the United States as well. Consider corporations who put the bottom line before employees or consumers, or states who pass laws to make it more difficult for people to vote. The divisiveness in politics is so prevalent that agendas far outweigh the concept of working for the common good. And churches are model kingdoms of hierarchy and exclusive behavior. I'm sure this is simply the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Jesus’ message would not be welcomed by those in power in any of these situations. In fact, I'm sure he wouldn’t last long preaching his message to countries and companies and churches today.  No, Jesus didn’t have the word “kin-dom,” but I suspect he would have used it if he did. Afterall, this was his vision, his dream. Not their way, but God’s way. As Phillip Gulley said, Jesus came “to heal, to bring life, to proclaim good news, to love those around him.” It sounds all nice and good, but it was subversive, rebellious and a threat to the status quo. It is no wonder he was crucified.

Remember, the kin-dom is within each of us. We must foster all those qualities of inclusiveness, compassion, kindness, oneness, and justice within ourselves. We must put people and creation before wealth and power. We must understand the life of solidarity we’re called to.  If all Christians would truly become citizens of the kin-dom the world would change.

Love & Light!