In his book, Jesus Against Christianity: Reclaiming the Missing Jesus, Jack Nelson- Palmeyer says “Foreign leaders often played priestly factions against each other, recruited cooperative priests and placed them in positions of power. Far removed from the shifting fortunes of the powerful stood the vast majority of common people who were marginalized, and exploited by systems in which a few powerful Jews positioned themselves to benefit from unjust rule.” He goes on to talk about how the priestly groups legitimized their positions through appeals to sacred tradition and scriptural authority; the stake they had in oppressive systems; excluded factions that cried foul and constantly tried to discredit groups in power; how independent rule was disappointing because it wasn’t egalitarian; just the same old oppression with a new face. As a read this, I am amazed at how a description of 1st century politics mirrors the politics of today. Replace “foreign leaders” with corporations, “priestly factions” with Congress and “powerful Jews” with the 1% and read it again.
Sounds pretty familiar, huh? I will admit. it’s hard to think of our government as a “domination system”; but that’s mostly because I’m a white boy and I’m on the good side of that system. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that we are anywhere near as persecuted or oppressed as the people of the 1st century were; even at it’s worst, our government can’t compare to the oppressive power of the Roman, Babylonian, Assyrian or Persian Empires. But, that doesn’t make what oppression there is easier to bear. If certain parties have their way, They’d make that oppression worse by eliminating the majority of the social programs that the homeless, the poor and middle class depend on to get by, especially in the current climate and give that money to the super rich in the form of a $250,000 tax break. Sadly, this is happening with either the tacit, or explicit approval of religious leaders. On Red Letter Christians the other day Craig Watts said:
“We do, indeed, need to be wary of covetous leaders. But covetous leaders are not the politicians who call for the over-privileged to pay more taxes so the poor and weak will stand a chance of staying out of abject poverty and still others will be less likely of falling into bankruptcy. Rather the covetous leaders are the ones who materially benefit from the policies they advance as they protect the interests of the rich. Too many on the religious right are looking in exactly the wrong direction for covetous leaders to chastise.”
These people are an even more direct equivalent of the “priestly faction” that Nelson-Palmeyer mentioned in the quote at the beginning. The only difference is they don’t wield direct political power. Make no mistake, however, these leaders do exert considerable power over their congregations, political, religious and secular. In the 1st century, the priests and the Romans were in cahoots to siphon as much wealth as possible out the Jewish community. Today, the Republicans are in cahoots with big business and the 1% of Americans, who already hold over 40% of the wealth in this country, to siphon off as much of the remaining 60% and everyone else be damned. As I said in the title, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
How can we stop this? By living the words of Jesus from Matthew 25:31-40:
“Now when the Human One[b] comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.
34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35 I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
Also, those of us outside the halls of power and money need to come together and quit taking the propaganda that’s being shoved down our throats, even it means sleeping in the park with a bunch of hippies. We’re all on the same side and together, we’re powerful. Once the people band together, the domination system is screwed.