“On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.”-Mark 11:15-18
Let’s look at this passage and some notable factoids:
1. Three of four biographies of Jesus record this event, virtually identically. So, we know what occurred was accepted as being interpreted by a lot of people the same way. In other words, this wasn’t a confusing situation where people deduced different truths or applications.
2. The language used is not a calm, reasoned, pragmatic “spooky Jesus” kind of event. Rather, it was a lunatic who lost it – who people today would whisper, “He needs anger management classes.” and “He needs to be under church discipline.” and “He doesn’t act like Jesus.” Let’s be clear – JESUS FLAT LOST IT! He was furious, the kind of road rage furious where one spits as he talks and can’t express it in one or two statements, but rants, goes off, blows his top!
3. The system was where the Sadducees, the very small elite (& theologically liberal) sect (denomination) within Judaism controlled the Temple operation. They also enjoyed the favor of the Jewish “government who were empowered by the Romans, and they had the Roman’s favor as well. They were wealthy, really wealthy. They enjoyed huge privilege, grand lifestyles and had the access to the opportunities to become and get more rich, by virtue of their position in society. They structured the “rules” to fit themselves and ensure they remained in control and wealthy, and the masses didn’t.
4. Read what Jesus said about the situation… The people who ran the Temple, had used the system to get rich, take advantage and abuse people, and that they violated the very nature and character of God – and He lost it because of that!
Interesting side note: The members of the Sanhedrin (ruling body – elders self selected) were Sadducees. In the archeological discoveries in Jerusalem, they have found many things entombed with actual players in this drama… Caiaphas, the illegitimate leader of this body, was completely embedded in the Roman system, and bought into it as well – it affected his families’ values and world view. Their faith has eroded to be a shallow tin joke. His daughters bone boxes (in their tomb) had a two Roman coins inside the skull. Why? The pagans buried their dead with two coins in their mouths so they could pay the ferryman to cross over the River of Stix – to go to the nether world. Hmm.
1. The middle class has lost 10% of it’s buying power in the past ten years, 15% in the last 20 years
2. Conversely, the most wealthy [Top 1% has more than bottom 150M, top 2% has more than bottom 285M of 300M people.] now control over 85% of all the resources and money in the US alone.
3. The system is set up not as the myth of American claims, but a system of class elitism that promotes the wealthy gaining more and more control, and the mass of people not merely dependent and care for, but losing ground all the time.
4. One in Six Americans is in poverty; one in four kids.
5. The finance industry created a royal mess in 1920’s, culminating in 1929 – at least they had the honor to kill themselves… In the 1980’s Savings and Loans mess saw many people go to jail, and a financial reform to create checks against a run-away finance industry. THEN, this same industry bought the GOP AND THE DNC in the 1990’s and 2000’s and the Clinton and Bush administrations dismantled the controls… and the finance industry created the present mess.
So, what does Jesus have to say about our situation today. What would Jesus say about the elite who systemically, and while often legally – but immorally & unethically abuse people “within man-made rules”? What would Jesus say about the MILLIONS unemployed that were employed that are losing their homes, can’t find work, lost medical insurance, so they just don’t go – and therefore the implications are horrendous?
My friend, John Siddique (author, professor, poet) in Yorkshire, England, UK shared this quote this week, ‘Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.’ ~ Arundhati Roy
At first, I thought it was too radical. It’s shocking, but then I thought about it – there is some real merit here. Don’t get me wrong, healthy investment and corporation organization can be good. I’m not against it ideologically. I’m against the sin, death craving sin of greed, the love of mammon, the deceit of Babylon. It’s rampant in “man’s heart” and destroying the west and sending people to hell who believe if they intellectually acknowledge Jesus they’ll be saved, while living, well, like hell…. hell’s values, character, nature – the soul and heart of Lucifer! That’s heavy stuff.
Would Jesus lost it again? Would He be standing on the steps of Wall Street tisking and clucking his tongue at the naive protestors? Or would He be sleeping with them? Would He form a whip and beat the protestors? Or would He go onto the floor of the market and lose it?
Epilogue: Why do I write about such things, and not the theological focus, truths, points that are supposedly most important? I write differently from the majority of people who would call themselves Biblical Jesus followers. Why? Because God’s truth is not isolated in a lab of information, facts – but reality – girded in the reality of life and how we live and how we’re intended to live. It’s not facts to win in an argument and then live completely void of that truth, but MUST infuse our most pragmatic systems of society, personal ethics and how we engage people at the micro AND the macro levels. To do anything else is heresy and it’s high time, high time we do just that: attack it, mock it, ridicule it, indict it, and assail it until God’s people in the west again re-embrace the holistic complete Gospel, rejecting the heretical reductionist Gospel and it’s deadly implications for saints and the entire society.
Read this post from Red Letter Christians – interesting commentary on this subject and God’s nature:
The Occupation of the Lord’s Prayer
by Jeremy John Friday, December 2nd, 2011
The occupation is like Jesus’ parable, where a king invites all of his privileged, first-tier guests to the wedding. But nobody came. So the king takes the invitation out to the streets, inviting all who would come, the good, the bad, the homeless, and those with homes. And they came.
For it is written, God can make children of Abraham from the very stones of the earth. If the Christians will not occupy, God will make into his children the anarchist and the hippie, and whoever will answer his call.
The Lord’s Prayer calls us to participate in a movement confronting the dominance of Christ’s ancient foe, the love of profit above the needs of people, Mammon, in our own selves and in our government and economies.
But, again, if we do not answer, others will come to struggle for a world that is rational, that does not rape the earth and the poor. But will they struggle for a world that is loving? Do we?
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
But how will we struggle? Will we struggle in nonviolence, as the lamb marches to war, with love, conquering repenting darkness with forgiveness? We need Christians in the movement who care about not just the souls of the 99 percent, but the those of the 1 percent. Because the 99 percent is mobilizing, and their anger is righteous, like the prophetic anger of Amos. Our movement has and is choosing peace and nonviolence. In a nationwide, long-term movement, there are only a few isolated instances of violence, breaking our commitments. We are a movement that seeks reform, not revolution. So far.
But the world is writhing in the grip of a terrible nightmare. A tiny elite dominates our economies, while billions across the globe scratch for a living in the gasoline-sodden muck, fired when their factory employers have used up their bodies, perhaps even infected by AIDS or malaria. Medicine for them is too expensive because of drug patents. And anyhow, factory wages are too low because multinational corporations can shift from country to country when unions begin to form. And we are destroying the world, heating it with our carbon emissions. Soon, we will see even greater signs and portents as creation herself struggles against our bonds.
Americans ignored this problem as long as money and goods flowed freely into their homes. Until, of course, the Wall Street speculators inflated the price of housing in this country, then tanked the economy, sending America’s own children onto the streets, homeless. There were plenty of problems before, but suddenly, we care.
So when will we practice stewardship of the environment? When will we take care of the poor? When will we forgive the debts of the least of these? When and how will we, as the body of Christ on earth, begin to work towards meeting the material needs of the poor, and, in the process, save ourselves?
I believe that Christians are called to occupy in two ways, as priests, and prophets.
Give us this day our daily bread
Occupations across the country are caring for the homeless in ways I never thought I would see. In Occupy DC, nobody is turned away from the encampment. They have food, shelter, free tents and tarps, and, most importantly, community. Last Friday near the prayer tent, at the occupation, my wife overheard this conversation between two men who appeared to be homeless:
“This is your home. Welcome home, man.”
“Oh man…” he says, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Isn’t it great to have a home?”
“Yeah, it’s so great to have a home.”
And we are brothers and sisters together in making the daily camp decisions according to an adaptation of Quaker decision-making, formal consensus. I will not trumpet, as some have, formal consensus as the answer to our problems. I love it, but in my life of consensus evangelism I’ve also seen it break down in sad ways. It is an incarnation of a radically inclusive force, but it has its flaws, and can be a long and difficult process.
This is where Christians are called as priests and chaplains, to participate in caring for the material and mental health needs of a community that lives out of doors among (and including) homeless people, some of whom are mentally ill or drug-addicted. And because our occupy community believes in love by inclusion, we cannot turn them away. The occupy movement cares for its crazies, as we call them. The church has been caring for the spiritual and mental needs of her own, now let us care for the needs of the poor.
Thy kingdom come
Christians must also play the role of prophet, both to the powers, and to the movement itself. To the powers, our message is that we will no longer tolerate a political process where the needs of large-scale investors are put before the needs of ordinary people. Instead, we will support a system that values the voices of even those who have nothing, materially, to offer. A system where we can make decisions about what is really best for people in our society without the suborning influence of lobby monies.
Deliver us from evil
Getting elected is a powerfully thirsty business, money-wise. Few make it without selling out. Later, politicians take care of their friends. Some lobbying efforts pay out as high as $220 for each $1 spent, a wise investment by any standards. When political clout can be purchased, what happens when there is a conflict between public interest, the interests of ordinary people, and alien-minded transnational corporations? Who has more access to the levers of power? Who will hear the still voices of the poor and marginalized, both nationally and abroad?
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
We need Christians that can speak from the near-forgotten sabbath economic values that caused Jesus to drive the moneylenders from the temple with a whip of cords, an act that led directly to temple authorities handing him over to the Roman establishment for crucifixion. We need to speak our Jubilee values and act from the Lord’s prayer which exhorts us to forgive the debts of others. We need Christians who have read but didn’t somehow miss the witness of the twelve prophets and the Psalmists in advocacy for the poor and environmental stewardship.
We also need Christians who are spiritually grounded in hypomone, that virtue of Revelation’s church in crisis which translates as the ability to retain your beliefs while sustaining blows, or, “iron intransigence,” which comes from a Greek verb root which can mean “to dare to do.” which has been translated, rather limply, “patient endurance.”
But we don’t need Christians to come and convert us to a gnostic, hyper-spiritualized brand of Christianity that forgets Jesus’ messages to the poor, equating Christianity with assent to a proposition of belief or even a simple acceptance of Jesus into your heart. An apathetic, intellectual faith that will not interrupt the worship of the self, if it stops there.
We need Christians who share in a prophetic anger that calls for a repentance not just in the 1 percent, but in our selves. Because I believe, as the scripture teaches, that we ourselves, just like the powers and principalities, are created good, have strayed from our original inherent goodness, and are in need of redemption.
We need people among us who live out the Gospel, whether they identify as Christians or not.
The movement, as an institution, is a child. It’s still navigating it’s identity. But as I hear the way people talk about greed, I believe that occupy is the site of a kind of remembrance of our humanity. A place where people come together, in real space and time, to forge real relationships and to articulate the particularity of a grievance that we collectively share: that corporations have robbed something precious from us, a portion of our humanity. Now is the time to hear, as in the indigenous traditions, the story of each person, and to value our identity as a group, where we come from, our faiths, and our journeys, and through it, share in the holy Eucharist of community.
And thine, oh God, is the glory, the power, and honor, for ever and ever. And when we affirm this we affirm that Ceaser and his money are neither masters of our hearts nor this earth.
Jeremy has been an activist ever since he accidentally ate the red pill instead of the more harmless blue one. He converted to Christianity while serving a six-month prison term for civil disobedience to close the School of the Americas. He blogs and tweets about faith. He serves as a volunteer chaplain to OccupyDC with the OccupyChurch movement.