One of the most shocking and prominent images of the Occupy Wall Street movement that have gone viral on the internet was the worship of the golden calf scene, where the iconic golden calf was fashioned to look like the Wall Street bull sculpture, shortly after the Occupy Wall Street Journal in its inaugural issue refered to Wall Street as America's financial Gomorrah.
It got me thinking about the role that religion has played historically both on the left and on the right. Just like the banks do in times of war, organized religions have oftentimes provided fuel and funding to all sides of the class war.
Many of the prominent privatizers of education in the US that are making education less a human right and more an unaffordable dream are Christian schools. The Christian Right has also contributed fiscally and with their votes and propaganda to politicians (most notorious and pernicious of all in recent years, the Bush-Cheney-Halliburton-Oil Cartel constellation) who have so faithfully served the interests of the corporate megabanks and the military industrial complex.
Today, one of the most radical and dangerous defenders of the capitalist-military-theocratic doctrine that carried most of the propaganda from the Bush years is Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon.
Of course, there is also a revolutionary Christianity of the left. And perhaps many of those who were carrying the golden calf at OWS represent the uprising of this New Left with a new voice, which is a welcome sight. But nonetheless, it has always been evident to me that religious leaders has been able hands of the ruling class and those in power throughout history, supporting even the most evil dictators: Franco, Hitler, Mussolini, all had faithful servants among the high clergy of the Catholic Church which has always exhibited fascist sympathies.
There are several very specific arguments that I will present on this article on why I think that the Christ was an anti-capitalist revolutionary (dare I say, a socialist?). Certainly, I am sure that if a person like Christ with his radical ideas was born for our generation, he would have been labeled a socialist or communist.
But most importantly, I will accentuate the fiscal and economic philosophy of the Christ - He had one. He was not neutral - and I will also place the fiscal philosophy of the Christ within the context of the current economic crisis.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. - Matthew 6:24
The very much countercultural notion of banking as being an immoral career is noted here. Banking, and 'serving money', is so against God that it is the antithesis of a godly life in the philosophy of the Christ.
Yet the debt-based Federal Reserve notes that we dignify by using as currency in the U.S. have in them the motto 'In God We Trust'. This turns money into a type of fetish, and blind faith in money is sold by the bankers as a godly virtue. THIS IS MANONISM.
I should note that our word 'credit' originates from the Latin word for faith, or creed. Money derives its value from the faith people put in it. It's a form of faith.
And so the very first issue that should be tackled has to do with the distortion or even hijacking of Christianity (and religion in general) by capitalism, particularly by the idea of the supposed inherent value of money. Now, in the Gospels this is what Christ said of the currency of his day:
Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. - Matthew 22:21
... refering specifically to the face on the currency. This is the first of the ironies. We live in a country where the ruling class (the banking cartel) is accusing those who do not favor the use of the FOR-PROFIT currency that they issue, which is the chain that enslaves us through perpetual debt, of not trusting in God. What an interesting warning, then, are these words of Jesus when read within this context.
The bankers involve religious ideology into the scheme of faith-based currency backed by nothing of inherent value: and they do so while proposing a debt-based economy and interest-charging currency that enslaves everyone BUT the bankers and enslaves everyone TO the bankers, our masters.
In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market! - John 2:14-16
It requires a visceral disgust to perform an act such as this one. The problem was not just how lucrative the business of these merchants was, but the faith-based structure that supported it.
Jewish priests created a religious legal system based on guilt that called for animals to be sacrificed for a variety of sins, many of which were victimless crimes. Each one of these sacrifices had to be paid for (the Levite priests lived off the faith of the people) and each animal had to be purchased. It was a great business model, sustained by a well established religious tradition. That these sacrifices were unnecessary, and that people were being taken advantage of, seemed obvious to Jesus.
On Free Universal Health Care
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts: no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. - Matthew 10:8-10
While he calls for a living wage for people who provide health care, he clearly did not believe in for-profit health care. This is a very specific verse.
On Private Property
Jesus was against consumerism and encouraged his followers to own very few things.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff — no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. - Mark 6:8-9
On Debt Forgiveness
As critical as I am of Islam, one of the things that stand out in the current crisis is how much more sensible than ours the Islamic banking system is, with its strict prohibition of usury (charging interest) and its commonsense ideas about how currencies must have tangible value IN them (the approved Islamic currencies, the dirham and dinar, are silver- and gold- based).
In contrast, the central banks that dominate the world today issue debt-based, interest-charging currencies that produce wage-slavery everywhere and the appearance of scarcity in a planet where resources are vastly available.
Our economic system creates for many misery and wage-slavery in the midst of tremendous wealth. I propose that this is a serious moral crisis and a moral issue related to our values, not just a fiscal one.
One of the moral imperatives of our generation is to stand up to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and their national representatives including our own Federal Reserve, and to challenge their debt-based scheme. What follows is a parable about debt forgiveness.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
- Matthew 18:23-34
The context for the original parable was forgiveness of all debts, including moral transgressions, but the choice of imagery and themes, and the assertion of the fact that in antiquity those who could not pay their debts were sold into slavery makes a clear statement of the power exerted by the banking cartel, and their abuse of that power can be fully appreciated if we contrast the bank bailout versus the foreclosure crisis in light of this parable.
That is to say, the banks were forgiven their debts and taxpayers even paid the banks' private debts with public money, but then the banks foreclosed on the properties of millions of homeowners who were unable to pay their own, infinitely smaller, debts. Again, economic justice is one of the most serious moral issues of our day.
Later, in Matthew 25:26-27 the banking class and the practice of usury is compared here with a master who 'harvests where he has not sown and gathers where he has not scattered seed'. In other words, the act of hoarding money and then charging interest on money without producing anything is parasitical. The bankers reap the harvest and eat the fruits of other people's labor.
While it may not be said that Christ advocated for a Christian version of the banking system in the way that Muhammad advocated for an Islamic banking and monetary system, it does seem clear that he had much to say about the current economic paradigm that our civilization finds itself in.
It may be appropriate for progressive-minded Christians to consider the notion of developing an interest-free, ethical, conscious Christian banking system in light of the relevance of revolutionary Christianity as a doctrine of social justice when measured against the degradation of Manonism.
Class conscience in Christ's kingdom
Here is one of the most prominent Marxist aspects of the teachings of Jesus. Marx called for poor people to develop a strong sense of class consciousness and loyalty, he called for them to get organized and serve each other's needs, to abandon a false sense of class identity by identifying with the ruling class or allowing the ruling class to define their identities (in our case, as consumers).
A Marxist is required to identify with the poor, and ultimately the ideal is to have a classless society. The living Marxist tradition is a set of experiments, some more scientific and efficient than others, at creating something that approaches this classless, communist society. Many of these experiments are radical and utopian -and these usually have failed- whereas others like the social democracies of Scandinavia and Canada, are more pragmatic and successful.
The Christian message -and by this I don't mean the Bible in its entirety but the message of the Christ, which often rebels irreconciliably against Biblical tradition- is specifically designed for the poor and it specifically excludes the rich. In this sense, it is a revolutionary message and deeply resonates with Marxist tradition -as liberation theologians are quick to point out.
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. - Luke 6:20-21
The good news is proclaimed to the poor. - Matthew 11:5
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God". - Matthew 19:21-24
The rich man was told to sell everything he had and give it to the poor: this is today known as a socialist revolution. And it's presented as a non-negotiable pre-requisite to even consider oneself Christ's follower.
What this means is that in God's Kingdom, as Christ understood it, there were no social classes. The rich man had to identify as poor, he had to become poor, before he could enter the kingdom. For as long as there was poverty no one had the right to be rich and wealth was to be shared and made productive, not hoarded.
When I studied Christian teachings, I noticed that there was little commentary on Manonism as the counter-philosophy, the philosophy of injustice, of big fish eating the small fish. Now, from a distance and immersed in the current events in history I can much more clearly appreciate these teachings and their contrast with capitalism. Unfortunately very few modern churches will elaborate on this contrast as I have. But as for me, I offer this as a challenge: the current economic justice issues that we face today are more of a moral problem, and a crisis in values, than anything else. We cannot act in service of righteousness and of profit at once.