Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Kingdom of God and the Revolution - Part 1

What is the revolution?

Historically whenever one group of people finds themselves oppressed, exploited and belittled by another they usually begin to conceive collectively of a time when the situation will change. Either for a brutal reversal of the situation or of a new world where people treat each other with dignity and equality. Examples can be found in ancient Jewish apocalyptic literature or the stories told by Black slaves which featured a thinly veiled version of the world around them told with the main characters represented by animal figures, sometimes resulting in the animal figures representing the slave masters being torn apart. There are many others.

Under the current world economic and political system, a system called capitalism by the majority of English speakers, most fully formed of the ideas about revolution have been laid out by radical socialists (especially anarchists and other libertarian socialists).

Socialists of all brands believe that the current system whereby the majority of people have little economic, political or social power are used and abused for the purposes of those who have it all is wrong and should be overthrown and replaced with something better. Many socialists also realise that even those people who do wield the power are themselves possessed by their own master, capital or, as Christians have understood it the demonic force of Mammon.

Capital is not simply equal to money. Capital is money which is used to generate more money. It is money which is invested in private property (property which is neither occupied nor used by the capitalist) which is protected by the state, or is advanced as interest bearing loans. It returns as rent, interest and profit and sometimes directly as taxation and it has grown because it has been used as a vehicle for stealing the wealth of people who actually do the work. It leaves most of the workers in a state where they only have access to just enough resources to be able to survive. This isn't just something that naughty capitalists do when they break the rules, this is the basis of the entire world economy.
Eventually this system will fail. The workers (which largely = everyone who works for a wage in order to get by) will put an end to it and replace it with a system where the economy is run democratically for the good of everyone. 

Capitalism in it's purely economic form comes as part of a package of other systems of hierarchy which are linked but are also separate issues in their own right such as the domineering of the state as well as a social hierarchy in which people are categorised by skin colour/ gender/ sexuality etc. and those people who fit into more categories that come further down the food chain end up being used by those further up. All of this has to go. 


What is the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God is a theme of Jewish apocalyptic literature which was taken up by Jesus. Jesus taught that a time was coming where the old order, at that time of a world dominated by the imperialist Roman empire was going to be overthrown and replaced by a society of God's design - one where love is the foundation for social relations, not a struggle for dominance. Early Christians wrote that creation was going to be "liberated from decay" (Romans 8:21) and that the Kingdom of this World would be transformed into the Kingdom of God (Revelation 11:15). Jesus talked about it in even more direct and practical terms when he quotes Isaiah in Luke 4:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

The year of the lords favour was a reference to a Jubilee year, where debts were forgiven and property was returned to it's original owners. So we have a massive redistribution of wealth, prisoners being set free and even physical ailments like blindness getting cured.

The Christian church has tended to spiritualise the reality of all this away. Making out that the good news to the poor was mainly to do with the fact that they would be rewarded in heaven, that the prisoners being referred to were prisoners to sin and the bling were those who couldn't see the truth. The reason for this horrible misrepresentation has been due to the fact that throughout most of it's history the church was in service to 'the empire' of it's day. Whether that was the Roman empire or the Christendom of medieval times or even as a justification myth for 19th century European colonialism and all the horrors that went with it. 

It's only been more recently that the capitalist system has no longer had a need for Christianity's justification myth, and has come up with it's own in modern liberalism that we have come blinking back out into the light and been able to see the last 16 centuries for what they have really been. A betrayal of Jesus and his message on a grand scale by the church (obviously not including everyone, there have been many notable heroes - or saints - who stood up to all this). 


What is a coup?

A coup is where one group knocks another one of the top spot but leaves the power structure below them in place.

An Eschatological Revolution.

The coming of the Kingdom of God can and should be understood and spoken about as synonymous with the coming revolution for Christians. The revolution is our eschatological hope. It is not a coup. The task of the church is to begin to deconstruct and drive back the forces and powers of this world, looking forward to a time when God will sweep our efforts into completion and smash hierarchy, oppression and exploitation to pieces. The coming Kingdom of God will not be a coup, God is not going to swoop into the top spot and bump Satan off into the fiery pit. God is coming to transform the world and to turn everything upside down. When you read the New Testament with this understanding in mind it actually makes a lot more sense.

(I'm calling this part 1 because I imagine one day I'll have more to write about this so I'm really just leaving the door open for a sequel).