May 25, 2018

Are You a Money Changer?

I am not religious by the standard definition. However, I sometimes think many athiests follow the teachings of Jesus closer than those standing on a pulpit.

Religion is a sweeping term so there are obviously many different subsets of religious people. Today, I am writing about the most vocal, dogmatic and hypocritical of the bunch. You know who I am talking about. And if you don't, I might be talking about you!

Jesus was a long haired hippie who helped the poor, crippled and diseased without asking for a co-pay. He preached brotherly love, forgiveness and acceptance. On top of it all he was probably dark skinned. Jesus was everything a large tract of today's  Christians hate. Indeed, if there ever was a second coming of Christ he would probably be thrown in jail.

This is because Christianity - like most religions - has been used as an excuse to consolidate power and wealth. Morality is simply justification for otherwise ungodly acts that serve the reining elite. Right wing evangelicals helped put a lying, cheating billionaire into the most powerful position on earth. While preaching from atop of their glass cathedrals built off the backs of working stiffs, religious leaders divide and conquer the population by reducing debate to a single power-driven issue, like abortion. Who cares if the multi-divorcee with multiple sexual assault accusations has paid off a pornstar as long as he's pro-life, right? A simple reductionist argument for simple people. Not that I'm knocking those who fall for it. On the contrary, this is a knock to those who manipulate average people into thinking they're doing right by Jesus himself. 

God bless America, right? George Bush used the God excuse (he said God spoke to him in a dream) before he decided to attack Iraq. If there is a god I'm sure he blesses Iraq as well. So how does that work? This rhetorical crutch is often used by Americans to justify the immoral choices made by those in power. Of course, America's enemies also invoke the name of their god when they attack. It's only rational to rationalize evil acts.

If there is a God or a son of God, I hope that he could reconcile the divergent realities of morality to understand that the measure of morality goes beyond binary choices. The measure of good goes beyond the big ticket issues. I also hope God could see the underlying quest for power and wealth unnecessarily forcing such ultimatums.

But this is not just about Presidents and CEOs making world-altering decisions to benefit their cronies. This is about the average Joe working the average job. In the bible, there's a story about Jesus and a group of 'money changers', who were presumably somewhat regular folks who would argue they were just trying to make a living. In reality, these money changers were conducting foreign exchange transactions at exorbitant rates, ripping off their poor clients. Not illegal...but not moral either. Not dissimilar to many jobs today.

Jesus - the bad ass he was - forced them out of the temple. I doubt the money changers would voluntarily pack up so I imagine this required some form of violence. 
"And they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the Temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the Temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; and He would not allow any one to carry anything through the Temple. And He taught, and said to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." (Mark 11:15-17 RSV) 
Christ Driving the Moneychangers from the Temple by Theodoor Rombouts

Ripping people off is plainly morally wrong, but what about the morality of capitalism in as a construct. I don't think the act of charging money for something of value is inherently evil. However, cornering unsuspecting people into situations to extract their wealth must be some kind of sin. Yet - even among the vocal religious - wealth disparity continues to widen, and the 'fuck you, I've got mine' mentality is epidemic. 

I recognize that capitalism has lifted much of humankind out of extreme poverty over the past century. However, this is to the detriment of the planet itself. We are Earth's stewards, yet while wearing the cross we support a system that rapes and pillages her leaving our children and grandchildren to suffer the consequences. We stand on the moral choices we impose on others as we justify our sins, and we prioritize our morals according to their payoffs. More critically, we've committed to an economic and social system that isn't even aware of the moral tradeoffs we collectively make every day.

You and I are part of the system that is built to consolidate wealth and power within the elite, yet most of us don't even realize it. Indeed, most people lead blatantly contradictory lives without the slightest awareness of their cognitive dissonance. They attend church on Sundays, returning to their desks on Mondays to devise novel ways of separating people from the fruits of their labor. 

Very few are not contributing to the problem. Yet, very few are aware of the problem. So, while we may in some ways be money changes, are we also all immoral?

2 comments:

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    1. Sorry Brad - I accidentally removed your comment while I was reading it. The blogging platform doesn't allow for recovery. I'm gutted because I find the feedback the most enjoyable part of my blogging experience. I'll have to be more delicate next time while scrolling on the tablet. I'm an idiot.

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