A few days ago Chris Bourne posted a comment on the blog Gates of Society and it provoked me a lot. There was so many elements in his comment and I am just looking to pick up on one aspect here. So a quick reminder from that post. The rulership (commodification) by politics that is so visible over such areas in society as education and health exposes a root myth about the inter-dependence of the ‘spheres’ (not sure what word to use here!!), yet how politics has become, or always has been, subject to economics. OK so much for the recap.
Chris’ comment provoked this line of thinking:
- when we are enslaved – we will seek to enslave.
- western society (it is more visible there) and society is ultimately enslaved to Mammon. Hence the ‘you cannot serve…’ statement of Jesus or the mark of the beast that forbids the buying and selling.
- the necessary partner to Empire has to be Mammon, that which is the driver behind consumerism.
- the only antidote to Empire is that of contented boundaries. This is how I understand Genesis and the Garden. There is a boundary required to counter Empire, and God gives the least possible restriction: only do not eat of this one tree. The fruit of that tree is of course very critical, and ties to independent self-determination.
- consumerism, the original sin, is how the enslavement to Mammon is evidenced.
There then is a flow, from accumulating commodity, to luxury, to expansion through war, to the ultimate of ‘bio-power’
So back to the book written well-before-its-time, Revelation:
The merchants of the world will weep and mourn for her, for there is no one left to buy their goods. She bought great quantities of gold, silver, jewels, and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk, and scarlet cloth; things made of fragrant thyine wood, ivory goods, and objects made of expensive wood; and bronze, iron, and marble. She also bought cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, horses, wagons, and bodies—that is, human slaves. (18: 11-13, New Living Translation).
1. The last two elements read as: ‘bodies, human souls’.
2. I suggest there is a progression in the list from the seeking to possess the ‘valuable’ commodities, to the enjoyment of luxuries, to gathering the war materials (horses and chariots – wagons in the above translation)… to the ultimate consuming of lives, the very ‘soul’.
What was set as original direction:
contented, creative, growing stewardship in the context of partnership, all flowing from an understanding of the generosity of heaven in order to release a reflected, yet real, generosity. That is truly counter-empire. Something of that was recovered in the early Christian community (my daily reading included Acts 3 & 4 today, ‘they had all things in common’) touched by the generosity of heaven they then lived that out as reflected in the generosity towards one another.
The original direction was rejected:
‘I saw… I desired… I took… I consumed’ being the Genesis 3 pattern.
Then unfolds the pattern that can reach a fullness with the total consumption even of the ‘human soul’. It is into this that Jesus came ‘at the fullness of times’, and perhaps there is another ‘fullness of times’ that we are approaching yet again. The slavery of the first Century has given way to the ‘matrix’ that is our slavery.
And yet I think the good news is that there never is a fullness (the beast ‘was, is not, and is to come’ Rev. 17:8). The ‘is to come’ is the constant threat, but not the necessary consequence. The threat of ultimate consumption hovers between the past and the foreboding future. It hovers there held in check, for it is the kingdom of God that is to come is the constant promise (the kingdom of ‘the One who is and who was and who is to come’).
So how is it all brought down? We have to be consumed (we are being consumed anyway) but consumed as prophets and saints (18:24). To be consumed in that way we have to be those who have been set free from slavery, thus becoming those whose lives are poured out.