I would argue that the best summation of Christian ethics is found in the sermon on the plain in Luke 6:20–49. What I love about the sermon on the plain is just how radical it seems on the surface, it seems almost impossible; however, when you think about what it’s saying, and think about it deeply—it makes sense. Probably my favorite example of this is found in Luke 6:34–35 (NRSV):
If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Continue reading “Jesus against Hillel on Usury”
I recently wrote up an article for the website Libcom. The article is basically a teaser for my book, as well as a very little history of early Christianity and its social framework.
Over the last few months I haven’t been posting that regularly, there’s a few reasons for that; one reason is that I’ve been working on a book. The book I’ve been working on is called All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians, which has just been published by Wipf and Stock.
The book is basically a historical reconstruction of the economic practices of the early Christians, as primarily described in Acts 2:42–47 and Acts 4:32–37. The basic idea is that I think the subject has often been approached using the wrong framework, many people approach these passages with the framework of twentieth-century political struggles; so the questions they ask are things like “was this socialism, or was this just charity?” or “Did they abolish private property?” or “Was this a commune?” I think these questions assume the wrong framework.
I approach the issue using a different framework, rather than questions of property or politics, I use the framework of different types of social-relationships as described by modern anthropology. Rather than asking questions of property or legal rights, I look at questions around things like obligations, moral norms, social assumptions, and economic practices. Approaching the question of the economic practices of the early Christians using this framework, I then go about examining all the evidence. This evidence ranges from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Greek Philosophy, to the writings of Josephus and Philo to the early Church fathers and early Christian documents to Roman literature.
The evidence, when examined carefully, and within the framework of categories of social relationships—we end up seeing that what was described in Acts 2:42–27 and Acts 4:32–47 was in fact, a long term, wide spread and significant shift in the economic realities of the Christian communities. These economic practices were done all over the Roman world at least up until the late second century (and probably beyond) by many Christian communities, and these practices distinguished the Christians from the surrounding Roman society and were seen by the surrounding Roman society as strange. It was not charity, or anything like that; but rather it was—in the anthropological sense of the word, meaning a situation where “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” is the primary moral framework—communism.
If this is something that interests you, and I think it should, pick up the book.
Earlier, on this blog I predicted that purely secular/liberal effects to overcome Capitalism are doomed from the start. I laud their efforts, and I think most of the Marxian critiques of Capitalism (as well as other critiques such as the Anarchist critique) are absolutely accurate. Recently the Erik Olin Wright wrote an article in the Jacobin magazine called “How to be an Anti-Capitalist Today” Where he outlined 4 approaches to be an anti-Capitalist. The first two are obvious, the revolutionary model of the Anarchists and Marxists, and the Social-Democratic Model, the problems with those models are obvious to anyone who has paid attention to the 20th century. Wright puts it quite succinctly in his article, first with the revolutionary model:
Continue reading “How to be an Anti Capitalist today”
This is the final post of a 3 part series on the Theology of Zizek. If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series I strongly recommend you go through both. If you don’t this post won’t really make much sense.
Zizek in his book “The Monstrocity of Christ” attempts to explain how community is gained from the death of God. I’ll start in (Kindle) Location 1232:
It is not enough to say that people (individuals) organize themselves in the Holy Spirit (Party, community of believers): in humanity, a transsubjective “it” organizes itself. The finitude of humanity, of the human subject (collective or individual), is maintained here: Christ is the excess which prohibits simple recognition of the collective Subject in Substance, the reduction of Spirit to objective / virtual entity (presup)posed by humanity.
These precise distinctions also enable us to account for the passage of what Hegel called “objectvice spirit” to “absolute spirit”: it is through Christ’s mediation that OS changes into AS. There is no Holy Spirit without the squashed body of a bird (Christ’s mutilated corpse): the two poles, the Universal (the virtual infinity/immortality of the Holy Spirit (OS)) and the Particular (the actual finite/mortal community of believers (SS)) can be mediated only through Christ’s monstrous singularity.
Continue reading “The Theology of Slavoj Zizek, a Critique – Part 3”
In the previous post, I presented a quick overview of Zizek’s materialist theology, and began a critique of it. Before you read this post you should read the first one, since without the context of the first post of this series you won’t really understand what it is I am arguing against.
Zizek often quotes Melville Bartleby who takes the stance “I would prefer not to” as a philosophical stance against (psudo?) ethical individualistic demands put on us by ideology. I agree with Zizek here, but in the face of the Death of God, this mantra must be taken to the end and included. A clear example of Zizek’s naivety when it comes to not taking the “I would prefer not to” to the end is found in his book “Living in the end times” where he talks about growing tensions in the Netherlands between the Gay community and the Muslim immigrant community who are more and more homophobic. Zizek says in Location 3182 (kindle version) in “Living in the End Times”:
Continue reading “The Theology of Slavoj Zizek, a Critique – Part 2”
I’m a huge fan of Slavoj Zizek, both as a philosopher and as an ideological critic. I think his pointing out of assumptions that modern society holds without realizing they hold them is important for our age, an age where it’s common to believe that we are purely rational, we have transcended religion, and we are more enlightened and free thinking than ever, as Zizek often points out, things are more complicated. When it comes to theology, I think Zizek’s insights are interesting, I’ve written on them before, however they are problematic. Zizek, in his theology, tries to build up a Materialist Theology, not along the lines of the ultra-liberals like John Shelby Spong, but rather along Lacanian lines mixed with his brand of Hegelianism. In order to understand his theology we have to understand how he defines God. In his book “the Monstrocity of Christ” he gives the definition of what God means to him in his materialist theology (Location 3966 on the Kindle):
Continue reading “The Theology of Slavoj Zizek, a Critique – Part 1”