These recent weeks have been interesting and alarming all at the same time. Greece has recently voted as a nation to refuse further austerity measures from the rest of the European Union. For a long time, they have spent more money than has been coming into the country, and neighbours have been keen to give loans to assist them out of their difficulties, but have they helped, was there a very different agenda?
Today, the UK Government announces it’s budget, austerity has become an everyday word for exceptional circumstances; but those circumstances are no longer exceptional. We live in a globalised economy that collapsed in 2008. Massive debts have accumulated in most countries, each owing the other it seems. Who are paying the price for the fantasy world of other crashing? Certainly not the people and institutions that created and perpetuated the circumstances. Regular people are paying the price, the ones who are not able to afford, the ones not able to earn……
I am a great fan of a group of communities called the Bruderhof. They live together, work together, and decide things together. They have learned what it is to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously, and is in fact the core of who they are, how they are, and the way to be. I am currently reading “Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution” by Andre Trocme from Plough Publishing (a free download). It is very thought provoking and very relevant in today’s world of violence and war. Within it’s pages is a section of a different kind of violence and oppression:
People believed he would re-establish the legitimate Davidic dynasty and free the people from foreign domination. Isaiah 61 refers specifically to a liberation, and it is a social one: “To preach good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Being the hoped-for Messiah, Jesus meant to accomplish what the prophet announced as the task of the Messiah. He was setting out to liberate the oppressed of Israel. He was proclaiming a ‘year of freedom’ (“the year of the Lord’s favour” or the “acceptable year of the Lord”).
We now hold the key to the problem. By proclaiming a “year of freedom” in Nazareth, Jesus was threatening the interests of property owners, those with power. This is what incited their murderous anger. His adversaries never admitted the real motives behind their fear and hate. As good conservatives do, they hid behind the noble pretexts to discredit the prophet from Nazareth. They wanted to defend the institutions, the temple in Jerusalem, and the tradition of their fathers. They resisted the “year of the Lord’s favour.”
Exactly what was this “year of the Lord’s favour” that Jesus proclaimed? Most exegete agree that it was nothing less than the sabbatical year or Jubilee instituted by Moses.
Moses had insituted a genuine social revolution aimed at preventing the accumulation of capital in the hands of a few. This was to recur every seven and every forty-nine years. Iuse the term ‘revolution’ intentionally because the social readjustments commanded by Moses were far more radical than the efforts of modern revolutionaries. Contemporary revolutions grow primarily out of economic disparities caused by technological developments. Jesus’ revolution, on the contrary, drew its strength from God’s liberating justice. By proclaiming the Jubilee, Jesus wanted to bring about a total social transformation, with an eye to the future, yet based on the vision of justice God had already set forth in the past.
The Jubilee, with it practices and norms, would have been known to both the poor and the rich of Nazareth. Was not the Law of Moses read every Sabbath in the synagogue? But it was not being fully put into practice. Here Jesus suddenly demanded that the Law be put into immediate practice effect – “today.” Was this good news or bad? That depended on who you were. The Jubilee demanded, among other things, expropriating the lands of the wealthy and liquidating the usurious system by which the ruling class prospered. It is easy enough to understand the enthusiasm of the poor, as well as the fear of the rich, which prompted them to try to stop the social revolution by means of crime.
We already have a method of dealing with such widespread debt, we already have a method of dealing with a debt when it is pretty certainly never going to be paid. Power and control is and was a brutal tool and method of keeping people at bay. What is the difference in today’s current financial climate. Will Greece ever be able to pay of it’s debts? What is the motivation of the creditors? Would you loan money to someone who was unable to pay it back?
If you look around our suburbs and inner cities you will see clearly in the UK an increase in loan sharks wearing lambs clothing……. I suggest that we look upon these countries in the chart above in similar fashion and also consider the ideology of our current government, a government that has demonized the cannot and have-nots…… think about it.