The Enchanting Economics of Death, Spectacular Resistance, and the Pursuit of New Life: a reflection from the streets of Vancouver

Since the Olympics have started I have found myself in numerous conversations, ones that four years ago I wouldn’t have even dreamed about having.  Olympics being harmful?  Wrong even?  I thought it was simply harmless athletic contests.  Yet now it seems that there is more that meets the eye to these games.  I have friends that are almost at the point of taking off work so they can stay glued to the TV to watch the games, I have friends who have participated in protests against them.  The following post is from a friend of mine who at this time requested to stay nameless.  Originally this post was submitted for the conference website to be added to the contributed entries but the conference organizing team that I am a part of thought that because of the anonymity of the post and the potential for it being interpreted as supporting violence that it wasn’t appropriate for type of conversation we were having on the site.  I still think the post is valuable in a different conversation that might be more suited for my site. Here it is.

For the next couple of weeks a good many of the nations of the world will be gathered together in Vancouver at the behest of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and under the banner of the five rings as well as the surveillance of the Security Forces.  Welcome to Vancouver 2010: we attend “with glowing hearts”!

But beyond all the hype, looking past the selective (and distorted) presentation of the Games that dominate the mainstream media, the Olympics serve as an almost perfect example of the way in which the death-dealing economics of our day function.  Juvenal tells us that the citizens of imperial Rome were willing to surrender their right to be politically involved in exchange for “bread and circuses”, and I reckon that things are much the same in our world of global capitalism.

Because the truth is that the Olympics are a fundamentally violent and death-dealing event, designed in order to transfer wealth, property, power, legal rights, and land out of the hands of the poor and the public and into the hands of the wealthy and the privileged – it really doesn’t take much work to start to learn this but for those who have chosen to remain ignorant, I recommend the writings of scholars like Helen Lenskyj, as well as the relevant information on websites run by the Olympic Resistance Network, No 2010, and the Vancouver Media Co-op.  So, with the arrival of the Olympics in Vancouver, no one should be surprised to see the dismantling of poor communities, the theft of land by massive real estate corporations, the criminalization of poverty, the destruction of precious environmental sites, the withdrawal of human and civil rights, and the transfer of public wealth into the hands of corporate sponsors, private companies, and Security Forces.  Adding insult to injury, the people of Vancouver will be stuck with the bill for this and will be paying it for many years to come.  Again, I should emphasize that there is nothing particularly shocking about this – this is the way in which the Olympics have always functioned and this is standard activity when it comes to the death-dealing ethics of global capitalism.

However, what is interesting about the Olympics is the way in which they are structured in order to garner public support and make criticisms difficult.  It is fairly easy for most people to understand, at least at some level, the death-dealing nature of contemporary economics when one talks about the practices of Canadian mining companies in Latin America, of Canadian owned t-shirt sweatshops in Honduras, of the Royal Bank of Canada’s involvement with the tar sands in Alberta (and you all are already aware of these things, right?), but it is much more difficult to gain a public voice, or gain public respect, when speaking critically of the Olympics.  This is because the Olympics have been able to draw upon other powerful motifs that exist within our culture – the glorification of youth, the respectability of ‘amateur’ athletes, patriotism, the thrill of competition, the heart-rending stories of trials and losses overcome and, of course, the pure entertainment value of it all.  I mean, I can honestly say that I think nothing good of the Olympics… but part of me still wants to watch the Canadian hockey games!  This is a fine example of the ways in which the economics of death disciplines our desires, so that we end up loving that which kills us.  Consequently, the Games end up being so breath-taking, so emotional, so full of ‘human interest’ stories, that those who speak critically of them are rapidly marginalized as insensitive upstarts (or just plain old assholes) who are pursuing causes that might be decent enough on their own (it’s difficult to say that caring about poor people is bad thing…) but who are doing so at the wrong time.  Of course, this is all ideology functioning in its most sinister way – the fact is that the Olympics are exactly the right time to be pursuing these causes and trying to bring about an alternative form of economics, because the Olympics are so deeply interwoven with the economics of death.  Of course, those who spread this ideology understand this – the IOC knows what really goes on with the Games as they are the ones who made it that way (in conjunction with their corporate sponsors and various political supports) – which is precisely why the ideology is spread.  If the protestors were completely wrong in the arguments they make about the relation of the Olympics to death-dealing economics then the IOC et al. could respond to their arguments and demonstrate how they are wrong.  However, because the protestors are right, the IOC must find a way to invalidate the arguments without actually responding to them.

With these things in mind, I thought that I would act in solidarity with those who are opposed to the economics of death in Vancouver.  I am tired of people simply speaking, writing or reading about ‘Kingdom economics’ or some sort of alternative economics of life, and desire to spend more time with those who are actually acting to bring these things about.  In this regard, I am inspired by the words of Mikhail Bakunin (spoken when he quit the Jura Federation in 1873):

During the last nine years more than enough ideas for the salvation of the world have been developed… and I defy anyone to come up with a new one. This is the time not for ideas but for action, for deeds.

Ain’t that the truth, eh?  Something to keep in mind, perhaps, when attending yet another conference on subversive, kingdom-based economics?

Anyway, on February 13th, I joined up with a Black Bloc at an anti-Olympic protest aimed at claiming a key intersection and disrupting the flow of traffic to Whistler on the first day of the Games.  Unfortunately, the riot police were far better organized than the protestors and the action was not a success.  At this point, legal constraints prevent me from saying anything further about the specifics of what took place.  However, I do wish to comment on the protest more generally.

First of all, I think events like protests are important because our commitment to an economics of life necessarily requires us to confront, expose, and demolish the economics of death.  In order to construct a society that is more just, less just ways of organizing life together must be destructed.  This should be obvious.  So, at least those who participated in the protest that occurred on February 13th were willing to take a genuine stand for their convictions and were willing to pay a price for taking that stand (several people were assaulted by police officers, others were imprisoned, and so on).  Although some may have been afraid, they did not allow that fear to prevent them from acting out their beliefs, and this is genuinely admirable.  It is, at least, a step up from those who get together just to talk about these things and then never do anything but talk.

However, when engaging in this necessarily creative and destructive work, the participants must be careful to ensure that they do not simply end up perpetuating or replicating prior forms of oppression and dehumanization.  This, of course, is what we saw take place in the fall-out of the October Revolution in Russia and the Cultural Revolution in China (as the opponents of Communism, Marxism, Socialism and other more Christian ways of structuring life together have never failed to remind us).  Perhaps some of the so-called ‘violence’ that took place at the protest could also be an illustration of this – to put it crudely, a dog that is regularly beaten will learn to bite back but, even then, one should only feel compassion for that dog.  One doesn’t punish that dog, instead one should go after those who beat the dog.  However, I emphasize the word ‘perhaps’, because I’m not sure that much of what was described as ‘violence’ at the protest was really all that violent.  What we need is a much more sustained public reflection upon what does and does not constitute ‘violence’ and when such ‘violence’ is or is not appropriate.  After all, if the Toronto Dominion Bank and the Hudson Bay Company are fundamentally death-dealing in their actions, and if they exist on stolen property, is it then inappropriate to smash their windows?  Wasn’t Jesus action in the Jerusalem Temple even more violent than what the protestors did in Vancouver on the 13th?  At the very least, we should be wary of accepting definitions of violence that are provided for us by those who benefit from the death-dealing status quo of global capitalism (for these people will tell us that the Olympics are driven by a commitment to peace and solidarity – even though we know that the Olympics are fundamentally violent against indigenous people, poor people and the environment – while also telling us that people who wear black and break two windows [yes, only two windows were broken] are raging violent criminals).

That said, I think that the greatest danger facing those who wish to protest against the death-dealing economics of our day is not that of perpetuating cycles of violence; rather, the danger is that of falling into a spectacular form of resistance that is composed of simulacra of actions rather than practicing anything that is genuinely disruptive and creative.  Now, by speaking of ‘spectacular’ resistance I am drawing on the insights provided by Guy Debord’s famous book, The Society of the Spectacle.  In that book, Debord argues that our focus in life has gradually shifted from a focus upon being (pre-capitalism), to having (nascent capitalism), to appearing (contemporary capitalism).  This focus upon appearances leads us to live spectacular lives, wherein we lose track of ourselves as genuine historical agents capable of engaging in transformative actions.  Instead, we become focused upon creating certain images (or brands) around ourselves.  It is this focus that I think has infused much of the culture of resistance (Andrew Heath and Joseph Potter analyze this in greater detail in their book, The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t be Jammed).  Thus, people think they are creating a change simply by dressing in black, disrupting traffic, tipping over newspaper boxes, and so on.  But this is mostly untrue.  The truth is that the protest on February 13th failed to achieve its objective and to claim it as a victory is dishonest.  Not only that, but to claim it as a victory – which I’m sure is done with good motives, in order to inspire people to continue to resist, to not give up, and so on – is actually self-defeating.  It is self-defeating because it prevents us from learning from our failures so that we can go on to succeed.  Failure must be truly recognized if success is to follow.  To call failure success is only to ensure that we will continue to fail.

Now I wish to highlight this because I think that the same criticism applies to many of the actions being taken by Christians who are trying to pursue an alternative economics and restructure their lives together.  Sadly, much of that activity remains stuck at the level of image, appearance, and simulacrum, and fails to get to the core of things or create any significant or genuinely meaningful change.  Therefore, it is my hope that those who attend this conference on Kingdom Economics will be able to make the transition from words to deeds and from a series of failures to Spirit-empowered success.  It is time that more Christians stopped talking amongst themselves and joined others on the barricades.  It is time that more Christians spent less time trying to find the perfect theological perspective on reality, and spent more time actually participating in reality.  And, perhaps it is also time that we learn to sacrifice some of our values and beliefs in order to enact positive change.  To be very honest, I would be willing to abandon my own values if I thought, even for a minute, that doing so would make a difference for those who are oppressed and abandoned today.  Now, before you dismiss this idea out of hand, do remember that Jesus was damned and forsaken by God because of his commitment to the poor and abandoned, and Paul also writes that he would be willing to cursed and cut off from Christ if it would assist in the salvation of Israel.  The pursuit of abundant life (for all, not just for some) might well lead us to be counted amongst the damned.  The pursuit of God’s economics might very well result in our excommunication.  So be it.  Despite everything, we will continue to pray: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon us, sinners.

41 thoughts on “The Enchanting Economics of Death, Spectacular Resistance, and the Pursuit of New Life: a reflection from the streets of Vancouver”

  1. A couple sporadic thoughts:

    – Jesus (and Paul!) refused to take up the sword. Sure he could of. He even said something about bearing a sword, right? But then what happens when his disciples try to draw their swords in the garden? “Put it away.” Jesus was beaten and oppressed, killed, by his oppressors. It is hard for me to imagine, then, that *any* act of violent vengeance is appropriate in light of a suffering Messiah. By the way, weren’t the Jews expecting a violent Messiah? One who would deliver them by force? Instead he laid his life down.

    – The author of this post is in danger of being enslaved by ideology, kind of like they want to accuse others of being (which no doubt they are). The author seems to want to set up the Olympics/oppressors as the enemy. This is ideology. Who is our enemy? Who is our neighbour? Are we not called to love and pray for both? The point isn’t that we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys. The point is we’re all fucked up and in need of a redemption that we can’t bring about for ourselves. Everyone’s a victim and everyone’s a perpetrator of evil and violence. The kingdom is full of enemies.

  2. Hey JT, good points, I haven’t offered my own thoughts on this post entirely but a few things you bring up got me thinking.

    1. I wonder if what the real question here is what is violence? If Peter took his sword and disassembled the chariots of the soldiers that were taking Jesus, I wonder if his response would have been the same. I personally don’t think that any violence that causes direct harm to an individual (whether that be spiritually, physically or mentally) is ever called for, but is stealing, exposing, defacing, vandalism….are those really violent acts? It’s something I struggle with. We tend to lean on the side of saying yes its violence because its destructive, but why do we say that? Do not some things need to be destroyed?

    2. I think it’s a fine line to walk the difference between seeing oppressive systems as the enemy (which I think is ok) and the people behind those systems (which is what you pointed out, is not ok). We need to stand up against, subvert, and fight hard against systems that dehumanize yet at the same time valuing and holding up the humanity of the people that perpetuate that system.

  3. Thanks for posting this, Nathan. True, it raises discussion about what violence may or may not be. Such discussion is good. But we dare not let talk about violence cloud over the huge issues of injustice. As the poster said, the particular protest in question involved two windows. On the other hand, the Olympics in question have helped bring untold hardship to untold people, and will continue to do so unless something is done that is effective in stopping it.

    Now tell me which is more violent?

    I admit, the question of peaceful vs. not-as-peaceful protest has been in my own mind. As the post said, Jesus’ ‘protest’ in the temple definitely upset the economies of a few business people–we can only hope to do the same to businesses that seek to profit from unjust activities.

    Sure the world is messed up, and we are all guilty. But that is no reason to allow it to continue. Jesus didn’t, and he calls us to be part of his kingdom.

  4. @Nathan

    “I wonder if what the real question here is what is violence?”

    That’s a good question. Petty vandalism may not be violent per se, but it’s not exactly subversive either. Jesus came and acted in a way that was unexpected. He brought about God’s new age, yet did it in a way that was hard to recognize. If we are to go about practicing acts that bring about God’s kingdom then how exactly does breaking a few windows on a bank do that? I think God requires more of us than simply some sort of grown-up teenage angst.

    “Do not some things need to be destroyed?”

    Definitely, I’m just not sure it’s up to us.

    Also, I think your second point is bang on. It’s really hard to separate systems from the people behind them though because systems don’t just fall out of the sky, rather, they come into being through choices made by folks. So, like you say, it is tricky yet I do agree it’s something we’re called to.


    “But we dare not let talk about violence cloud over the huge issues of injustice.”

    I’m not sure I agree. If you’re suggesting that the ends will justify the means (that we can use violence to oppose injustice) then, well, I just don’t see how this falls into place in light of a Messiah who suffered and was killed (again, perhaps we need to define what we mean by violence). It’s easy to want to confuse Jesus with Che, after all, they look alike! But the two are not the same. Jesus lays out a particular way. Revolutionary yes. But what was revolutionary about it wasn’t that he overthrew the Romans by force. What was revolutionary was that he laid down his life.

    Anyways, I don’t have all my eggs in this basket. This is something that, like you guys, I’ve been thinking about and wrestling with. So, thanks for discussing it. As the poster argues, may discussions like these birth in us transformation so that we can live rightly and practice justice rather than merely talking about it.

  5. The attitudes and actions of businesses, systems, or even religious groups come out of the ideologies of the people involved. Whether it’s the Royal Bank, or Christians fighting in the Crusades, the policy decisions are made by people. So, they both need to be loved in spite of their actions and policies, and made aware of the effect of those actions and policies.

    I share your concerns about means and ends, JT. It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to an intermediate evil that is intended to bring an ultimate good. But that works both ways. The Royal Bank supports ecological destruction in order to bring more $$ and a better (perceived) standard of life for its shareholders. To them, perhaps, the end justifies the means.

    It’s good to examine Jesus. There are glimpses of ‘righteous indignation’, and acquiescence. He felt strongly enough about injustice to take a stand against it. I suppose we could say he felt strongly enough that he instigated violence against himself.

    I find that hypocrisy is often knocking on my own door–I like Coke, eat at McDonalds, and even (gasp!) bank at the Royal Bank. But I’m starting to contemplate what I’m willing to do in order to do more than just talk about injustice. I wouldn’t feel comfortable joining a black bloc, but neither am I comfortable with joining the Olympic booster bandwagon.

    Talking about issues doesn’t go very far to solve them, but it is a beginning. Not talking about them is even less effective.

  6. I wanna protest now.

    I wanna protest these protests.

    The author says,

    “the selective (and distorted) presentation of the Games that dominate the mainstream media”

    but then follows up with

    “the Olympics are a fundamentally violent and death-dealing event, designed in order to transfer wealth, property, power, legal rights, and land out of the hands of the poor and the public and into the hands of the wealthy and the privileged”

    I can’t even imagine a more selective (and distorted) way to present the Games.

    I have no doubt that in the headlong rush to host a global event and appear the perfect host that some people get stepped on, maybe even hurt. It’s good to notice these things and point them out, but to actually claim that the Olympics are fundamentally about violently killing people is misguided in the least if not an outright lie.

    Only 2 windows were smashed in a protest? Why is that ok? How many windows are too many? Whose windows are being smashed? Why smash any windows?

    The irony of decrying the security needs of the Olympics while intentionally taking actions requiring more security seems to have gone unnoticed by many.

    Finally, it appears to me that there is some misconception that the IOC summoned everyone to Vancouver after decreeing that Vancouver must host their (IOC) games instead of the reality that Canada and Vancouver in particular had to ASK for the Games, they had to campaign for them and CONVINCE the Olympics to allow Vancouver to be the host.

    Those that feel strongly that the games should not be in Vancouver (or shouldn’t be at all) would have been better served to protest the bid when there was a possibilty of actually changeing something instead of simply annoying people with snarled traffic for more publicity.

  7. Good points John, I especially liked “the irony of decrying the security needs of the Olympics while intentionally taking actions requiring more security seems to have gone unnoticed by many.”

    Also, now that you mention it, I do find it interesting that I never heard any protesting going on when we were bidding for the Olympics (I didn’t even know we were bidding), mind you it does make me wonder who does the bidding and who was doing the asking? My guess it was the wealthy and powerful, not the people who were protesting.

  8. Great points John.

    I wonder if future bids would be different. Could you imagine if there was actually a person that would historically account for financial, environmental, etc. damaage/results of past Olympics and that before bidding the bidder must understand that the IOC will not be held responsible for any of it?

  9. It’s pretty clear that John actually doesn’t know what he is talking about. It’s too tedious to go into detail (people can do their own research, after all) but I should mention that there were several protests to the Olympics that occurred during the bidding process and prior to the arrival of the Games. However, these protests — as with most — weren’t given much time or attention in the mainstream media.

    But, hey, you know what does get that time and attention? Broken windows. So, perhaps John is suggesting that the interests of justice would have been better served if people broke windows during the bidding process or before the Games? I might agree with that.

    So, John is free to have whatever opinion he wants, and free to protest whatever he likes, but he may find it beneficial to have an informed opinion. I believe that the author of the post above provides some helpful points of reference where he can start if, that is, he is really interested in these matters… I won’t hold my breath.

  10. “It is time that more Christians spent less time trying to find the perfect theological perspective on reality, and spent more time actually participating in reality. And, perhaps it is also time that we learn to sacrifice some of our values and beliefs in order to enact positive change.”

    And yet I wonder how long the author spent writing the post to encourage positive change when he could have been participating in reality. Could it be that there is something important about the communication of ideas?

  11. Dan, thanks for the link to that piece. Good stuff. I agree with the author but I’m left wondering just how we would go about destroying “the police”. Is this something that is even plausible in our society? Imagining a day without “the police” seems more characteristic of God’s coming kingdom than it does of 21st century North America (a violent/oppressive/scared culture to be sure). Do you have any ideas on this matter?

  12. Sorry, one more thing. I feel as if the best way to respond to this isn’t to take part in protests on behalf of the oppressed, but rather, to become oppressed. Perhaps a move in solidarity with the poor and oppressed would be a *truly* subversive action. After all, that’s what Jesus did. However, making the choice of solidarity with the oppressed is a hell of a lot harder/scarier/demanding than taking part in a protest (not that this isn’t necessarily important). I’m just kind of thinking out loud here.

  13. No, that isn’t even close to being clear Dan.
    Especially since I didn’t claim to be talking about anything, I’m reacting to the piece the author wrote and if the author also took part of protests during the bidding process, then great. That was a much more useful use of their time and energy in my opinion.

    That doesn’t change the fact that the author frames his piece as if the Olympics are forced on Vancouver instead of Vancouver asking to be considered for the Olympics. Feel free to tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I know I grasp that basic fact easily enough.
    You, and the author, may feel that was the wrong decision, perhaps you’re right, but no one has shown any link to how smashing windows will help the situation other than a cheap attention grab. But really, is that the best we can do? Smash something that someone cares about just to get attention? I’m sorry, but that just reeks of juvenile impatience.
    When Sarnians were uncomfortable with an American surveilance blimp on their border, they made headlines and grabbed media attention with an inventive protest that was violence free. “Moon the Balloon” was a great idea in my opinion.

    People don’t listen to you when they are pissed off.
    People don’t listen to you when you engage in over the top hyperbole.
    If you scream at people that the Olympics are fundamentally about violently killing people while you smash their windows and make them wait in traffic, they are NOT going to walk away wondering if they should reconsider how they participate in globalized capitalist economics that don’t value people let alone the marginalised, no, they are going to suggest we hire more police to get you out of their face.

    The need to “do something” shouldn’t be an excuse to do something perhaps brave to some, but ineffective at best or counter productive to our goals at worst.

    As far as being informed, I have yet to read Lenskyj’s books, but if there’s access via the net to them I would but I’ve gone to all of the sites the author linked and found little more than rhetoric, almost no actual information. I’m not going to protest the Olympics because someone is afraid that the increased tourism will lead to more prostitution. I’m not going to protest the Olympics because they are building more roads or more ports, these are the hallmarks of modern civilization, not an Olympic issue.
    I do find it interesting that BC is both unceded land and lacking any treaty. If true, it makes me wonder why anyone sympathetic to indigenous people and issues would even live in BC and assist in the perpetuation of the theft of this land? Surely this can’t be an issue only relevant to the Olympics.
    I was disturbed by the vilification of any dissenting indigenous voices. It appears that if you are not in agreement with these organizations then you are greedy and/or evil and obviously not really a native person.
    Finally, the various sites take great pride in mentioning the lengthy list of acts of sabotage and property damage all the while calling for the respect of their own land and property. I’m at a loss to understand how that can be honestly reconciled.

  14. I want to start by saying for the most part I agree with the writers beef with the Olympics. It’s a lot of government money to be spent on essentially nothing. It’s a lot of interaction with countries who on a regular day we consider to be monsters. A lot of money that could be spent on homelessness, healthcare, foreign aid etc. The idea of “Free Speech Zones” frightens me as a Canadian citizen, all of Canada should be a free speech zone. Additionally, I am not a pacifist.

    At the same time, I recognize that the political values of the state are not necessarily those of a Christ follower. As a person who claims to love and follow Jesus, I must admit that I truly have no rights in this world. The church could lose its tax exempt status, homosexuals can get married, abortion is legal, the poor are ignored etc there are many aspects of this country that even before the Olympics, I had serious issues with. There are problems in other countries that I have even more of an issue with. Surely in the eyes of this heroic writer who won’t even admit to their own identity, all of these issues warrant “creative and destructive work”. Why is one event and set of issues unique from another?

    Then why won’t I partake of violent protesting? Why haven’t I strapped C4 to a hang glider and flown it straight into the games?

    Because the image of Christ is too important. Do you really think that the use of violence and destruction is any more useful than shopping at American Apparel? Do you think that it will make Christ look better? Will it make the church look more inviting? What the church stands to lose a result of participating in such feeble and short sighted activity is not even worth considering. Has the writer forgotten who our saviour is, what He did and how He did it? He died at the hands of injustice, greed, misunderstanding and fear. In so doing, His fist was not raised nor did He curse those that murdered Him.

    In the end, we are to be known by our love. Violence and destruction might give a mixed message.

  15. People keep mentioning Jesus but nobody has yet addressed the matter of the ‘Direct Action’ that Jesus performed in the Jerusalem Temple.

    As far as I can tell, that action was much more violent, and much more comparable to a terrorist act (at a far more security-sensitive location, during an extremely security-sensitive time) than anything that has happened in Vancouver. It was, after all, the single most important action that led to Jesus being executed by the Roman Security State. A comparable act might be something like gathering a bloc of followers and going into the NYSE on Sept 11th in order to smash everybody’s electronics while ranting about matters related to justice and oppression (see where that gets ya…).

    So, sure, I’m all for cruciform love, but let’s seriously look at what Jesus did and did not do. Did he damage property and disrupt a significant place at a significant time? You bet. Did that anger people? Yep. Did he hurt other people? No (or at least not directly… some of the exorcisms are pretty violent but I won’t get into that here). Fair enough. So, as we follow Jesus and try to exhibit cruciform love, can we damage property and disrupt places and events? Sometimes. Can we hurt others? No (or at least not directly). I accept these things as a pacifist (unlike Jason… but I do not think that pacifism prevents us from destroying objects… say, for example, dismantling a gun or a bomb).

    Can somebody please address this Temple action before we get any further appeals to (gentle) Jesus (meek and mild) in this discussion?

    Also, John, two points: (1) the ‘moon the balloon’ thing is a great example of the sort of spectacular resistance that the author mentions above; and (2) I will personally ship you a copy of a Lenskyj book if you provide me with your address and if you commit to reading it.

  16. You can’t seriously think that Jesus turning over tables at the temple is the same as this. He was taking a stand against people making money off of the worship of God. That was a personal issue, not a political one. You’re making it sound as though Jesus act in the temple is an allowance for any kind of violence. Jesus is God and can do whatever He wants, we just work for Him and should make sure we make Him look good at all costs. My opinion is that violent protests make God and the church look bad.

    On a side note and I ask this question in all seriousness, because I honestly don’t know and am curious. I’ve heard that you work with prostitutes. Would you or have you ever beat up a pimp?

  17. Dangnabbit, this sort of conversation really isn’t good for me. I get frustrated too quickly and then end up talking like a douche…


    You’re completely wrong and acting violently towards the biblical texts if you are trying to create a divide between the personal/religious and the public/political when it comes to matters of Second Temple Judaism and Jesus’ actions. The Second Temple wasn’t just a religious centre, it was also a social forum, a bank, and the base of the central theopolitical actors amongst the local Jewish elites. In this space, the religious, the social, the political, and the economic are all deeply interwoven and (just as importantly) carefully constructed and manipulated by the ruling leaders in order to perpetuate a certain ideology or theology that maintained a certain social order. Of course, the same goes for Jesus’ ministry — again a deep interweaving of the religious, social, political, and economic but this time something is constructed that looks very different than the constructs offered by the more powerful members of society. This is the sort of ‘big picture’ that must be kept in mind when one looks at Jesus’ temple action. Of course, I can’t blame you for neglecting it — most Christians never learn to read the bible in context — but if you are interested in learning about these things Warren Carter is a good place to start (although N. T. Wright also says some good stuff in this regard and he tends to be more welcomed by Conservatives).

    Also, I’m not using Jesus’ action to justify “any kind of violence”; that is obvious in my comment, so no need to reply in detail to that here. My prior comment should also make it obvious as to why I don’t need to answer your concluding question.

    I also don’t buy the “Jesus is God and can do whatever He wants” argument. Jesus regularly calls his followers to imitate him and be like him, and this is something that should be possible to us if, indeed, we possess the Spirit of Jesus. Not that we will do it perfectly, but to fail to try because “Jesus is God” is inexcusable.

  18. Just to chime in here a bit.

    I don’t think Dan or the author is applauding or even approving of it necessarily, they are opening up a discussion to what really is violence, and what is helpful and not helpful to successfully subverting a system of oppression. Is smashing a window violence? Now I think John brings up good points also in raising that question, if it’s violent or not, is it really helping? I would rather being doing productive things in taking down oppressive systems, not simply making noise about it.

    Also, how do you know Jason that what Jesus was doing in the Temple was a personal and not a political issue? I think it’s a valid question to ask honestly, was what Jesus was partaking in violent? haphazard destruction? Or did he simply lose his temper and act wrong. Oops, did I suggest that maybe Jesus did something wrong?

  19. “I don’t think Dan or the author is applauding or even approving of it necessarily, they are opening up a discussion to what really is violence, and what is helpful and not helpful to successfully subverting a system of oppression.”

    This, I have no issue with. I think asking the questions about the window are necessary before actually breaking it.

    I belive it was primarily a personal/spiritual issue as was regarding the misuse of His temple, His place of worship and His people. I agree that the exploitation of people is political but it is not the primary concern. People were mistreated all around Him, the issue was mistreatment via the temple. Which is why Jesus’ acts of destruction and violence were unique in the biblical narrative. There would have been more of it if the issue was strictly political.

    I totally agree with Dan that there was a constant link bewtween religious, social, political, and economic matters. I apologize if I conveyed an ignorance of that in this regard, but again, why is the temple scenario different? Why wasn’t Jesus more violent if all these matters were always present and therefore justified violence?

  20. I think we need to be careful with the Temple example Dan. I don’t intend to dismiss it, but a singular act of Jesus might not imply a pattern for all of our actions.

    Jesus didn’t smash their stuff and run, he didn’t break their tables and challenge them to arrest him. Jesus acted out of authority as a Rabbi (recognised or not) to drive them out of the Temple as he angrily informed them how they were in defiance of their Law, and of their God.

    If Jesus had gone to Rome and done something similar, or even to Pilate’s residence and torn his drapes or something, I could see an obvious parallel, but the crucial difference is that Jesus had the authority in the Temple to take forceful action. It seems to me that Jesus re-inforced this point somewhat with the question of taxes and giving to Caesar his due but more importantly giving God His due. He recognised the very different arenas where authority is important.

    To sum up how I come to terms with it, there may be some times when some form of euphmistically called “direct-action” might be needed, but it should not be the norm or default course of action. I don’t see any positive results from any of the mentioned vandalism undertaken.

    If you’d like to send a Lenskyj book, I will certainly commit to reading it and to reading it with an open spirit.

    If you have Nathan’s address, I can easily get it from either him or at The Story if you happen to have that. If not, I’ll provide you with my direct info.

  21. Dan,

    ‘The Second Temple wasn’t just a religious centre, it was also a social forum, a bank, and the base of the central theopolitical actors amongst the local Jewish elites.`

    Yes, the 2nd Temple was a religious centre and an ecomonic centre. NYSE is only an ecomonic centre. Moreover if you have the chutzpah to accuse someone of acting violently towards the text you should actually explain why not just state facts that everyone knows already in defence of your parochial views.

  22. Use your brain, Tom, I know you have one (despite the way in which you tend to come off online). Do you really think that the NYSE is “only an economic centre”? A fellow as intelligent as you should have no problem demonstrating how the NYSE also functions as a social, political, and religious centre.

    Of course, the analogy isn’t perfect (our context is far too different from first-century Palestine to allow for that) but I stand by its usefulness.

    As for defending my views, there are many scholars who have already done that in detail, and you don’t need me to write a book in a blog comment. If people are really interested in educating themselves about these things (and they usually almost certainly are not) they should be able to research these matters more seriously themselves.


    I’ll probably be seeing Nathan on Mar 6th. I’ll lend you one of my Lenskyj books through him, although I wouldn’t mind getting it back one day.

  23. Re: the temple incident, I think the Gospels can help us along here a bit. After the incident in Matthew, Jesus is asked directly: “by what authority do you do this?” Jesus attempts to trap the questioners, and effectively does, but then later has his own question:

    Mat 22:41-5 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

    Earlier in the Gospel Jesus had already said “Something greater than the temple is here”, and the rest of the Gospel is clear demonstration that Jesus’ enemies had no excuse to disbelieve him.

    Jesus had clearly demonstrated he had complete authority to clear out a temple that he himself was greater than. Jesus’ final question in Matt. 22 highlights this clearly (as Wright pointed out in JVG).

    So, my short answer would be: we are not Lord of the Sabbath, nor are we King David’s greater Son. Jesus can destroy whatever he wants (and as Matthew makes clear later, he did so when he brought about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70). But we are not called to be vandals for Jesus. I think the rest of the NT (Rom 13, etc.), let alone the OT, would bear this out.

  24. I’d also like to contribute to this discussion. After all, it’s clear that most here don’t have an informed opinion. He probably doesn’t read Z-mag or the World Socialist Website. Only people who read websites like that are informed. Come on people.

    I know the author of this post may sound like a big conspiracy theory concocted by douchebags without jobs but trust me, he’s right. The Olympics really are a violent death dealing event. Just the other day I saw a young dad walking with his two kids to the women’s hockey game. I yelled at him and took his kid’s ice cream cone. It’s creative and destructive work baby! Just another day in the life of a prophet.

    I’m working towards an alternative economics just like the author of this post. Right now I’m making a pair of pants and a t-shirt out of a burlap sack in my mom’s basement. Then I’m going to blog about it and bitch about people who work for TD Bank.

  25. JT,

    Sorry, I neglected your remark. Given that my friend was unjustly detained by the police (not to mention struck multiple times by the riot police), and given that my friend is now being villified by a bunch of bourgeois Christians who are far removed from the struggle for justice, I reckon one could make the argument that participating in the black bloc was a decent step towards solidarity with the oppressed. Of course, still a far, far cry from intimate solidarity, but a decent step, and probably a number of steps further than some of the people tossing around lines on this blog.

    Because that’s my problem with smart people. They think they can speak about things that they haven’t actually looked into, and so they throw out lines that look clever to them and use those lines to confirm their preconceived notions instead of really exploring these matters. I reckon Jesus’ words in Mt 13.15 are appropriate here:

    For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
    Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
    and turn, and I would heal them.

  26. Dan,
    I get it. Your view about how the 2nd Temple was SO like the Stock Exchange and is shared by SO MANY nameless scholars that you shouldn’t have to defend your tasteless remarks. Touche.

    If Jesus had a problem with NYSE clearly we’d see Him in the pages of the Gospel flailing business people all over Palestine. Our Lord’s problem with the situation at the Temple was that it was supposed to be “a house of prayer for all nations” but had become a place of business as well. In other words, it’s the simony He doesn’t like, not nessessarily money making. The critcal difference that the NYSE isn’t a religious venue makes the analogy useless.

  27. “The critical difference that the NYSE isn’t a religious venue.”

    Like has been noted already, the NYSE most certainly *is* a religious venue.

  28. FWIW (and probably not much), I’m pretty convinced Jesus was ticked at the sellers mostly because of *where* they were doing the selling, not because of what they were selling.

    The Temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for *the nations*, and the only place that Gentiles could pray according to Torah was in the outer court. But that’s exactly where the sellers were doing all their noisy selling, making God’s intentions impossible.

    In a way, it is an expression of the exclusivistic “nationalism” Jesus is confronting throughout the gospels, I guess, insofar as it showed no concern for Israel’s calling to be a light to the Gentiles, etc.

  29. This conversation really baffles me. The other day on his blog Poser said that he needed to raise funds for his new job: amongst whom was he going raise this funding this except ordinary Christians who have money and jobs? He studies at Regent College which is richly endowed by wealthy Christians. He then condemns them all with a sweeping, Bourgeous Christians: “my friend is now being villified by a bunch of bourgeois Christians who are far removed from the struggle for justice”.

    I don’t have a particular ax to grind about the Olympics but the disconnect to me is related to the “economics of death”. Besides the poor Georgian luger, who has died? When Christians talk about the culture of death it is easy to see who has died, 100s of millions of babies. But “economics of death”? That is a play on the term “culture of death”, and yet it is hallow. Who is dying? Who did TD Bank kill that they deserve to have their windows smashed? And for that matter, just because RBC is behind the oil sands, why is that so bad? If it weren’t for oil, you poor folks would have to walk everywhere you go. That’s fine if you live in some African country where it is warm all the time, but some of them work 18 hours a day carrying firewood on small carts for $3 a day. I’d much rather burn oil sands in my Toyota than die at 38 of exhaustion in that kind of misery. But walking everywhere you go is not really an option for living in Canada, particularly in winter.

    What are the protesters doing to create life. Anyone can smash a window. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. Vandalism is theft by destruction. That is not what Jesus did. He overturned the tables to prevent the money changers from stealing from the people of God and thus charging them to worship God which they had no right to do.

    Finally, the poster refers to destroying the structures of the economics of death, forewarned that others who have done this (communists around the world) have created misery. Yet Canada is one of the greatest countries in the world and the envy of many millions who long to have an opportunity to come here to live, to study and to raise their families. Yet all the protesters, the poster, and Poser can think about is how to destroy what other people envy. Is that not a sign of their own envy? There is something deeply wrong with that. TD Bank, by employing thousands of people, by extending mortgages to allow young couples to buy their first house, and by providing a safe place where people can put their investments, has done more to promote the welfare of the many than these sad anarchists. That is why I am a proud, bourgeois Christian stockholder of TD.

    “In order to construct a society that is more just, less just ways of organizing life together must be destructed. This should be obvious.” This is an extremely scary prospect. When people who hold such views have succeeded only misery results. Please name one case where death was not the result of destruction of capitalism. 100,000,000 people were killed by communists in 20th century alone. Is that not enough?

    Signed, an investor in oil sands and Latin American mines, shopper at the Bay, a proud-soon-to-be Canadian, Bourgeois Christian, who owns more than one pair of shoes.

  30. Poser, your response confirms what one of the professors at Regent told me a few months back: he said there is among the students a new generation of Pharisees. This reminds me of Matt 23.4: “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” You leave in a huff, telling me to be ashamed, but you fail even to explain for what things I should be ashamed or even to give a single counterargument. I can only suppose it is because I am a proud-soon-to-be Canadian. Or is it just because I am wealthy, owning two pairs of shoes?

  31. Hey Dan,

    If you’re lending me a personal copy, no problem, it’ll get back to you sooner rather than later. I’ll assume Nathan knows how I can get it back to you.

  32. I also am leaving this blog! What’s happened here is that this blog has helped facilitate a culture of death. Not to be cute, but if I could I’d like to throw a metaphorical rock through this blog’s window. One has to resist after all.

    In fact, right now I’d like to push for some creative destruction here in blogdom. Let’s all chant “FUCK THIS BLOG! FUCK THIS BLOG!” And yet while doing this I’d like to treat all of you bloggers I encounter as brothers and sisters in need of liberation and life just like me.

    Now as I leave I’d just like to say one last thing – if you strike me I promise not to strike back. After all, you poor bastards are enslaved to the death dealing ways of blog culture.


  33. I have no clue why google sent me to your site but I feel I should say I have been actually captivated by the site conent you have pulled together. How many month did it take to start getting so many internet users coming to your website? I am new to this.

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