Critic of the Domination System

Critic of the Domination System May 10, 2015

Jesus as critic of social domination system

I haven’t tracked down the exact source of the quotation, but Borg discusses the domination system of Jesus’ time, and his relation to it, in The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith.


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  • Rust Cohle

    Jesus wasn’t all that good of an ethical teacher either.

    Avolos, H. (2015) The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics. Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd.
    sheffieldphoenix.com/showbook.asp?bkid=294

    • louismoreaugottschalk

      Jesus makes a way where there is no way.

      • Rust Cohle

        “Conservative Christian and other non-scholarly resources are of limited value…” –James F. McGrath 5/10/2015

        • louismoreaugottschalk

          What is in your heart right now rusty? I hear you.

  • How is this a description of Jesus? I like the idea of a such a guru – but Jesus often told people how to behave within a system of domination, and I don’t see much critique of said system in the gospels.

    • His transgression of rules of uncleanness and propriety, and boundaries of respectability, class, nationality and gender, are often understood in these terms. And teachings such as those about turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and so on, are understood to be ways for victims of injustice to protest against those in power without resorting to violence.

      • I’m glad people interpret him this way (if only to make modern Christianity societally better), but transgressions of uncleanness and propriety seem like rather minor and ineffectual ways of challenging a domination society from the figure who also tells us to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. I’m likewise glad that Jesus appears pacifist in some of his sentiments, but it’s not clear to me that this lead, centuries later, to the sorts of nonviolent campaigns led by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. King credited Gandhi for his approach and Gandhi credits the Hindu virtue of ahmisa.

        • BrotherRog

          Gandhi, was also a serious student of Jesus. Very serious.

          • Well, that’s overstating it a bit. He read the New Testament. Took joy in the Sermon on the Mount, considered it far more palatable than the ugly depiction of God in the Old Testament. But:

            “Philosophically there was nothing extraordinary in Christian principles. From the point of view of sacrifice, it seemed to me that the Hindus greatly surpassed the Christians.”

            He did like the references in the Sermon on the Mount to turning the other cheek and letting a man have your cloak. It reminded him of the teachings he had already garnered from the Bhavagad Gita.

      • Michael Wilson

        I did find Borg’s quote confusing as well. Jesus did challenge the contemporary standards of what was good: the displays and good manners of piety, like the cleanliness, and the notion of justice as eye for an eye. But I agree with Beau that there doesn’t seem to be a program for challenging the ruling class beyond living differently. Now to a degree Jesus sort of go the extra mile mentality is s good way to gain authority and power by way of cultivating respect. the man that turns the other cheek or gives a demanding person more than they demand will be seen as “the bigger man” and not one unduly unsettled by loss, a good indicator of character. How much is it really protest? How do you see it as protest?

        • louismoreaugottschalk

          I think there is no program. Living dif is in itself an action not a protest. Boudaries like the soul knowing it’s worth bc living in the light, being guided by the holy spirit, finding ppl that are already connected and living in the spirit, the soul finding a safe place that fits and your right work in a community are counter to empire’s program of submission by structural violence, I think, & may be the only reason the human race has survived since jesus day.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Jesus said to “follow me” . . .you don’t think if enough people had joined his initerant lifestyle that wouldn’t have been an affront to the ruling classes? Particularly when you are talking about the arrival of the reign of God outside of established power structures (Caesar or the Temple, propped up by Caesar)

          Life back then was thoroughly religious. Religious proclamations had serious social and even economic ramifications.

          • Michael Wilson

            They , Christians, were an affront from the beginning. But the Christian argument, apology, is always that we Christians are not challenging your authority. We are not undermining your government. But their are things we don’t want to do and we are willing to be killed to avoid them.

          • Andrew Dowling

            I’m not sure you can conflate apologies written centuries after the fact with what Jesus preached. He wasn’t crucified by the State because he simply wanted to do his own religious thing in the corner and not bother anyone.

          • Michael Wilson

            I do agree that the Romans took the refusal to worship the imperial cult as seditious, but not sure how truely subversive this was. Christian states haven’t had a lot of trouble ensuring loyalty even without the rituals of worship that offended the Christians. The animosity of Christians toward the temple faction seems to me to stem from a rejection of the dogma that the Temple was a superior house of God than than the bodies of the worshipers or that the sacrifices there were more pleasing than the sacrifices of mercy offered by the worshipers. That the Temple colluded with Rome I think was immaterial. Remember that Josephus tells us that James the Just was killed by the scheme of the high priest only after their was a lapse in Roman authority.

        • BrotherRog

          Michael, please consider these powerful insights from the late Dr. Walter Wink. Highly recommended. http://www.cpt.org/files/BN%20-%20Jesus%27%20Third%20Way.pdf
          Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity

          • Michael Wilson

            Thanks, ill read it abd tell you what I think

          • Michael Wilson

            Thanks that was enlightening. I had heard people describe the third way as a form of offence, that the goal is getting the soldiers in trouble and so forth, but as explained in the pdf, it is not meant to be vindictive. I think that is surely the case, I don’t see in Jesus’s teaching a sneaky way to get soldiers flogged. I also don’t see in this a call to let people murdervyou or stand about idly while evil is inflicted. The examples are not life and death or dealing with outlaws. He also isnt addressing rulers. Jesus is talking to fellow Galileeans on how to deal with the injustice they suffer. I think Jesus is arguing against the Zealots. In the circumstance of power imbalance, fighting in court, in the street, or countryside would be futile and only cause more suffering. But for the poor and weak to communicate that the rich and powerful care more about insult, property, deprivation than you the poor will in a good many inspire shame for the accuser and respect for the opressed. That in turn will lead to a better interaction between the two over time. I don’t think that if Churchill had spoke to Jesus he would have said, if Hitler ask for france give him london too. I think though that looking past insult and williness to bear suffering that will be administered regardless willingly rather than in retaliation is a great ploy fir the oppressed

          • Michael Wilson

            I have to add that I agree with Augustine on just war, that justice is perverted to excuse honor killing and theft is immaterial since any idea will be perverted by the unjust. A society without scruples would not mind how many extra miles a slave will go any more than a rancher will set cows free if they herd themselves to a slaughterhouse.

  • Well, Jesus did criticize the temple management, Pharisees and scribes and was against the rich. But he didn’t advocate overthrow of the Roman government or slavery.

  • Leah Elizabeth

    It’s from “The God We Never Knew.”