Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Freedom from Pluto and Jupiter

In his book, The Subversion of Christianity, Jacques Ellul explores how Christians and churches abandoned their faithful witness to Jesus and became Olympian.

Olympianity: power; Jesus: freedom
First he notes that virtually all Christians and churches in our day devote themselves to the six conventional gods of Olympianity. Olympianity is the universal religion of power. Christians worship the six false Olympian gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption because, through them, they expect to gain control and measure the importance of their lives in terms of that control. Churches worship these same gods to change society or at least remain relevant to a society which also worships them.
Jesus, in contrast, is the one true god of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. He questions all powers all the time. He always seeks to liberate us from our Olympian personalities, even when we call them Christian; and in relation to any Olympian social groups, even when we call them churches.

Jesus vs. Pluto
Ellul reminds us that Jesus himself told us we cannot serve both him and Mammon (Pluto) the god of money. Ellul then adds that “Jesus recommends to his disciples that they have none [money]. Paul shows that it is there simply to give away. James argues that the money heaped up by the wealthy inevitably results from theft that victimizes the worker” (13).
Christians and churches justify their devotion to Pluto by wrongly regarding money as a neutral object. They then believe that they may make as much money as possible so long as they do so according to a biblically-based moral code.
This belief, however, contradicts the biblical witnesses themselves. To them, Pluto is a sinister spiritual power who worms his way into our hearts through money. Jesus frees us from this power to share his light, love, and life with others.

Jesus vs. Jupiter
Jesus frees us from the pursuit of political power. Political power comes from Jupiter, god of politics, who only gives it to people willing, like him, to regard other humans as nothing more than means of gaining more power. “It was not for nothing that the first Christians were attacked in the Roman Empire as dangerous anarchists, as agents subverting Roman order. They had conscientious objections against military service, against the administration, [13] and against the emperor. They stated that Christians ought not to enter the imperial administration or hold office. Witnesses of the period testify to the disquiet this caused” (13-14).
Christians of the first, second, and third centuries did not question political power from a political position. They were not seeking, for example, to replace Olympian politicians with Christian ones, to transform the empire into a republic, or even to abolish slavery. Their attitude “was the more radical one of a rejection of all such things, a questioning not just of one power but of all power, a desired transparency in human dealings that manifests itself…in relationships…of a completely new kind” (14).
(Today we continued our reflections on The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul [trans. Geoffrey Bromiley, Eerdmans, 1986].)

Copyright © 2015 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.