Rev. Rich Lang
Here’s a resolution for a rockin’ new year: Let’s get preachers on board and kick-start the Jubilee
With the election of a socialist to the Seattle City Council, economic discourse is going to get a bit testy this year. The bottom line is that a person making $20,000 has different interests and needs than someone making $50,000, $100,000 and even more. The truth is that political decisions are mostly made for those north of $100,000. It’s only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.
I’m hoping that preachers will find their voice so that we, too , might enter this public debate. One hears from time to time a plea for economic justice proclaimed from church leaders, but mostly this plea is just warmed-over, rather standard liberal fare. But if the church took seriously its own book there would be a much different application of its proclamation.
The Bible’s definition of economic justice is the Jubilee, a far more radical break with capitalism than socialism. The Jubilee posits that the earth and all its resources belong to God. The implication is that we, the people, are to share the resources so that all survive and thrive. In order to do this, societies should have built-in legislated limits on wealth accumulation and debt. Every 50 years wealth should be completely redistributed so that there can be no more aristocracies or generational poverty. Practically speaking, this means that although Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos can, in fact, live and die as wealthy kings, their descendants will need to concoct their own privileges from scratch. It also means that the child of the family on welfare will be given a boost into new opportunities to escape poverty. This is what the Bible means by justice: wealth redistribution legislated by government. It might be thought of as FDR on steroids coupled with Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s threat of taking back the infrastructure we, the people, built for corporations like Boeing.
Now, of course, you never hear your preacher going that far, but the Bible goes even farther. It legislates yearlong sabbatical rests for the land, which means that the earth has “rights” that trump the desire of entrepreneurs to exploit and seize its resources. Labor also has a right to rest. Every seventh year financial debt was forgiven, and if someone had fallen into hopeless poverty they were to be given the means to become economically self-sufficient.
In this new year, when things get really rockin’, I’m hoping that preachers find their voice and organize their congregations to speak truth to those who troll within government, military and corporate whorehouses. I hope that Christians will get out of their pews and into the streets. I hope the church will practice solidarity with the left-out and the least. I hope we will follow Jesus, even though we’ve been warned by Jesuit priest Dan Berrigan that “if we want to follow Jesus, we better look good on wood.”
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