Wednesday, August 24, 2011

up from the bottom

I get a daily meditation in my e-mail from Fr. Richard Rohr via the Center for Contemplation and Action. Today's meditation has another perspective on my semi-tongue in cheek comment that faith requires one to be liberal. I've quoted all of it here...

The terms “right” and “left” came from the Estates General in France. It’s interesting that now we use them as our basic political terms. On the left sat the ordinary people, on the right sat the nobility and the clergy! (What were the clergy doing over there?!) I think you see the pattern.

In history you will have these two movements, because we didn’t have the phenomenon of the middle class until very recently. The vast majority of people have been poor, even in Jesus’ time. The people who wrote the books and controlled the institutions, however, have almost always been on the right. Much of history has been read and interpreted from the side of the "winners,” or the right, except for the unique revelation called the Bible, which is an alternative history from the side of the enslaved, the dominated, the oppressed, and the poor, leading up to the totally scapegoated Jesus.

It is interesting that the history of the terms - right and left - reflect the demarcation between poor folk and those with power and riches. To some degree, that seems still to be true with the wealthy and powerful tending to lean more to the right while those on the margins of life tend to lean more to the left. How the middle class plays into this is even more interesting, especially as we watch the middle class shrink.

I'm struck by Rohr's comment that the Bible is an alternative history written from the viewpoint of the poor, the enslaved, the dominated, the oppressed... The central story is one of liberation, first of slaves in the Hebrew scriptures then of the outsiders in the Christian scriptures with the prophets in the middle crying out for justice to those oppressed by the folk with power and wealth. And that the clergy, like many of the religious hierarchy throughout the scriptures, sat on the side of those with power rather than with the people...necessitating the prophets to speak the word from God to those in power when the professional clergy either refuse to do so or are deaf to the still small voice of the Spirit.

lots to think about...

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