Note: When this diary was published Galtisalie was still a separate pseudonym from Francisco Nejdanov Solomin. Here's an explanation for the prior separate pseudonyms and the decision to discard the separation: http://www.dailykos.com/...
Thank you Hunter for bringing up Bill O'Reilly's new book about the killing of Jesus. I had been unaware of the book until then. I want to bring a somewhat different Christian perspective to the situation.
This diary is mostly directed to my fellow Christians, but I hope that atheists, agnostics, and persons of all religious backgrounds will appreciate where I am coming from. I feel an obligation as one who comes from O'Reilly's faith to challenge myself and the other progressives of our faith to consider why he is able to so misrepresent Jesus's message.
My point is not about O'Reilly's book as such. It is what our reaction to the book says about us as progressive Christians in the U.S. To me it illustrates how we play this game with our backs up against our own goal line and act like we are supposed to be happy about it. We never ask what a compassionate Jesus really would prefer. When an idiot book like this comes out, I go nuts, and so perhaps do you. But we fail to think about the intransigent worldview that underlays this book. I mean not only of the right wing, but also of us.
Needless to say, the book itself is beneath contempt. Although the bar has been set really low by TV preachers for generations, and before that by hucksters going back to the nation's earliest days, this has to be an all-time low in the misuse of our religion on behalf of the powerful in the U.S. What's next? Koch Brothers prayer hankies? Rush's recording of "Oh Holy Night!"
But as it happened, I had been thinking a lot about crime and punishment before I read Hunter's diary. Learning about the book got me thinking even more about those subjects, but not about the alleged crime and punishment of Jesus. Practically anything, no matter how deceptive, may now be packaged and sold without adverse penal repercussions to the culprits--or to the right wing's broader program of financial hucksterism. Financial gambling nearly destroyed the global neoliberal economy, but few of the gamblers have served a day of prison time. Instead, after the Wall Street bailout, they have gone on their merry way, putting into their pockets even more of the people's cash. Now comes O'Reilly who has found a way to put more money in his pockets by arguing that Jesus died to allow O'Reilly to put more money in his pockets. It is dizzying what these folks come up with.
But let's assume that there had been massive imprisonment of greedy and self-centered financiers after the Wall Street bailout. Would there have been a change in the basic greed and self-centeredness at the center of the system? Henrik Ibsen would answer that question "No."
Don't get me wrong. I am all for imprisoning financial crooks. I am also all for breaking up "too big to fail" financial institutions, and I believe that financial derivatives should be outlawed. I am for any number of "regulatory" responses to try to prevent the people from suffering because of the grand larceny or bungling of the lords of capital. But the crooks will always be one step if not thousands of steps ahead of the regulators. To me we need to be envisioning something better. As Dorothy Day said, “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.” To me the greater quest is to design a well-functioning global system that is not centered around the glorification and motivations of capitalists to begin with. Therefore, system change needs to be on the table, subject to deep democratic control of the people, not just the powerful who had control of society at some point in the past, including 1787 at the Philadelphia Convention.
In 2013, the winding path I believe we should be taking is to a sustainable world stewarded to meet everyone's basic needs. As was read in my church just yesterday:
there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil ....(1 Timothy 6:6-10, NRSV.)
But back to Ibsen's less far-reaching point first. In the final act of his 1896 play John Gabriel Borkman (available as a free ebook here), the old and shunned crooked capitalist Borkman insists, "We must go up the winding path." Eight years out of prison for financial fraud, he was unrepentant. The person to whom he speaks is Ella Rentheim, the woman whose heart he'd broken long before in his single-minded quest for money and power.
They are going up to a high place where, unbeknownst to her, he can look out over the "kingdom" he might have had. The English translation of the script describes the scene outside Christiania (now Oslo) as follows:
They have emerged upon a small high-lying, open plateau in the wood. The mountain rises abruptly behind them. To the left, far below, an extensive fiord landscape, with high ranges in the distance, towering one above the other. On the plateau, to the left, a dead fir-tree with a bench under it. The snow lies deep upon the plateau.In this cold place, Borkman finally begins to confess his love, but not for the woman:
ELLA RENTHEIM. [ Coming up to him.] What do you want to show me, John?In what he does not realize is the last vision of his life, Borkman expands on this dreamland, his one true love:
BORKMAN. [Pointing outwards.] Do you see how free and open the country lies before us—away to the far horizon?
ELLA RENTHEIM. We have often sat on this bench before, and looked out into a much, much further distance.
BORKMAN. It was a dreamland we then looked out over.
ELLA RENTHEIM. [Nodding sadly.] It was the dreamland of our life, yes. And now that land is buried in snow. And the old tree is dead.
BORKMAN. [Not listening to her.] Can you see the smoke of the great steamships out on the fiord?
ELLA RENTHEIM. No.
BORKMAN. I can. They come and they go. They weave a network of fellowship all round the world. They shed light and warmth over the souls of men in many thousands of homes. That was what I dreamed of doing.
ELLA RENTHEIM. [ Softly.] And it remained a dream.
BORKMAN. It remained a dream, yes. [Listening.] And hark, down by the river, dear! The factories are working! My factories! All those that I would have created! Listen! Do you hear them humming? The night shift is on—so they are working night and day. Hark! hark! the wheels are whirling and the bands are flashing—round and round and round. Can't you hear, Ella?
ELLA RENTHEIM. No.
BORKMAN. I can hear it.
ELLA RENTHEIM. [ Anxiously.] I think you are mistaken, John.
BORKMAN. [More and more fired up.] Oh, but all these—they are only like the outworks around the kingdom, I tell you!Dare we envision a winding path to somewhere other than a lookout over Borkman's would-be kingdom? Can we do no better than to bet our ability to meet our basic needs, and those of all of God's children, on the Borkmans of the world? Should we accept as the centerpiece of our society's economic relations a love that is a root of all kinds of evil?
ELLA RENTHEIM. The kingdom, you say? What kingdom?
BORKMAN. My kingdom, of course! The kingdom I was on the point of conquering when I— when I died.
ELLA RENTHEIM. [ Shaken, in a low voice.] Oh, John, John!
BORKMAN. And now there it lies—defenceless, masterless—exposed to all the robbers and plunderers. Ella, do you see the mountain chains there—far away? They soar, they tower aloft, one behind the other! That is my vast, my infinite, inexhaustible kingdom!
ELLA RENTHEIM. Oh, but there comes an icy blast from that kingdom, John!
BORKMAN. That blast is the breath of life to me. That blast comes to me like a greeting from subject spirits. I seem to touch them, the prisoned millions; I can see the veins of metal stretch out their winding, branching, luring arms to me. I saw them before my eyes like living shapes, that night when I stood in the strong-room with the candle in my hand. You begged to be liberated, and I tried to free you. But my strength failed me; and the treasure sank back into the deep again. [With outstretched hands.] But I will whisper it to you here in the stillness of the night: I love you, as you lie there spellbound in the deeps and the darkness! I love you, unborn treasures, yearning for the light! I love you, with all your shining train of power and glory! I love you, love you, love you!
ELLA RENTHEIM. [In suppressed but rising agitation.] Yes, your love is still down there, John. It has always been rooted there. But here, in the light of day, here there was a living, warm, human heart that throbbed and glowed for you. And this heart you crushed. Oh worse than that! Ten times worse! You sold it for—for——
BORKMAN. [Trembles; a cold shudder seems to go through him.] For the kingdom—and the power—and the glory—you mean?
Do we have to wait on the material incentives of a worldwide Great Depression or worse, or on unemployment in our own households, to believe that the crisis approach to running our planet is incompetent and being bad stewards of this wonderful creation? Are there moral incentives that can cause us to strive for something better, or will we each be only interested in our own material well-being and that of people within our circle of family and friends? What can cause our "neighbors," whom in our faith tradition we are to love, to be someone other than the person in the mirror and a few others?
Soon after he saw his kingdom one last time, Borkman died:
BORKMAN. [Sinking down against the back of the seat.] It was a hand of ice that clutched at my heart.Throughout his life, Borkman chose those invisible ice and metal hands over the warm hands of love. In the end they killed him. Greed and self-centeredness are not motivations of love.
ELLA RENTHEIM. John! Did you feel the ice-hand again!
BORKMAN. [ Murmurs.] No. No ice-hand. It was a metal hand.
Borkman and O'Reilly want the same kingdom. Borkman perceived subject spirits, O'Reilly the Holy Spirit. We should reject the unloving status quo of O'Reilly, which he has now cloaked in the most vile and deceptive religiosity. The loving "kingdom" Jesus prayed would be on earth as it is in heaven could never come about following O'Reilly's guidance.
(By the way, nice of Bill to not only trash Jesus's message but also to find a way to profit from the trashing. If you would like to read for free about a Christian journey decidedly unlike O'Reilly's you might go down this winding path.)