Read this thought-provoking piece by Ryan McAnnally-Linz and Miroslav Volf are the authors of “Public Faith in Action: How to Think Critically, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity.” McAnnally-Linz and Volf explore politicians’ (all of them) focus on the middle class (which didn’t exist in Biblical times), at near complete exclusion of the poor (who did).
What we call “the middle class” today isn’t mentioned in the bible. That’s true. But that doesn’t mean class structure didn’t exist. I think this explains it succinctly. The Roman Empire had a class structure based on wealth, birth, and citizenship.
This resource cites 64 Bible references to social class. While the poor, (and the humble), are indeed a consistent theme in those verses, not all deal directly with poverty. Some of them deal with the rich and privileged. Some deal with what the ABS description above refers to as “ordinary working people.” Those ordinary working people…the working class…people somewhere in the middle between the upper classes and the lowest classes (slaves)…made up the bulk of Jesus’ followers at that time. When Jesus preached, and when the Apostles preached, their primary audience was those ordinary working people (non-slaves). It was that class Jesus recognized as having the best chance to initiate social change on a grand scale. Which is probably why you didn’t see much of the political and social hierarchy in the Bible following Jesus or the Apostles around while advocating for what was essentially a sociopolitical revolution: a system of justice not based on class. Until Constantine, that is, and the power of religion to produce cannon fodder was fully realized. So much for the revolution.
American politicians today, (particularly neoliberal politicians with their focus on “individual responsibility” and “laziness” and blaming the poor for failing to prosper in a system that must create poverty in order to function), preach to the middle class for the same reason Jesus did in his times…except… a revolution is the last thing they want. American politics today, (and Religion™ ?), is all about The Manufacture of Consent. Public relations. Manipulation. Things like Faith and Righteousness and Truth might be important on an individual level, but have little, if any, effect on the Grand Scheme. Yet.
And I maintain that Jesus was perhaps pushing toward a revolution — that, or he was simply seeking a course correction for the existing religion to which he belonged. But all good points.
My Marxist informed class consciousness, not to mention my atheism, probably taints a religious perspective on The New Covenant, (The Last Covenant?).
But the historical fact remains: social class based on wealth, birth, and citizenship, including what could be called a “middle class,” existed in biblical society and was addressed in that scripture proclaiming The New Covenant. The poor didn’t occupy all of Jesus’ preaching.
They occupied most of it. His directions were toward the poor, making things right, making things fair. Yes, there was a middle class, though it wasn’t called such, but the world looked a whole lot more unequal, with a smaller middle class, if I’m reading my Biblical history right.
Blessed are the meek, for they… Oh heck, I’m with you, leftover. Can’t relate to any religion but especially Catholicism. Oh, I made it to 7th grade before being expelled by Father Emerling.
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