15. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 3: socialist values and culture in the Bible

15. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 3: socialist values and culture in the Bible

 
 
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“The idea of class conflict doesn’t start with Karl Marx. It starts in the Old Testament and some of the earliest writings in the Old Testament.”

—big mike

Listen: iTunes, Spotify, Mixcloud | Transcript

In this episode:

00:00 Why is it important for the left to explore and rediscover utopian ideas within culture—particularly, religion? Why do we have to think about capitalism as not just an economic system, but as a culture, which is different from, say, a democratic socialist culture?

05:24 We often read religious texts in moral terms today—what if we took, say, the Bible on its face and considered the moral protest as also a protest on a social, economic, and political level? How does the Bible express issues around class that are still relevant to us today? What aspects of utopian thought exist in the Bible?

15:55 How does the Bible express a political tension that remains on the left today, between a kind of anarchism (governance by law and culture, with no central authority) and a more centralized power structure?

23:39 How have historical religious figures, like St. Augustine and Savonarola, seen religious institutions (like churches) as sites of utopia in the material world, and tried to fashion them as such? What can we learn from these historical attempts about what actually causes and provokes change? Is it the idea of God, or power? Is it threat?

34:45 How do we balance acculturation—changing individuals—with the changing of social systems—overthrowing governments, for example? How do we deal with the fact that one of these processes seems to occur much slower than the other? How do we balance different kinds of time in the attempt to make historical change?

41:08 Do we need the idea of God, or a divine authority, to make change? What about different ways of relating to divinity—seeing it as created by human beings, or, seeing human beings as potential expressions of the divine? What if the divine isn’t something out there, outside of human beings?

Further Reading:

Book of Amos, Book of Isaiah

Augustine, Confessions

[on the relationship between religion and class struggle] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation

[on the contrast between historical times] Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time

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