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Subjugation Theology

By tonyrussell - Posted on 01 July 2013

  “...the church ought to be a community of liberated people, committed to the liberation of all..

                                                     -   Fr. Bernard Haring


          *           *           *           *


“Congratulations on the success of your most recent book, Rev. Verkslaven,” I said.  “I appreciate your willingness to grant me an interview.”


“Not a problem,” he said, glancing at his watch.  “It’s free publicity, and publicity sells books.”


“I’m pleased to meet you too,” I said.  “Look, this is a bit awkward, but I haven’t been able to read Subjugation Theology in advance.  My editor assigned me to meet with you, but he wouldn’t approve the $249.95 for the book, and I couldn’t afford to buy it myself.  If you don’t mind my saying so, that price seems a little steep.  Don’t you think it might cut into sales?”


“Not at all,” he sniffed.  “It’s priced for a niche market.  My  buyers have the wherewithal.  In fact, the book has been sitting at the top of the Forbes Best Sellers List for more than twenty weeks.  Many people buy multiple copies to bestow upon their friends.”


“So a lot of people are reading it?”


“Oh, I wouldn’t quite say that.  The good news is that, among the upper class, it’s become another status symbol--like a Cartier diamond-encrusted cructfix, dangling from a gold necklace.”


“Then it doesn’t bother you if people don’t open it once they have it?”


“People who own the book don’t have to read it.  The book is simply a systematic explication of what they already believe--a theological validation of the way they live their lives.”


“Well, I guess that works out well for both you and them,” I said.  “But I have to admit I’m on the outside looking in here.  I don’t know where to begin. It’s hard to ask intelligent questions when I haven’t been able to read the book.”


“That’s one factor, I’m sure,” he said with a grimace.  “Fortunately, I’ve prepared a brief ‘cheat sheet,’ if you will, that I keep for just this kind of situation.  Not a new concept, for a person of your type, I suspect.”  And he handed me a couple of laminated pages.


“Thanks,” I told him gratefully, “that’s a big help,”  and he stood there while I hastily skimmed the notes.


* * * *  


Subjugation Theology:


Main theological tenets: 

    • Wealth is a sign of God’s favor, bestowed upon those whom he loves most
    • Worldly authority accrues to God’s favorites
    • All people are created unequal
    • Creation is God’s gift to humans, to manage, dominate, and exploit


Core operating principle:  “A preferential option for the rich” 


Biblical highlights:

    • “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  Genesis 1:28, King James version
    • “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.”  Proverbs 10:22, NIV /  “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, And he adds no sorrow to it.”  Proverbs 10:22, King James version
    • “The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.”  Job 42:12, NIV


Other sacred texts:  

    • The Wall Street Journal 
    • Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 
    • Trump: How to Get Rich; see also Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life  [both by Donald Trump]
    • Collected works of Ayn Rand 


Sacraments: Incorporation, mergers and acquisitions, appointment to Boards of Directors, military coups


Holy sites:  Gated communities; banks; investment firms; corporate boardrooms; U.S. Supreme Court; cathedrals; country clubs; Wall Street; the Pentagon; Washington, DC


Prayer list:  tax cuts, tax shelters, tax breaks, military spending [for]; tax hikes, entitlement programs, unions, whistleblowers, government spending for housing, health, and education [against]   


Saints: The Forbes 400 (“The Richest People in America”); Alan Greenspan 


Existential focuses:  Net worth, success, security, power, social status


Primary symbols:  Walls, weapons, precious metals and gemstones, trophy wives, multiple homes, private schools, servants (gardener, nanny, cook, cleaning person, dog walker, personal trainer, etc.)


Style:  Hierarchical, triumphal, centralized, authoritarian, exclusive, aggressive, repressive, abusive, punitive, manipulative, secretive, dogmatic, opaque, violent, intolerant, self-indulgent


TV evangelization: The Apprentice


Compatible economic and political themes: 

    • Privatize, privatize, privatize
    • Tax breaks for the wealthy spur the economy
    • Poverty is caused by individual weaknesses and failings, and by genetic inferiority
    • Social Security, unemployment payments, and other entitlements rob people of the necessary initiative to work and succeed
    • National security trumps humanity
    • Monarchs and right-wing dictators make the most reliable allies
    • The best firms are too big to fail and too big to be held accountable
    • Forgiveness is for the rich, punishment for the poor
    • The American Dream is to rise from poverty to wealth within a free market framework
    • Extremism in the defense of wealth is no vice


          *           *           *           *


“This is pretty heavy stuff,” I said when I had finished reading.  “It’s a lot of theology to take in at one swoop.  But let’s start with the title of the book--‘Subjugation Theology’--and the subtitle, ‘A Theology in the Service of the Powers That Be.‘  Could you elaborate on that for me?” 


“Certainly.  ‘Powers that be’ are the traditional ecclesiastical and secular authorities.  Subjugation theology simply recognizes that God has given people unequal skills, abilities, effort levels, and ambitions.  Over the course of human history, a natural sorting out has taken place, resulting in a hierarchy, with the most able at the top and the less able below.  Subjugation theology recognizes this as God’s plan, which concentrates decision-making power, authority, and fiscal benefits at the top, where they rightfully belong.  ‘The Divine Right of Kings’ gets at the idea, but it’s too narrow in compass.  Subjugation theology applies the same concept throughout all human endeavors--in governance, in business, in the arts, in the church.”


“I think I see.  So those at the top subjugate those below because God has designed it that way.  And the duty of those below is...?”


“To know their place. To obey.”


“And if the people below get resentful or jealous or restless or something...?”


He nodded.  “You can call it ‘communism,’ you can call it ‘socialism,’ you can call it ‘rebellion,’ you can simply say ‘the Devil made me do it.’  Whatever you call it, it’s evil and needs to be stamped out.”


“‘Stamped out’ as in...?”


“God doesn’t pull punches.  You’re talking about Someone who flooded the entire planet and wiped out all of humankind except for one family when he lost His temper.  Remember the Book of Deuteronomy, 28th chapter, too, where God pledges vast sicknesses and plagues, and condemns people to lives of exile and fear and sorrow and despair.  When God loses it, he means business.”


“When you say ‘business,’ do you mean ‘business’ as in ‘business’ or...?”


“This is theology here; let’s not get lost in semantics.”


“Uh, sure.  So if I get you right, you’re saying that when the people at the top are carrying out God’s intent, using God’s behavior as a template, it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy?”


“Exactly.  The gloves are off.”


I hesitated.  “Look,” I said, “don’t take this the wrong way.  I’m certainly no Biblical scholar.  But did you ever consider the possibility that there’s something self-serving about your theology?”


He stared at me, obviously puzzled.  “Of course not,” he said.  “What makes you ask a thing like that?”


© Tony Russell, 2013


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