The thesis of Jesus the rebel leader has been pushed into the
background by a new trend. It is the "theology of social revolution" that really is "in" now. Many of the younger clergy of
confessions, theology students, and the young people at the universities altogether, are considering Jesus to have been a
revolutionary, a man who put the main emphasis in his work on
changing society, and whose primary aim had been to improve
the position of the poor. This again is not a new theory. In
a socialist, Kautsky, regarded Jesus as a man who went against
and overcame the system in his book Ursprung des Christentums (Origins of Christianity). Towards the end of the 19th
century, several USA authors were attempting to restyle Jesus a
"prophet of an ideal social order", among them Rauschenbusch,
Shailer, Mathuos and F.G. Pedbody.90
Whenever social conditions were oppressive, theologians believed they could discern occasional traces of social criticism and revolution in Jesus' preaching. Today, such notions are fed particularly by the great poverty in underdeveloped countries which is in such extreme contrast to the wealth of the throwaway society in industrial countries. All the world knows the names of the physician Che Guevara, the priest Camillo Tores, and the Protestant clergyman Martin Luther King, who gave their lives in the fight against social injustice. The activities of the Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara have also met with wide acclaim and recognition.
The theology of social revolution is apart from anything else a reaction of the attitude of the churches, particularly the past attitude of the Roman Catholic Church. A Catholic moral theologian, Bernhard Haering, accurately described the facts in saying: "The fact that medieval bondsmen and serfs were treated worse than slaves were in antiquity demonstrates that even at that time the Christian community of ritual, faith and love was no longer alive." 91 When the position of the peasants had become untenable in the 16th century, they set fire to about a thousand monasteries and castles during their risings, a clear sign as to who had been exploiting them. 92 The peasant risings had no religious motives. During the 19th century the church abandoned the impoverished working masses to despair, not lifting a finger against the horrors of child labor, particularly in the mines. Until the 19th century, bishops came exclusively from the class of the rich feudal overlords. Even today they are largely on the side of the small upper class that holds the reins in Spain and in South America. Archbishop Dom Helder Camara is looked at askance by them, just as the monk Las Casas was in the 16th century when he had reported the misery of the enslaved and bound South American Indians to the pope. There are just a few saints who cared for the poor, brilliant stars in the dark skies of a church devoid of love. It is not without reason that New Revelation says of the church: "Your love is like a cold stove." (Hi II p. 193>
The leaders of the Protestant church, however, lacked just as much in understanding in those days. Luther wrote that the common man needed to be weighed down with burdens, otherwise he might feel his oats too much. Melanchthon, a German humanist and supporter of Luther, said: "It is great wickedness that the peasants no longer want to be bondsmen and pay their tithes as they have done till now." 93
The young theologians have realized that the church has left the path shown in the Gospel of Jesus, but there is a danger that they may go to the opposite extreme. The views expressed in theological literature make one fear so. The aim of Jesus' actions is completely misinterpreted when some theologians say the following: "The individual is not put off with promises of a future totaliter aliter (other world) by Jesus that he will in fact never come to know. Our present life is not sacrificed for the future of the Kingdom." "The term 'God's rule' used by Jesus suggests present injustices being actively overcome." 94 H.G. Link calls reference to life eternal an "ideology of empty promises". He considers this new theology to have "the task of fundamentally renewing Christianity." Falling away from the true meaning content of Jesus' Gospel, as clearly shown in New Revelation, is not a renewal but the destruction of the Christian faith. As New Revelation tells us, Jesus proclaimed neither class war nor paradise on earth. His words did not refer to social ethics, but were theocentric in character.
Nor are the theologians right who say that "Jesus never came in contact with the rich and powerful on this earth." 95 Lazarus, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea were among the richest men in Palestine. According to New Revelation Jesus also was in close contact with influential Roman military personnel, including those of the highest rank. (Gr VIII 157, 7)
The Gospels and New Revelation make it perfectly clear what was Jesus' sole intention. In New Revelation, the Lord said: "It is only the spiritual progress of every individual I can conceive of as the main purpose of his life, and not his physical well being." (Pr 149)
New Revelation also states in very concrete terms what the Lord thinks of his teaching being twisted to fit in with the materialistic view, which is the opposite. "Such a way of thinking has been the root of certain people's actions ever since mankind began, and in the present day, your learned materialists are openly preaching, f'inding a great audience who agree with them and applaud them." (Pr 272)
That is a highly topical way of putting it, accurately to present-day trends in theology.
Again, elsewhere in New Revelation it is said clearly and
unmistakably: "This earth does have the purpose that on it
children of the spirit of God shall be educated for the whole of
infinity, and it is therefore necessary to keep the soil lean at all times, rather than too soft or too rich." (Gr II 205, 9)
"Poverty is a great scourge for mankind, but it bears within it the precious
germ of humility and true simplicity, and for that reason shall
also always remain among men. Yet the rich shall not allow
poverty to grow powerful, for otherwise they shall be greatly
in danger, both here and in the world to come." (Gr VI 179, 3)
Poverty is part of God's plan of salvation, as New Revelation shows very clearly. The prediction made in the gospel, "the poor shall be always with you", has its significance, even if theologians who consider Jesus a social reformer and onesidedly stress the humanitarian angle, do not recognize this.
The message Jesus had to give was not primarily a social one; and certainly no call to class warfare and the upsetting of existing conditions. He said not a word against the slavery on which the economic system was built in his day. The fact that he did not wish to use power has already become obvious from the material quoted from New Revelation in earlier chapters. It is also evident from Luke 6, 27-36 and Mt 5, 38-48.
Jesus fully discussed the problem of poverty with his disciples. New Revelation has the following on the subject: "The goods of this earth are very unequally distributed, so that there are rich and poor people. This is the wise will of God. For it is because God has provided men with different goods, gifts and abilities that one man is utterly essential to the other." (Gr VII 37, 1)
"But the injustice and unfairness among men on earth is the greatest evil that brings dissension among brothers and sisters and causes enmity. Once they are present, there is no good among men, but envy, hatred, robbery, genocide, murder and wars." (Gr 179, 2)
"Over-selfish profiteering and the excessive desire for power and glory among men is the real Satan, a prince of this world which, being without any light of life from the heavens, is itself utter hell:' (Gr IX 101, 7-8) "If men were all to live together like this, and act according to the will, and guidance of God that has been revealed to them so often, no need, oppression and sorrow would ever arise among them. All misery men create for themselves, because of their evil desire for profit." (Gr IX 101, 5)
Wealth as such is not condemned by God. What matters is how it is used. Yet the majority of rich people undoubtedly fail to meet the prime requirement in this respect that is the precondition for their wealth being acknowledged. New Revelation says: "I am not only a friend of the poor, but also of the rich, if they use their wealth according to the G~od's true intentions. Anyone who has wealth, shall act accordingly, and he shall live:' (Gr VI 227, 10)
A rich Pharisee asked: "Lord and Master, your friends Lazarus, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea are many times richer than we are. Why do you not demand of them what you are demanding of us?" (To give up all earthly riches). Jesus replied: "There is a vast difference between their and your property. Their property is strictly rightful family property, and the royal treasures that form part of it are the outcome of genuine unselfish industry and the blessing from God's heavens. Also, those three are almost the sole support of the many thousands who have become poor and miserable due to your godless activities and behavior. Is that also the case with the goods you have amassed by robbing others?" (Gr VII 157, 8 ff) "To be rich on this earth and only use as much for oneself as is necessary to maintain oneself, that is, to be aparing where oneself is concerned, in order to be able to be all the more openhanded where the poor are concerned, that is being most alike to God while still in the flesh on this earth." (Gr III 192, 11) "Anyone doing more for the body than for the soul, or even caring only for the body and not at all for his immortal soul, is truly a fool:' (Gr VII 222, 15)
When the problem of poverty is discussed in New Revelation, it is made clear beyond doubt that this state, which has existed through millennia, does have its purpose based on divine intention, though many are unable to penetrate the deeper layers of the process of salvation and believe they can apply the standard of human reason to everything that happens. New Revelation stresses, and not without reason: "These words I am now saying to you are Life, Light and Truth, and their reality must be apparent to everyone who will be guided by them." (Gr IV 79, 9)
The Lord also emphatically states, in this context, that the world holds many dangers for the soul, dangers that militate against it attaining perfection and ripeness for the Kingdom of God. The greatest danger is the Luciferic element of arrogance, and in God's plan of salvation this has to be constantly opposed. A feeling of sovereignty is imminent in every soul, and therefore also the germ of arrogance. New Revelation considers the consequences, i.e., a dam has to be built to counter the dangers liable to arise from this: "That is why poverty prevails so greatly over wealth in the world, to keep a sharp rein always on arrogance. Put a crown on a beggar's head and you will soon see his former humility and patience evaporate:' (Gr IV 83, 1-2)
"The harshness of life is a vessel of life in which it is hardened, like a diamond. Each should therefore take his cross upon his shoulders and follow Me, wholly in love, and he shall attain to life eternal." (Hi p. 335) "Poverty and hardship are no excuse for theft and robbery, and even less for killing the person who has been robbed." (Gr IV 79, 2)
"I know very well why I left this or that fate come upon one nation or another. For you, however, it shall be enough to know that I, the Father of all men, do not give harmful gifts to My children, whatever their state may be, and least of all to those who seek Me, recognize Me and love Me." (Hi II p. 296)
"For anyone come to awareness in the spirit, however, it is better to take pleasure in the goods of heaven, and in doing so accept a little hardship where the goods of this world are concerned." (Gr IX 209, 10) "Everything that has been admitted to existence has to exist as a motive element for the betterment of man." (Gr V 158, 1)
For peoples who go completely astray, losing sight of the goal set for them by God and becoming deaf to all warning calls, "there can however be no school other than that of misery. These are the words of the One who knows all peoples on this earth." yii II p. 319)
Excessive hardship on the other hand would be harmful rather than helpful for the soul. This has been aptly expressed by Thomas Aquinas in his "Gratia supponit naturam" - "grace presupposes nature." Grace cannot come into effect for people who are constantly bearing the burden of extreme poverty and care. That is also what New Revelation tells us, and the judgement spoken over those responsible for such excessive poverty is annihilating.
"Poverty is an evil thing, often inducing greater vice in men than wealth does." (Gr II 68, 4)
"If the rich and powerful take everything for themselves, then very many people will have to suffer the greatest poverty and live lives of nothing but misery and great suffering, because everything belongs to the few rich and powerful people and nothing to the poor - except for the meanest of rewards the rich and powerful are prepared to give them in return for the hard labor they perform." (Gr VIII 182, 8)
"... poverty and need among people on this earth solely and entirely makes for lack of love among them ..." (Gr IX 210, 4)
"You know that a person grown rich in worldly goods has usually also in his heart become a stone, lacking in feeling and in love. Yet where does such a person find himself in the inner sphere of life? I will tell you: at the point of eternal judgement and of his death . . ." (Gr VIII 182, 1)
"... and this (turning away from material things) is indeed not an easy task for the soul once it has become filled with love for the world, and there are very many rich and powerful people in the world for whom it is harder to let go of the world of matter and what they believe to be its value-than it would be for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. (Gr VIII 183, 5)
"Yet what benefit would it be to a man to own even all the treasures of the earth, and being able to use these to obtain for himself all imaginable pleasures, if this were to harm his soul?" (Gr VIII 183, 9)
Reading the words "if the rich... take everything for themselves", one will immediately think of those who own a latifundium and of the monasteries in Europe and elsewhere that for centuries exploited the poor country people, and of South America, Ethiopia, Pakistan, India and other countries where to this day the greater part of arable land is owned by just a few, and we all know how industrial nations have for decades dictated prices to the poor countries providing their raw materials that did not even provide subsistence levels for those peoples, while the industrial nations were rapidly increasing their wealth.
The Lord made specific reference to latifundium owners and industrialists in New Revelation, saying that "so-called landowners will one day be severely taken to account, and shall have to show how they used their wealth, down to the last penny. Woe to those who squandered their income, wasting it on high living and harlotry." (Hi I p. 358)
"The great and the powerful are thieves and robbers of nations because of their desire for profit and their great need for power, and they will have to expect their just rewards from Me in due time." (Gr IX 101, 6)
For centuries, the peoples of Europe and other parts of the world have been exploited and bled white by powerful absolutist rulers, great landowners and industrialists. One has to know history to have even an inkling of the misery and suffering behind such a statement. People with different colored skins were suppressed and exploited by Europeans relying on the superior power of their firearms. Later the power of money was all that was required to keep countries in Central and South America in economic dependence. New Revelation explicitly states that "industry directly opposes the principal commandment of Love. Merely turn your eyes to America, England, etc:' (Hi I p. 347)
In Palestine, the economy was based on the exploitation of slaves in Jesus' day. In spite of this, Jesus abaolutely refused the use of power and of terror to change the world, and at the same time emphatically stated that the meaning of life is not to achieve the highest possible standard of living. The following passages from New Revelation clearly show that the Marxist ideology of paradise on earth is utopian.
"Let each of you remember that the earth cannot possibly be a paradise, for it has to remain a proving ground for all time for every spirit placed in the heavy flesh of man, for without this no spirit could attain to a perfect, eternal life." (VdH 85, 10)
"Do you think I do not know what the world is doing, and that I am perhaps too disinterested to chastise the world for its misdeeds? I tell you, think differently and leave the guidance of the world to Me."
"A man who draws his sword shall die by the sword. Overt force will never achieve anything against the world, for where the world recognizes force it will also meet it with force, and in this way one nation is constantly at the throat of another."
"Anyone wishing to fight the world has to fight it with secret weapons, and these weapons are My love and My peace within you. Each will, however, first have to overcome the world within himself with these weapons, and only then sahall he be able at all times to use these weapons successfully against the outside world."
"Truely, anyone who has not mastered the world in his own heart shall master it even less outside. And anyone who still feels in his heart a zeal that is like a blight has not yet finished dealing with his own inner world. My spirit and My peace are not zealous, but act powerfully in utter quiet and unnoticed by all the world, and they have no other outward signum but the works of love and in outer appearance humility." (Schriftt. 35, 20-24)
These are clear statements that permit no quibbling. The theological system-changers who have accepted Marxist lines of thought, have no right to lay claim to Jesus and speak of a "renewal of the Christian faith." There are too many people in the world today who want to change the system, and the very heart of Jesus' message means nothing to them, for their hearts are often filled with envy and hatred instead. Nietzsche said of them that stage one was to demand justice from those who held power, but the final stage would be that one had all power to oneself. 96 The call for freedom and equality often is merely a masked form of desire for power.
Jesus foretold that the use of force cannot in the long run lead to happiness. We know now from experience that the unity aimed for in the East has ended up in despotism. Tsarist terror made way for another form of terror. At the same time, militant atheism initiated religious persecution. Two prominent people have borne witness to the outcome of force being used to change the system. In his Letter to the Communist Party in the USSR in September 1973, Alexander Solzhenitsyn stated that since 1917, 66 million people had been exterminated for political, economic and class war reasons in the Soviet Union. 97For decades during Stalin's rule, 10 to 12 million people were held in labor camps, bringing untold suffering to them and their families. 98
Professor Andrei Sacharov, the "father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb", said in an interview on the Swedish radio that cynicism, apathy and exhaustion, hypocrisy, a deterioration of morals and of creative powers were prevalent in Soviet Russia, and that it was particularly the educated classes that were suffering from this. According to him, the history of the Soviet Union should serve as a warning to the West and to the Third World, so that they might avoid the errors of development of which his country had become guilty. 99
A well-known sociologist, Max Weber (1864-1920), stated 50 years ago that brutality always gave rise to more brutality, and that in the end the use of brutality against injustice did not result in victory for a higher justice." 100
Philosophical and political utopianism will always lead to tyranny, because, as Hugo Ball has said, all system-changers use a negative approach: "Not one protests against the inner life, always only against the outer life."
True humanism will remain unthinkable until the message given by Jesus has come to realization in the hearts of men.