I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The System and Food, Inc.

....the film is about food, and how our food has become less healthy, and about the high cost of this low-cost food. But it goes beyond that. It’s about the concentration of power, it’s about the relationship of these powerful corporations to government...

Food, Inc.

Has anyone had the opportunity to see this documentary yet?

Anyone planning on it?

It isn't playing anywhere near my area.

A link to the trailer:

Interesting lines:

Grocery stores are selling "the idea of a tomato."

"There is this deliberate veil, this curtain, that's dropped between us and where our food is coming from."


There is a good article at Salon.com on this film.

Here are a few snippets from the interview with the director, Robert Kenner:

Q: You didn't come to this project with any particular knowledge about the industrial production of food, isn't that right?

A: Yeah, I came in as a filmmaker. I was looking to figure out how our food gets to our plate. On one hand, I think it's kind of a miracle. We spend less of our paycheck on this food than any point in history, and I think that’s a great thing. But at the same time, this inexpensive food is coming to us at a high cost. I thought that would be an interesting subject for an investigation on this food. I didn't realize when I started it that ultimately agribusiness does not want us to look behind the veil to see where our food comes from. I think I could have been making a film about nuclear terrorism and have gotten greater access.

Q: We’re talking about mainly the large producers of beef, poultry and pork. Companies like Perdue and Tyson and Smithfield, and of course Monsanto, the chemical manufacturer. One of the things this movie is really about is the tremendous amount of power they have over our food supply.

A: Well, really the film is about food, and how our food has become less healthy, and about the high cost of this low-cost food. But it goes beyond that. It’s about the concentration of power, it’s about the relationship of these powerful corporations to government, and the lack of transparency in the system. And it could probably be about a number of other subjects, but what makes it all the more powerful is that you have to eat this stuff.

Q: You told me earlier that some foodies and environmentalists are disappointed with the film, because they say it's stuff they already know. But you're aiming at a wider and more general audience here, aren't you?

A: I'm really trying to reach out and bring as many people into this movement, which is an incredibly expanding, fast-growing movement. You don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican to not want to eat meat with fecal matter on it. We all want to feed our children healthy food. So it's not about ideology at that point. There are some right-wing religious groups who are very active on the matters of food. It's an issue that can unite people. At the same time, we're up against very powerful corporations, and we've grown to love very cheap food. It’s wonderful how little it costs, but we’re starting to see the real damage it does.

And later...

Kenner: Ultimately these corporations are scared of us. And ultimately, if there’s a movement, the government wants to follow us. So there are a number of empowering points that we try to make, even though it’s a difficult subject. I think if people see it, they’ll feel empowered. But sometimes people are scared and don't want to know where our food comes from.


I am not yet finished blogging about The System. What I started to do in that series of posts was to explore the relationship of power structures (governments, corporations), our economic choices, and our spiritual well-being. Frankly, beginning to think about it was overwhelming; but at the same time, exploring this important relationships has opened many avenues of spiritual exploration.

When I use the term "spiritual," I don't just mean some vague, Christian notion of the soul, rather, I am referring to the interconnectedness and interdependency of all things. So, to speak of "spirituality" does not simply mean our private, "inner" experiences, but the way in which our "inner" is connected with the "outer," almost to the point of not even being a distinction. As such, for me the idea of "spirituality" is something that one can discuss even if one is an atheist or materialist.

In my post, The System, I said defined "the System" as disconnect:

The system defines us as economic units. We define ourselves as economic units. Everything is mediated by money. And this leads me to my primary contention in this post: the system defines itself as disconnect. I have used the term “the system,” and now I am defining it strictly in terms of the disconnect. Or more to the point, the system is self-defined as disconnectedness. This is the level that is most basic to its core, to its being....

The rule is disconnect. The system’s survival is at steak. A content, connected society isn’t interested in economic expansion as its highest priority. A discontent, disconnected, and disposable culture will continue to work harder and buy more. This is good for the economy and feeds the system.

Naturally, then, for me it is intriguing to analyze the disconnect that exists between ourselves and the land. The system is so disconnected that we are even disconnected from our food (and water). I don't think I'm overstating this case by saying that such a state of affairs is terrifying. To (loosely) quote Derrik Jensen: If the system is in complete control of a person's food and water, that person will fight to the death to protect the system.

Our very survival depends on maintaining the system, because where else would we get our food?

There is certainly hope, though. If people begin to make careful food choices by growing their own food, shopping at local Farmer's Markets, or partnering with local growers via CSA's, then each economic choice can work against the system of disconnect. It requires a very new orientation. Making major shifts in where we purchase food requires more time and energy. Eating out less is less convenient. But time is something we don't have.....and we don't have time because the system keeps families working two jobs, or workers doing overtime to make ends meet, or young yuppies working the 60 or 80 hours they need to climb the corporate ladder.....so, we don't have time to think about food. We just buy the stuff on the grocery shelves, or make a run to McDonald's or Subway.....it's the system....it's the disconnect.

Each dollar we spend on food either confirms and empowers the system of disconnect, abuse, and fragmentation, or it connects us closer with the earth and with each other. Food has always been a political issue, and a means of control and manipulation by the system.

As such, each dollar we spend can translate into our own personal anarchy against the prevailing powers. Each dollar can be a personal revolt.


samlcarr said...

It may not be so odd but I have been musing a lot on the same sort of lines. Actually, what's saddest is that there is actually a good profit margin available even when providing decently healthy, clean, food. The corporations are not satisfied with that - they want to have the cake and eat it too.

john doyle said...

It's a real dilemma when eating healthier actually costs more money. E.g., Whole Foods claims to sell only organically-grown goods, but the markup is very high. I'm persuaded that most of this extra price ends up not in the hands of the producers but as profit to Whole Foods' shareholders. Whole Foods is also a non-union shop, so I suspect they pay their workers less. It's difficult for individual shoppers to have much impact. This is an area where government regulation seems like the right way to go, since corporate (and family) farmers haven't shown much evidence that they're prepared to clean up their own operations.

Jonathan Erdman said...


I'm down with government regulation, for sure.....but I would prefer to see (a) more people growing their own food, even if it is just some veggies in the garden and (b) consumers join together with local farmers, directly. This year, Tamie and I are growing some veggies in a very small area of ground we have in town here. But we also have connected with a CSA, so we have a weekly bundle of veggies from a local farmer. We are also trying to connect with local farmers to buy our meat. (We don't eat all that much meat, but I do like to grill out in the summer!)

These kinds of opportunities are available in this area of the country, because there are still some small farmers around here who actually enjoy growing food.

Jonathan Erdman said...


There is a profit margin available for good food....though it certainly depends on the type of food--the local farmer I just bought beef from doesn't make much on the beef; they just do it because they can and because they enjoy it.......but corps. squeeze the margins as tight as they can. It's sickening. But it's part of the system: an obsession with profit and economic expansion that trumps all other considerations.

It's madness.


Melody said...

I find that the prices aren't too bad if you buy local (like, straight from the farmer) but the mark up is insane when you go to the natural foods store.
Especially on fruit. And I love fruit, but I can barely afford it from Kroger (where it looks a bit sketchy anyway) so there's no way I'm paying four times that cost to get it from the organic co-op down the road.

We have fruit trees, but unless you get them sprayed at all the right times the fruit is worthless (which is too bad b/c last year we had so many inedible peaches that the tree snapped in half!)

And we have a big over-run garden area, but I'll be honest, we're barely keeping up with mowing the lawn. It's massive. We could keep livestock. We might be and not even know it.

So I like the idea of growing our own food in theory, but in practice I think all my meals will continue to come from Lean Cuisine.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Interesting point.

It definitely is less expensive to buy directly from growers/farmers. That's certainly one advantage of living in a rural area.

It is also cool to actually know the people that are growing/producing the food we eat. I think that knowing growers/farmers is a very important part of restoring connection in our lives, to be able to chat with the people who are providing our food and to know what challenges they face, etc.

Melody said...

Jon, you just like knowing people in general, so it seems important to you.

Personally, I like the anonymity of the grocery store. Sometimes I stop shopping at places if they get too chummy.

Jonathan Erdman said...

An interesting article on gardening (in the recession, no less) from an Emergent/Christian perspective.

tamie said...

Hi, folks. Thanks for the good post, Jon. It'll be good to see that movie, eh?

I just read through the comments, and I was curious Melody: why don't you like knowing the people you buy your food from?

Last night Jon and I went to pick up our CSA vegetables, and it was grand to visit with the farmers for a little while. One thing we both noticed was how healthy they both looked. Their eyes were bright and shining, their hands weathered, and their skin tanned. But not in the sitting-on-the-beach way. More like, in the working hard all day long and sleeping well at night way.

Kellsotr said...

Eating healthy has been an ongoing evolution for our family. It started several years ago when we decided no more corn syrup and then spent hours in the grocery store reading labels. Then we moved to all organic meat and dairy. Now we buy our milk raw from a lady who runs her own organic dairy and hand milks her cows. From her we got the name of a guy from whom we buy organic beef. We have our own chickens from which we get way more eggs than we can eat, and we are about to buy our own cows for beef We have a huge garden where we get most of our veggies. Fruit is still an issue, but our local grocery store is really, REALLY good about having low cost organic everything. I am constantly impressed with that store. I am finding that with everything we are doing the cost in dollars is significantly lower, but the cost in hours is SIGNIFICANTLY higher. We enjoy the process, it is great family time to work in the garden, and we live in a location and have the resources (land, support, ect.) to make this lifestyle happen. However, without that attitude or resources it would be much more difficult.
Having a kid has also taken us to a new level. Our daughter eats only organic everything, very little grains, we make her formula at home from the raw milk, which covers eating. However, there are a bunch of other issues like chlorine in diapers, and petroleum products in wipes, lead in toys, PVC, BPA....you can really go nutty!!

Now I have an interesting story: The first time I went to buy raw milk, which is technically illegal to sale for human consumption, I got to the place and the woman was feeding her cows. I was excited because this was the first time I had gotten to visit the dairy, Matt had done all the trips before. I jumped out of my car and started walking toward her, expecting her to greet me or walk toward me or something. When I got to a point where she could talk to me in a low voice she told me to calmly walk toward her and act like I was looking at the cow. I did so, and she pointed out that there was a cop staking out her house trying to catch her in the act of SELLING MILK. MILK, not crack, MILK! I was shocked. We talked for a while and she shared with me how local politics was trying to put her our of business, but that she had been doing this for so long and was not scared. Eventually the cop drove away and I got to buy my milk and go on my way. The whole situation really bothered me, though, because I should have the right to buy raw milk from a local producer and she should be able to sell her product without being hassled by a small town cop.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Wow! How wild is that! The cops are stalking the milk lady.....oh my!!!

[heart beat slowing]


In another sense, it is interesting to see the politics of power: that the government wants to violently threaten a milk lady because she sells milk that isn't approved by the prevailing powers.

Tamie and I have been thinking through how violence is all around us, but we rarely notice it because most of us "play by the rules." But stepping outside of those rules results in violence.

It is interesting how the rules of the milk business are oriented toward keeping people away from raw milk. How intriguing.

And you are right, too, without some support structure or guidance, it is difficult to transition into a more earth-friendly and human-friendly way of living. For me, it was the same story, it took time. I started reading labels, asking questions, digging deeper.....I'm still doing a lot of digging!

It is so encouraging to see what y'all are doing with your lifestyles. It's great!

amy said...

I've found that making the transition to a more healthful, ethical diet (and lifestyle in general) can only be done successfully in small steps, making one change at a time. I began with MSG, followed by trans fat, then corn syrup, then organic milk, and so on. We're still making changes one at a time (baking bread at home is the agenda now). I'm only just beginning to realize how connected to the sun and the soil I am, and everything is, and the gravity of every single choice I make for every other living thing.

A lot of people mention the cost of eating (what Michael Pollan classifies as) real food—naturally grown and raised whole foods cost more money than conventionally grown food and processed food-like products (margarine, Hamburger Helper, frozen dinners, and the like). I have even been publicly criticized by strangers in the grocery store for being "stupid" enough to spend "more" on organic apples. But you know what? I matters to me. It's worth it. What is money, when the health and wellness of human beings and the planet are at stake? Would I double what I spend on dinner to quietly rebel against the corporate monster attempting to exploit and deceive and oppress the public for profit? Hell yes! Am I stuck up for spending my money at the farm rather than at Walmart like "normal" people? So be it. Why is it such a terrible thing to shift one's financial priorities to accommodate a responsible diet?

Michael Pollan points out in one of his books that Americans spend the smallest fraction of their income on food of all developed nations. And they're proud of it. The corporate monster is feeding them toxic garbage, and they happily lap it up and praise themselves for "saving money" and snip at the rebels who buy the organic beef and raw milk, and they dump their paychecks into cable TV and Cadillac Escalades and Mountain Dew and 5 bedrooms / 3 bathrooms and elective cesarian sections and Botox and Viagra and Lipitor and Prevacid and Zelnorm and blood sugar test strips and gym memberships and cardiac bypass surgery and gastric bypass surgery. Who can afford NOT to eat the organic apples? Ahhhhhh! It makes me so mad I could spit—not at the public necessarily, but at the powers that have deceived and oppressed us so.

Kellsotr said...

I think a prevailing theme is the fact that for most people breaking free of the system in how you view the stuff you put into your body is a process. Not many people become organic health fanatics overnight. You have to grow and evolve to a point where it becomes a lifestyle choice. It takes time and so much research.

amy said...

For anyone who doesn't know, raw milk can be obtained legally in states where it can't be sold by buying into a cow. A group of people all "own" the cow "together" (that is, they pitch in for the upkeep and the farmer cares for and milks the cow), and you get the milk "for free." (Hehe! You buy the cow and get the milk for free! Hehehe! Okay, done now.) They can't outlaw drinking milk from a cow that you own.

I don't know how to do it around here though. (Kevin and I don't go through milk quickly enough to justify buying it raw.) I know some people in Etna Green who own part of a cow.

Melody said...

Tamie, not just food. Anything.
I just don't like my purchases to be a social situation.

Like, my parents buy their meat and milk (they have a share of a cow) and other random stuff from local people and my mom likes chatting with the people, but I find it hideous the way they comment on what we're eating or aren't eating or whatever.

Why should I have to go through that just to get some milk? It's unpleasant!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Good commentary.

Intriguing, is it not? The things we spend our money on that is not good food?

Interesting thoughts, Amy....interesting to see how people completely expend their bodies and souls in the pursuit of such trivial things that are defined by our culture as "meaningful."

tamie said...

Amy and Kelly, I hope you don't mind if I make up awards for you two. The awards will say:

Extremely Cool Human Being

Yes, this is what I want to reward you for.

I think you're all right, that it's such a process. It's subtle, takes a lot of time. And I don't know about you guys, but after a couple years of thinking like this--more like, 7 or 8 years--I'm totally flummoxed and flabbergasted at people who eat fast food regularly, or who find organic food "trendy" or whatever it is that the status quo thinks of folks like us. I'm reduced to a stuttering non-conscious being, when such people cross my paths.

Then I remember that when I was in high school I ate at Taco Bell all the time, drank a couple Mountain Dews a day, and routinely threw my (fast food) trash out the window of my truck. I was just so utterly cut off from myself, the earth, my food supply, etc.

And thus I can take a deep breath and remember that being judgmental just ain't helpful.

Although, being judgmental of the stupid systems and structures and corporations that sell us this bullshit is necessary! A moral ought!

Enough from me for now.

tamie said...

Oh but, one more thing, on a kind of different line.

Today I was listening to NPR as I drove around to get groceries. The story on was about Food, Inc. What the hell is up with Monsanto! What is wrong with people!

This has a lot to do with what Kelly was talking about, the illegality of buying raw milk. I don't even know what to say about that. Why don't the cops go arrest the CEOs of Monsanto? Why don't they go arrest the chemical plant owners?

Needless to say, this wasn't really a helpful show to listen to, right before going grocery shopping. I was nearly paralyzed! I mean, I bought organic yogurt, but it comes in a PLASTIC CONTAINER.

I think this gets at one of the reason some people just give up. It's overwhelming. Hence the need for friends and a local community that's in it with you.

So here is my question for you, Melody: if you *knew* the people you bought food from, if they were friends of yours, do you think it would bother you so much? In other words, is it the fact that these are *strangers* who are learning the intimate details of your life?

Melody said...

It would bother me less if they were friends. But doing business with friends bothers me too.

For example, if something were wrong with the food I don't think I would be able to call my friend up and say, "You sold me old milk!" or what-ever.

Or, I work for a publishing company that has a sister printing company and so when I need something printed I print it there.

Last time, they messed it up and I got it re-done somewhere else so I didn't have to tell them they messed it up.

It's stressful to me to know the people I'm doing business with.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Good point about this whole thing feeling overwhelming.

It is.

It goes to the fact that so much about our system of life is going against human health and flourishing, in favor of profit, greed, and gain. Truth be told, it's pretty much everything in the system.

But since it is a system thing, it's hard to pinpoint the bad guys. Every once in a while a really bad, bad guy comes along: Enron, Al-Qaeda, etc. When this happens, we can crucify the scapegoat to bring a temporary feeling of peace. But as you are suggesting, we won't experience true change as a culture (not to mention real transformation at a personal level) until we can stop hating people, institutions, people groups, other nations, Corporations, etc. and just simply do our own part to live in opposition against the powers of evil--the nameless, faceless forces of greed and desire that fuel consumerism and the reckless approach we take to our environment, each other, and our very selves.

Fuck the system. In Jesus' name. Amen.

tamie said...

I was thinking, what if every time we prayed, like at a meal or something, we said, "Fuck the system. In Jesus' name, Amen."?

But then I was thinking: that's a prayer that focuses on undoing the negative. Which is obviously extremely important.

But what if we came up with a prayer that was about DOING the positive? What would that prayer be?

Maybe it would be, like, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done."

The prayer "Fuck the system" is a prayer that I think assumes action and intent. Like, it assumes that we are aligning ourselves with a certain paradigm (one in opposition to the (violent) system), and it assumes that we are going to be willing to *do* something about aligning ourselves with that paradigm.

So, what if we prayed "Thy Kingdom come" and meant, when we prayed it, that we were willing to really do something about it? Meant that, in praying that we desired God's reign of love and compassion and justice to come here and now, we were going to do all that we could, in our neck of the woods, to work for the reign of love and compassion and justice.

What then?

john doyle said...

Tamie, it's clear that Erdman will have to clean up his marketing slogan if he's going to take it on the road with seminars and books; e.g., "F*** the System..." I almost put up a comment earlier about how I wasn't a big fan of kings asserting their will over the whole earth, but I resonate with your call for justice and love and compassion. Some other metaphor needs to replace "kingdom" and "will" if the appeal is to extend beyond church-branded initiatives. Just to stir up trouble, I herewith quote Erdman's recent comment on my blog:

"I think the “Christianity” that is concerned with “higher purpose/will/design/plot” is just Imperialism dressed up as theology. If one’s faith is an expression of concern for the other, justice for the oppressed, interest in the marginalized, etc., then what one “grabs hold of” is in the here and now. It ceases to become faith in an overpowering narrative in an omnipotent God whose intent is to bend the will of the infidel."

Jonathan Erdman said...


I'm all for incorporating positive prayers that compliment the "fuck the system" prayers. As Doyle notes, the difficult thing about using the "kingdom" terminology is that it is so attached to Imperialistic theology of domination. The "kingdom" of Jesus--if one can call it a kingdom--is of a very strange sort: it's a kingdom with an absentee king who has been crucified. Sure, he rose again, but then he strapped on his jet pack and blasted up to heaven, leaving only the highly ambiguous Holy Ghost to be a "comforter."

So, if one is talking about a kingdom where the misfits and fools gather to talk about resisting the powers that oppress and numb humanity, somehow trying to collaborate on what a "new creation" might look like, then we've got a kingdom that is New Testament-ish. But that's just not what people think of when they think of kingdom.........but then again, Jesus used the damned terminology to begin with! And in his day "kingdom" was no less militant or Imperialistic; so, I'm open to keeping the terminology.

How about this, for starters, as a rough draft:
Fuck the system
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven

john doyle said...

"So, if one is talking about a kingdom where the misfits and fools gather to talk about resisting the powers that oppress and numb humanity, somehow trying to collaborate on what a "new creation" might look like..."

Generally I'm in favor of this model. Is it God or the devil who's in the details? E.g., how do new-creation farmers, grocers, tax accountants, psychologists, etc. do their jobs differently from their counterparts in the old creation? This I suppose is why it's easier for the church to stick with personal morality (am I honest in doing my job?) rather than tackling these more systemic issues (is my job ethical?).

Melody said...

Did you ever notice, Jon, how Jesus didn't really seem to care about taking down the system?

The Jews thought He was going to take down Rome, but He didn't do that. What makes you so sure He's interested in taking down our system?

Jonathan Erdman said...


My feeling is that taking down the system was the central motivation of Jesus' life. He wished to bring about a new kingdom. He wasn't a Zealot, in the sense of looking to violently replace one government with another, and he even said, "give unto Caesar what is Caesar's." However, he (on at least one occasion) took a whip and cleared out the temple of those who sought to exploit the poor. The poor came to pray, but they were being used and exploited by.......the system..........it was a system and a power of oppression, and it was the only time (as I recall) that Jesus ever actually acted out in a violent way.

I've been mainly dealing with the Apostle Paul, but Jesus would be the paradigm embodiment of who I would want to imitate when it comes to taking down the system.

Jonathan Erdman said...


What do you see in the Gospels that suggest to you that Jesus was a guy who did not want to take down the system?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Doyle, You make a great point, about how it is easier to focus on one's personal morality than to find new ways of doing things while moving within the system.

tamie said...

Hey Doyle...sorry it took me so long to get back to you!

Yeah, you're right that we need new metaphors. When I think "Kingdom" I think "Rivendale" or something equally lovely and idealistic. I don't have those imperialistic associations with the word itself. But clearly that's a matter of semantics and your point is well taken.

I also think you make a good point about it being easier to focus on one's personal morality. Jon and I were just talking about this this morning, actually. I just read an article written by Derrick Jensen, which said that even if every person in America stopped driving a car, changed all their light bulbs to the ecofriendly kind, recycled at work, etc. etc., it would only reduce less than a quarter of the US's carbon emissions. Even if everyone did their individual part, we'd still be fucked. Because it is indeed about changing the system.

But: how?

That is the question.

tamie said...

Melody...I recently read a book called _The Powers that Be_ by Walter Wink, which reinterprets Jesus as being *primarily* concerned with systems of oppression, power structures, etc. It was a re-interpretation of the Gospels. An excellent book with quite convincing scholarship. What was so helpful to me was how he carefully explained this new interpretation. It helped me, someone steeped in a certain way of reading the Bible, see Scripture, and Jesus, in an entirely different light.

Melody said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melody said...

Ok, sorry I took so long to get back to this.

Jon, the temple would be more comparable to like...the church.

But when you talk about "the system" (quotes because you sound like a conspiracy theorist - but you know, in a...good...way) you tend to be talking about government and capitalism.

Yeah, Jesus wanted to radically alter the religious system...but you never see Him riled up about Rome even though Rome's a little freaked out by Him for a moment.

So, I mean, do you really see Jesus crusading against the food industry or would He be doing other things with His time?

And asking Jesus fuck anything (Why do people use that as a bad term? They're always whining not having enough, but when they're angry they curse people with sex? Incomprehensible) seems wildly outside the attitudes Jesus had.

Jonathan Erdman said...


I don't think Jesus' primary mission was to stir things up and make trouble for religious institutions......although, if you want to make that Jesus' primary mission and seek to emulate him in this respect, then you have my eternal support!

I see Jesus as being primarily motivated to give his vision of "the kingdom." It was the kingdom that made the religious folk so hot and bothered (combined, I suppose, with the fact that he called them "hypocrites" and "white washed tombs"!). The kingdom was about inverting power: those who are last will be first, blessed are the meek, etc.

Jesus only had three years, of which time he spent (primarily) trying to get his own people (the Jews) to buy into the kingdom vision. If they would have, what would have been next?



Melody said...


I don't think I said Jesus wanted to make trouble for the religious institution.

He did want to change it. Take the next step, as it were.

I don't know about the kingdom bit, I haven't got a Bible right here, but I don't really recall anyone jumping around getting angry about that. After all, they were the weak at the time, yeah?

Jesus didn't have to only have three year's, Jon. He could have taken on Rome if that's what He'd been here to do.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jesus got a bit charged up when he saw the poor being exploited in the temple.

Melody said...

Exploiting the poor?
He doesn't mention the poor.

He does mention that the temple was "...a house of prayer for all the nations" and that they'd turned it into a "den of robbers"

So presumably someone is getting ripped off in some fashion, but why the poor?

It seems to be more about people not being able to pray (maybe they're being robbed of their time with God?) than about the poor. Especially since, again, the poor are not mentioned.

And, in any case, what does that have to do with what I said?

Jonathan Erdman said...


Jesus didn't overturn the tables of the money changers just so that people could pray, it was so that people would not be exploited AND so that they could pray. That "the poor" are not mentioned by name is not relevant in any way, in my opinion, because the worshipers at the temple were from all demographics, from all social and economic classes. So, obviously the poor were included.

The point is that when the powerful are exploiting the powerless, this is when the kingdom steps in. That's my interpretation of Jesus' ministry and vision for the kingdom.

Obviously you differ on this point, which is fine. But then, let me take you to task a bit: what do you think Jesus' vision for the kingdom was? I'm asking you this in terms of how you interpret the Gospel texts themselves (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), not necessarily jumping straight into Paul.

(I have no problem talking about Paul's interpretation about what Jesus' life and death meant--I'm a big fan of Paul--but Jesus left us a body of work on his vision of "the kingdom," so I think it's important to think about it and not just skip straight into the Pauline epistles.)