In a special Christmas episode of The Real News Network’s “Reality Asserts Itself,” Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges and Detroit’s Rev. David Bullock discuss capitalism’s perversion of charity and the season’s potential to breathe social justice back into national life.

“Charity has become the instrument by which justice is denied throughout the society,” Hedges tells Bullock and host Paul Jay. “We are stripping away civil services, destroying basic programs which sustain the poorest of the poor, because charity is supposed to take it over. We’re watching large corporations, which are predatory, justify themselves through acts of charity or philanthropy. And these corporations at their heart are disemboweling the country, are creating untold misery for the vulnerable, not only domestically, but globally. And so charity becomes something that is kind of unrelenting as a kind of ideology, because it’s a mask for the denial of justice and for the justification of predatory capitalism.”

Bullock adds: “I think there has been a tug-of-war, at least in this country, between competing ideals. Charity, love, benevolence versus what John Rawls would call justice as fairness. And, so, of course, Rawls lost to Robert Nozick and love has triumphed over justice. This plays out in an interesting way even in the hands up don’t shoot or black lives matter movement. So we die-in, sit in, walk in, eat in, and sleep in, but don’t ask for any public policy solution to police brutality. Or better yet, activists stand next to families, lawyers represent those families, go into a criminal case that they know they can’t win because the law makes it impossible for them to actually win the criminal case. They know that in advance. But then, in the name of love, we get the family a settlement and march around New York or Washington, D.C., and give back. We wear a T-shirt at a basketball game and score points for the Lakers. I mean, so there is this shadowboxing, this veneer of care that has triumphed over the deep, significant need for justice, fairness, equality, public policy that empowers the people, as opposed to a limited and light love that lifts up corporations.

Bullock continues: “I’m not sure that we should continue to say that Jesus’ message was forgiving and loving and giving. I think we need to back up a bit. Jesus primarily, when you encounter Jesus talking to people and teaching them, he’s either teaching his disciples or he’s teaching his enemies Sadducees and Pharisees and other sects. And some of the things that he says primarily, about the Sabbath and about the legalism and about the sign of holiness or the sign of being blessed, who God’s people are, this isn’t just kind of some individual love your neighbor, give, and forgive. I mean, this is deep critique of legal systems of oppression. The work that Jesus does in the Temple, which is also a bank, right — and, of course, people never read the bank temple. They read the temple as the sanctuary of worship. It’s a bank. And so the high interest fees that are being charged on poor people who have tied their religious worship to a deity, right, to their financial prospectus — so they can’t opt out, because if you opt out, you’re a bad worshiper. So you have to pay the exorbitant amount of being charged for the turtledove and charged for the sacrifice. And Jesus comes and says, no. Right? I mean, so that Jesus flips over the tables, and whips. So the meek, caring, loving, forgiving Jesus pulls a whip out, OK, and whips the money changers out of the temple, which is why, ultimately, he makes a lot of enemies and gets crucified. You know, he goes to Zacchaeus’ house. I don’t know what he told the brother, but whatever he told Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus came out of that dinner meeting giving folks their money back.

“So this is not a sermon that says, you know, that’s nice and gentle. I mean, Jesus is dealing with systems of economic oppression, systems that keep people in poverty, systems that tell people to be good in their individual lives while they are oppressed. And goodness means not only being subject to, but worshiping the very people that oppress you. And what does he do? He turns over the tables. He kicks the moneychangers out.

“So, as we talk about Christmas and charity and love and giving and Jesus, the giving that Jesus seems to represent, the love that Jesus seems to represent, at least in the Bible, is love of people that forces you to reject any system that organizes, orders, and backs with military force a force that oppresses those people. And if you’re not opposing that system, you don’t love people. And I think that is what we should be telling people about Jesus during Christmas.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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