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The moral centre

Written By: - Date published: 1:00 pm, October 22nd, 2009 - 14 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Left - Tags:

I thought I would take the time to point out this excellent article by Tapu Misa. It has gone with out saying that the emotional and intellectual centre of the Labour movement in New Zealand, from Wally Nash, the welfare state and the first Labour government, has often been from the Bible.

It doesn’t hurt now to be reminded of that. The backbone of large parts of western thought and political expression does not belong to the Families Firsts of this world to beat the rest of us into submission.

I have heard opinions that the quote about the rich, heaven, a camel and the eye of a needle are a translation error- that the test, though onerous, is not impossible.

With that in mind perhaps it is time to think about the money lenders and the temple.

She comes gently to it at the end of the article ‘As last year’s financial meltdown showed, this is as true now as when the Bible was first written.’

What in our society do we hold sacred, and where do we not let the principles of lending money at a rate of interest apply?

It is the basis of capitalism, but not all societies agree with it. Some don’t allow interest to be charged at all.

That some banks are beginning again to do what they did prior to do the financial shock of last year should sound an alarm that we let the health of this industry be a key indicator of our well being.

This is rather a broad, and rather more philosophic question, but perhaps there are some out there better qualified than me to suggest the answers.

As well as the outrage and effective opposition to the gutting of New Zealanders security in order to transfer our collective wealth to a few private and apparently Australian pockets, we need to keep the intellectual heart of the movement fresh and relevant.

14 comments on “The moral centre ”

  1. randal 1

    somewhere in the bible it says there is nothing new under the sun.
    they are a bit cheeky trying it on so soon after the last “event” but there ya go.
    must be pals of hooton and hide.

  2. Craig Glen Eden 2

    I also thought this was an excellent article, sadly the church has been over ridden with capitalism and moral judging. The article covers it all very well so I wont bang on about it as it is a pet soap box of mine. Just a clarification on the eye of the needle though.

    The eye of the needle was a small gate that was in the walls of the fortified cities during the time of Jesus. When darkness fell the main gates to a city would be shut so that enemies could’t get in under the cover of darkness. Travelers or merchants would have to enter through the small gate after dark ( the eye of the needle). Merchants would have camels loaded with goods that wouldn’t fit through the gate, so the merchant had to either unload the camel or had to get the camel down on its knees to get through the gate. So no translation error you just need to know the context of the words and the time period. As you can imagine getting the camel through on its knees would be difficult unloading all the goods would be a pain. So its not impossible for the rich man to get into Heaven he just might have to get on his knees and remove a few worldly goods.
    Ohhhh the Capitalists Christians pain!

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Sadly, the church got bought out centuries ago.

    • SHG 2.2

      Craig, your interpretation of the Bible has no basis in anything other than wishful thinking by guilty rich people. There is no evidence that any such gate ever existed (it certainly doesn’t now) and there is no evidence that Mark 10:25 means anything other than exactly what it says.

      Of course, your “no, it’s actually OK with God if you get really really rich” version is incredibly popular with the modern American Evangelical movement. I wonder why…

  3. Bill 3

    Various hues of interpretation of the bible are best left wholly within the realms of bible study for those of whichever denomination to fret and argue over.

    That the pronouncements of the bible on the poor for example, can be used to either galvanise the poor into action or as obstacles to action (fate, ‘heavenly reward’ and all that jazz) is of no more import than is the bending of any text or philosophy by the powerful in order that they best meet the serving of their own needs.

    Nothing morally upstanding about any of it. Nothing central about any of it. In fact, it is all decidedly secondary.

    I’ll put it this way. Claiming moral centrality is really claiming ‘just’ authority. That’s all. Seeking to use those claims to perpetrate or instil whatever political vision….the dynamics of the authorised leader and the acquiescent follower… that’s interesting and can teach us a plethora of vital lessons.

    What tool people use to leverage their position (in this case the bible) is not.

  4. Adam Jarvis 4

    I have a great amount of respect for Michael Moore and others who argue that leftist policies are biblically based. Especially in America, we’ve seen all too much of Christians voting for the republicans simply because it is the ‘Christian’ party. The view that right wing policies are based on Christian values is all too pervasive. Those that point out that you can interpret the bible as, instead, fundamentally left are fulfilling an important roll in dispersing this idea that if you’re Christian, you vote right.

    At the same time, I go one step further. We must acknowledge that the bible can be twisted to say whatever you’d like. Lets recognise that ‘Christian values’ are fundamentally vacuous, that people have a huge variety of ideas of what a Christian value is, and can back up their beliefs using the bible.

    The bible can be viewed as a useful resource for metaphors and parables (and for some, a book with which to reaffirm their ideas), but not as an ’emotional and intellectual centre’ for any movement.

  5. BLiP 5

    Great post and great article by Tapu Misa. For so long as organisations such as Family First and their ilk ignore the teachings of Jesus and instead concentrate on the pre-Christian Old Testament they will continue to divide society. Jesus certainly did cast the money changers from the temple, and with good reason, but what did dopey ole New Zealand do? We made the money-changer Prime Minister.

    I see that the teachings of Jesus have been described as exhibiting such left-wing bias that there is now a perceived need to rewrite the Bible. I wonder what they will come up with to translate the passge which reads:

    For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

    1 Timothy 6:10

  6. freak 6


    Labour is long departed from its relationship with old school values including church values see the relationship with Ratana. Or is this where you are suggesting Labour moves to in order to screw the MP, again?

    • lprent 6.1

      Or is this where you are suggesting Labour moves to in order to screw the MP,

      It’d be difficult to do anything to worse to Maori than what the MP are already doing under the guidance of their ‘friends’ in NACT.

      There was a reason why Helen put them as the last cab prior to the 2005 election. They’re busy demonstrating it now.

  7. Ag 7

    You could show conservative Christians these passages over and over again and they would not budge one inch. They claim that the Bible is the word of God, and yet simply refuse to see many of the things that are written in it.

    I once had a hilarious argument with a fundamentalist Christian about the meaning of a passage from the Gospels. I read Greek fairly well, so I had translated it myself and was pointing out the decisions that his translator had made to render it into English, and how the original was much simpler. But the guy simply refused to believe any of it. He was convinced that he knew what it said, even though the original text was written in a language that he couldn’t read.

    You cannot argue with such bone headed people. The only practical response is to remove them entirely from political influence.

    • RedLogix 7.1


      I read Greek fairly well

      Curious to know then if it is true that the Greek for ‘thick rope” is “kamel”?

  8. Adrian 8

    I think Labour really needs to re-connect with the Christian community (many Christian in South Auckland stand home last election: compare 2005). If one reads the latest Encyclical Letter (Charity in Truth) from Pope Benedict XVI one can see that the concept of the Common Good that Catholics have developed over centuries is something that the left can firmly agree with. In essence, we need to create a economy where the common good is put first or at the centre – this includes education, health, families, dignity at work, rather than sacrificing our weak and vulnerable individuals to that “god” the market and it’s idol Gross Domestic Product.

    The “Conservative” Christians focus on personal piety rather than structural issues in our society often allowing charities to clean up the casualties of neo-liberalism. However, I think Pope Benedict was right when he said in Charity in Truth: “I cannot give what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice… justice is inseparable from charity”.

  9. Eoipso 9

    The Golden Rule: “do to others what you would like to be done to you”
    It is ancient but still relevent wisdom.

    • Ag 9.1

      Unfortunately, the ancients didn’t count on the BDSM crowd, so the rule really needs some revision.

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