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Christianity and Corporations: The Legacies of the Roman Empire

Christianity and Corporations: The Legacies of the Roman Empire

The following is a chapter from Money, Sex, Power & Faith.

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Although the Roman Empire considered this Jesus figure to be more pesky than prophetic at the time, they reportedly crucified him for claiming he was a king before adopting the religion loosely based on his teachings 3 centuries later. As the story goes, this Jesus fellow was sort of a stick in their craw. Although temples had been used for generations to store and trade, and though the coinage certainly would have seeped into the negotiations long before Jesus started going to either market or temple, according to all 4 of the gospels, one time, when Jesus went to the temple and saw them trading the new fangled Roman coins, he kinda went a little crazy. Maybe as a poor carpenter’s son, he didn’t get to town much, and this fairly common occurrence freaked him out. Perhaps the lack of a recorded adolescence or young adulthood for Jesus may be attributed to his living those years as an ascetic who wasn’t socially acclimated and didn’t get the trends.

Vehemently stating, and probably correctly so, that the temple would be better used for prayer, Jesus chased everybody out of the place and took to flipping over tables and stools. Then, one gospel says he taught, one says he healed the sick, one says he caused an even bigger scene by not letting anybody through, and one says he just talked smack. Whatever he did, he really put a crimp in business for more than just the Romans. Religion had already become a thriving industry, and the Sanhedrin, the greatest beneficiaries of every alm collected, weren’t having it.

Jesus made it pretty easy for them to trump up the charges about him saying he was God, since he probably was sent to be this protrusion of virtues in what would absolutely create vice. He basically reminded people that they didn’t have to be such dicks all the time. Extolling messages of love, forgiveness, peace, and service beyond money or slavery, his closest confidants, both in his life and the resurrection they would report, were female. Considering the ruffians he hung around with and the tender way he is reported to have, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus was in touch with his feminine side.

These days, those who most adamantly cling to the monetary civilization, and the belief systems it has cultivated, or at least those who have given up hope that anything better could possibly exist, tend to view the compassionate message Christ had to offer to a world in delusion, and largely dismiss it as hippie, socialist propaganda, even if they claim to be Christians. Yet amid all of the interplay of the legends and stories about the man who seems to have split time in half, with the sermons and songs they’ve inspired, through the battles and beliefs they developed, as they have been twisted and edited since being adopted by the Roman Empire, there is still a very prevalent message of love that permeates the Jesus narrative. Unfortunately, that message of love was laden with measured drops of fear and control when Emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire in 313 AD. He then raided the pagan temples of their gold, hoarding it for himself while the poor were forced to deal with the inflation he created. Rome, as fast as it was growing, had no concerns about overwhelming debt, and saw no need to institute welfare programs like the year of Jubilee. The payment of debts was a citizen’s obligation, and through the Roman Empire, debt was ingrained as a moral imperative, establishing this unwieldy, unsustainable practice as a hardwired foundation to our blossoming civilization, laying the foundation for future generations to continue the maddening compulsion for future growth in order to pay the madmen of the past.

A few years later, Constantine finally broke out the gold, and made a coin called the Solidus that was used pretty consistently until the Visigoths raided Rome and the Roman Empire started to crumble. Yet before its eventual fall, the Roman Empire, in its quest to consolidate power and use it most effectively, also developed the corporation.


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