Contemporary Christian Monasticism as Theft


‘Our origin for receiving the Spirit, which is the creative breath of God, is our whole self, body and soul – or body and heart, if you like.  Note that the body is included.  It does not disappear in the process of spiritualization.  It simply passes from its “psychic” state, as Saint Paul calls it (its animal or fleshly state), into a spiritual state.  For spiritual bodies do exist.’

Andre Louf: In the School of Contemplation (2004), Page 3

Barring genetic disorders and psychopathic tendencies, it is a matter of common sense, to assume that if an individual lives within an ‘ideal’ set of social circumstances, then the external certainty, regular routine, and lack of struggle for worldly existence, will be internalised in a mind-set that is free of angst, worry and trepidation about survival in the present and the future.  This logicality is no great mystery in and of itself, as it involves the basic equation that if all circumstances that would usually cause ‘worry’ are removed from the outer and inner life of an individual, then the stress-content usually associated with ordinary existence would be diminished and then eradicated. It must also be acknowledged that this is in fact a matter of secular science, and that such a state of apparent ‘blissful’ existence has nothing whatsoever to do with the construct or teachings of religion or spirituality.  Neither should such an existence free of angst be particularly ‘blissful’, other than in the minds of those who experience such tranquillity.  Freedom from systemic and habitual (or ‘worldly’) suffering is exactly what the Western Christian tradition offers, but it does so in a manner free of scientific certainty and social criticism.  The Christian church, for instance, does not recognise the fact that anyone within any society could inhabit a ‘tranquil’ existence if only the unjust conditions that caused suffering were removed (through social engineering) from its root.  The church does not acknowledge or admit this scientific reality, simply because it wishes to retain all supposed authority over any method that would offer somekind of salvation to humanity.

With the exception of Communist State of Cuba, capitalism (and its class system) controls the minds and bodies of the West, with the Catholic and Protestant Churches being very much a part and product of that predatory system.  The Christian church in the West is a thoroughly bourgeois construct that walks hand in hand with all the bourgeois governments, supporting predatory capitalism and the economic oppression of the workers, whilst inducing in the minds of these very same victims of capitalist excess, a false faith in something that does not exist – as a means to achieve ‘salvation’ – not in this life, but in some ‘future’ incarnation.  In the meantime, the church advises the poor and the vulnerable to keep giving their meagre income to itself, whilst continuing to  participate in the ruthless capitalist system, and then after physical death, reap a reward in a mythical reality that does not exist (on the physical plane).  It is in the best interests of the bourgeois church to retain the capitalist system (hence its unquestioning support of it), to keep the majority of ordinary people in an impoverished state.  In effect, this is keeping the ordinary people in a state of internal (i.e. ‘psychological’) and external (i.e. ‘physical’) suffering as a mean to serve its own selfish ends.  The church that ‘saves’ is the very same church that ‘enslaves’.

For over a thousand years in Europe, the Catholic Church (followed by the breakaway Protestant Church), retained considerable political power and influence since Roman times.  When the Catholic Church was used by Emperor Constantine the Great (306–337 CE) to cement his empire of diverse peoples, it immediately set about attacking and persecuting all the other Christian sects that existed at the time, and which theologically ‘differed’.  This disaster for early Christianity removed entire populations and destroyed their scriptures – and created an interpretation of Jesus Christ that only presented the ‘politicised’ Catholic version – which, as the only recognised form of ‘official’ Christianity, became State creed throughout the Roman empire. The Catholic ideologues then perpetuated the deliberate myth that it was non-Christian groups that had attacked and persecuted Christians, creating the further untruth that early Christians had suffered at the hand of ‘non-believers’ for their faith.  This artifice created a hatred and aggression toward other religions that still exists today through the intolerance of church dogma toward all ‘difference’.  Of course, over the last five hundred years in Europe, the Christian church, as a supporter and perpetuator of Western imperialism and colonialization (including fascism and Nazism), grew very rich through its participation within the trans-Atlantic slave trade (which transported captured Africans on the notorious slave ships to the West Indies and the Americas, manacled by chains forged in Sheffield), using biblical references as a justification.  In fact, much of this discriminatory dogma can still be found throughout Christian churches in the West, and is particularly prevalent in the United States, where it is used to justify contemporary racist attitudes held by White Americans toward non-White people.  The Christian church, whilst participating in, and endorsing the slave trade, tries to hide its past by claiming that it fought against slavery.  This is untrue.  Certain individual Christian priests and lay Christians certainly did protest the Western institution of African slavery, but they did so defying the official ‘line’ of the Christian church authorities.  Nowadays the church historians try to ‘co-opt’ the examples of these few brave men and women into official church history, but just as everyone knows that the church has persecuted and murdered millions of non-Christians over the past one thousand years, the idea that it, as a ruthless agent of predatory capitalism, ‘protested’ about the very slave trade it helped to establish and perpetuate, is both ludicrous and laughable!  One particular sadness associated with this despicable activity, is that African people had Christianity quite literally ‘beaten’ into them by their slave masters, so that they were forced to abandon their indigenous ‘African’ belief systems, and instead perpetuate their newly acquired Christian faith to their descendents.  The religion of the slave masters became the religion of the slaves.  The racist religion became the religion of those subjugated by racism.

Contemporary Christian monasticism is a middle class pursuit, designed primarily for the participation of the ‘White’ bourgeoisie (with the odd exception).  As the church is a middle class entity that uncritically supports the suffering-inducing capitalist system, it likes to recruit its monks and nuns from the very class it represents.  In doing this it permanently excludes the working class from its privileged agency of tranquil living.  In doing so, the church internalises the bourgeois class system prevalent throughout external society, and rigidly maintains class privilege.  Those that are recruited are suitably educated, and come from an affluent family background. Although the church states that they are entering a ‘sacred’ space by becoming a monk or nun in a monastery or convent, in reality they are entering a bourgeois ‘leisure’ space earned by the workers, and stolen from them in the form of profit.  The workers have historically toiled for 12 hours a day (or more), seven days a week, been paid a pittance despite making all the products used by the middle class, and generated all the profits that have been stolen from them, and made the middle class (including the church) incredibly rich.  By hard work within society (perpetuated by the working class), leisure time has been accrued by their over-lords – the middle class – which has been ‘freed’ from the immediate task of acquiring food, clothing and shelter (because the workers have ensured an ample supply of each).  Although the workers are excluded from the use of the products they make (they cannot afford them), and from the profits they generate (they are paid just enough to keep them living at a basic level), the middle class has become historically incredibly rich.  Monasticism within the modern Christian church exemplifies this idealist extravagance, by packaging this most awful crime of ‘theft’ as being the product of the most sublime spiritual blessing.

Many of the Christian monastic orders state that their incumbents take a vow of ‘poverty’, but this is not real poverty.  The middle class men and women who volunteer to become monks or nuns, are invariably from affluent middle class backgrounds, and the only struggle they have with their conscience before entering monasticism, is whether to give-up an offer of a highly paid job in the City.  These individuals have personal wealth, and access to familial wealth and class wealth.  As representatives of the bourgeois class, they are thoroughly empowered with wealth.  When they enter the monkhood and take their vow of poverty, it is not ‘real’ poverty that they are entering.  Why is this?  It is because they are only ‘breaking’ their immediate contact with the wealth they possess, and not completely renouncing it.  In the meantime, the middle class church provides food, clothing and shelter, as well as a monastic education (an ecclesiastical bourgeois existence paid for through the profits stolen from the workers).  As soon as such an individual leaves the order, the contact with his or her personal, familial and class wealth is re-enacted, and a comfortable (secular) bourgeois life-style is re-established.  Like all bourgeois constructs designed to justify theft and its continuation, church-based vows of poverty are nothing but a change of privileged bourgeois existence.  It is only the poverty of the worker that is ‘true’ poverty, as the poverty of the bourgeoisie is non-existent.  Simply disassociating oneself from an association with immense wealth (for a short time) is not poverty, but a form of cynical bourgeois excess.  Bourgeois poverty is not ‘poverty’ because of that class’s access to immense wealth, whilst working poverty is ‘true’ poverty because that class has had everything stolen from them by the bourgeoisie (and its church).  It is interesting to note that as the modern church likes to keep its expenditure low, many Christian monastic orders apply a ‘military-style’ criterion to monastic applicants, specifying an 18-35 recruitment age (to avoid the medical bills of looking after elderly incumbents), and a strict medical examination (to ensure physical fitness, and prevent disabled people successfully applying).  The tranquillity offered by the church is just another bourgeois sham predicated upon the possession of immense wealth, and being freed from working for food, clothing and shelter.  This type of tranquillity could be gained by everybody in a secular Socialist society, if capitalism was abolished.





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