Ignoring Hierarchy: Jesus and Hierarchy (Part 2)

In the first part of this topic I mentioned that rigidly hierarchical religious organizations, such as pyramidal para-church ministries and denominations, are unChristian. But then it struck me that I had missed the real point, which is that all hierarchical organizations: religious, political and economic, are unChristian.

Which frightened me. Is this true? And what does that mean for us? What are we supposed to do with this information, if it is true?

milton-office-space-movieAm I supposed to quit my job because the employees have to obey the manager, who has to obey the assistant supervisor, who has to do what the supervisor says, who has to do what the owner wants? Am I supposed to quit my school, which required competition to get into, where everything is built around pleasing the professors, who are climbing the ladder by publishing academic journal articles? Am I supposed to leave my church because the pastor controls who serves on the board, which controls who serves on committees, which controls who teaches Sunday school, and controls the worship service, the budget for the salaries and the physical building? And what of those of us who belong to a denomination that moves the pastor around every 5 years and we have to accept whoever the denomination sends us next?churchgovt

Probably not. Just because our organizations and churches don’t act like Christ or follow His teachings about power and hierarchy, doesn’t mean we should leave. Otherwise we would have to leave the world, as the apostle Paul once remarked about staying away from sinful people. But if we are to stay where we are, and yet practice Christ like anti-hierarchy, what will we do?

Well, how did Jesus do it? He worked and operated in the most stratified of societies (Roman governor, pyramidal Roman army, high priest, Sanhedrin Council, tax collectors, business owners, workers, slaves, women, children), with dire consequences for anyone who bucked the system. Yet he ignored, as much as possible, the powers that be. The courage he displayed in ignoring the temple guards and high priest by driving out the money-changers and sellers of animal sacrifices, is almost beyond understanding.

born_blind_04He was warned that his teaching was upsetting the leaders of the synagogues, yet he persisted with his teaching, and John says he was kicked out of all the synagogues. He warned his disciples that they would be rejected and flogged in the synagogue. I have been told many times not to preach on certain topics because: the people won’t like it, or are not ready for it, might get fired, might hurt your career. 

His teaching differed from the Hebrew Bible tradition in that he treated women as equal learners, unheard of in his era, and scandalized the establishment by hanging out with both the socially and religiously disenfranchised. The gospel writers emphasize how he turned hierarchy on its head by stating that at his birth, born in a barn, the first to welcome him were shepherds, the very ones banned from giving testimony in a Hebrew court because of their reputation as liars and drunkards.

When the followers of John, Jesus’ forerunner, asked him specifically what they should do, he gave them simple instructions for each one of them: Don’t take advantage of your position, was one of the main principles in John’s teaching.

What should we do? We should ignore hierarchy like Jesus ignored it. We should go about practicing equality, mercy and justice like Jesus did. We should oppose institutionalized oppression when we find it. We should ignore threats of being fired, threats of the church or ministry not growing, or warnings that it will not be financially viable, as supposedly reasonable arguments in favor of hierarchy and power dynamics (over Christ like anti-hierarchy).


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in civil rights, Evangelical Church, Manipulation, Nonviolence, politics, Women's roles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ignoring Hierarchy: Jesus and Hierarchy (Part 2)

  1. garycummings says:

    We can’t live without some sort of order in life. The human body functions in certain ordered ways. The family functions in certain ways, which vary somewhat by culture. That being said, Jesus was against societal norms, as they are based on greed and exploitation. He was the bringer of the Kingdom of God, and it was against both the Jewish and Roman establishments. He was against the “church” of His day- the Temple and its priests and teachers. He would be against the modern church today, as it is based on mammon, military, and man- made religion.
    Let’s face it, Jesus does not teach capitalism, rather a form of religious socialism. That is against the American Establishment. Bernie Sanders, our only US Socialist senator, is closer to the Kingdom of God than a basket full of Tea Party Christian senators and Congresspeople.

    Looking back, you can find that David Lipscomb shared a Christian anarchistic world view along with the more recent views of Jacques Ellul and Stanley Hauwerwas. We can’t follow Christ and blindly “go along and get along” with the establishment as Pete Seeger puts it. Jesus is God and demands our total allegiance above country, church, and politics.
    Thanks, Gary

  2. Randy Matheny says:

    Hi Mark. The Lord Jesus did, indeed, live during a time of gross corruption of the Law of Moses, but He confronted the error and, decidedly, did not ignore it. The most radical act that he performed was his willing sacrifice by which he paid the purchase price for His church, which would be instituted in about fifty days. Every book, from Acts to Revelation, paragraph after paragraph, records inspired instruction for identifying and coping with error in the church, church membership, church organization, and for protecting it’s purity to the best of our ability. If you believe you can correct error from within, go for it. But, it is soul-destroying to ignore it.

    • Mark says:

      It is true that he cast the money-changers out of the temple and drove the animals out. But beyond that, he didn’t seem to need the hierarchy of the temple. He warned against following the teachers’ examples. Mostly he just taught what he believed, and when he was kicked out of the synagogues, just kept on teaching.

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