The observation I made yesterday was that many of the Christians who make these sorts of arguments--that Jesus's temple action provides a warrant for violence against people, even killing people--often decry the destruction of property as a part of protests against economic or political oppression. And yet, Jesus's actions--violence toward property as a part of a protest against exploitation and oppression--fits this situation better than using his actions as a warrant for killing people, because Jesus didn't kill anyone during the temple action.
Again, my point in making this observation isn't to provide a warrant for violence toward property during protests. Jesus's temple action was a symbolic and dramatic enactment taking place within the overarching narrative of Israel's relationship with YHWH. I'd argue that Jesus was telling a story more than he was engaging in a form of political activism.
People can debate me about that. Regardless, my purposes in drawing attention to Jesus's temple action is how it illuminates background assumptions that regulate our hermeneutical choices, why some readings of a text are deemed legitimate or illegitimate.
Specifically, in conservative, evangelical circles why is the temple action often used to justify violence toward people--even killing people--but never used to justify violence toward property in protests against exploitation and oppression?
I think a key here is where the violence is being directed, the othering nature of violence.
Specifically, when the temple action is used in debates about justified violence toward people--even killing people--the person being aggressed against or killed in these debated scenarios is an Other--the enemy, for example, in a just war. The violence is being directed at Them rather than at Us.
By contrast, violence toward property in protests against exploitation and oppression is a violence directed against Us.
Consequently, the purposes of these two forms of violence are different. In killing the enemy the goal is to preserve our country, violence to protect Us, violence to protect our empire.
In contrast, the goal of violence directed toward property in protests is to call us and our empire to repentance for systemic oppression and exploitation.
This contrast again highlights the puzzle I noted yesterday and above. Specifically, which situation best fits what Jesus was doing in his temple action? Was Jesus killing enemies of a foreign nation in a war to protect his country or protecting his family from a violent intruder?
Or was Jesus using violence toward property in a protest to call his nation to collective repentance for its systemic oppression?
Again, my point here isn't to justify violence against property. As I said above, I think Jesus's actions were a singularity, a theatrical enactment taking place at a critical time and place in Israel's overarching story. My point is to draw attention to how more plausible readings of Scripture are deemed illegitimate while less plausible readings are deemed legitimate.
In the case of the temple action notice how a pro-Empire reading is, by default, deemed moral, rational and legitimate whereas an anti-Empire reading is deemed immoral, irrational and illegitimate. When the violence is directed toward Others the reading is legitimate but when the violence is directed at Us, even violence of a much milder sort, it's illegitimate.
I'm interested in the hermeneutics of the temple action because it reveals how our readings of the biblical text are betrayed by our self-interest, personal and national, how Jesus becomes aligned with Us against Them.
Especially when we'd like to kill Them.