Texte correspondant en français : Le politique – 1.
The subject of politics is present in the Bible whose story covers hundreds or even thousands of years. However, it should not be confused with the politic that concerns the decisions made to manage and govern. It is however true that this specific aspect is also present in the Bible. I want to look at the policy that transpire through the texts. The line of distinction between these two aspects may be thin. As far as policy is concerned, shortly speaking, it is a much broader field than the politic that we experiment on a daily basis and which is nevertheless part of it.
Political discussion is all the more well known that in many families it is simply eluded so as not to lead to heated or even conflictual discussions. Fedor Dostoyevsky wrote: “There is a political and perhaps natural law that requires that two strong and close neighbours, regardless of their mutual friendship at first, always come to a mutual desire for extermination.” 1 And yet politics is necessary in that no one escapes it. Whether we call ourselves political or apolitical, interested or not, we participate in its development. Warren Beatty, a well-known actor from the 60s to 80s, said: “Lenin said that people vote with their feet. Well, that’s what happens. Either they go or they don’t. It’s all political. It’s all demographics.” This amusing formulation leads everyone to rethink their political involvement, which may or may not be conscious.
“Politics must have some knowledge of what has to do with the soul.”2 wrote Aristotle. In the eyes of the ancient Greeks, political society is a divine gift, a gift of the gods. In this sense each Greek city was associated with a god: the city of Athens with the goddess Athena, the city of Ephesus with Artemis, etc… Politics being closely linked to morality made Plato say: “the just city begets the just man.”3
The Bible is not a political treatise or even a reflection on the subject like Plato’s work. But like any work that deals with the history of humanity, or at least a part of this humanity, it is no exception to this reality to bear witness to the political. The Bible is not excluded from the lot. The book of Genesis in chapter three relates about a well-known act: the fall of Adam and Eve. I prefer to speak of disobedience towards God or more exactly, as far as we are concerned, I’d rather talk of a concerted decision-making to ensure their own future . Behind the theological aspect that has been drawn from this account, there is a political action: ‘dissatisfaction with higher authority‘.
The word politic and associated words come from the word POLIS which means city or town, this word is of the same root as the word POLUS which means several in Greek. We then understand that a city or a group of people associated with one another cannot escape politics. Group decision-making then becomes political. The same applies of what happens in the Garden of Eden. Two individuals under the influence of a third one, the serpent, refuse the supreme authority of this Creator God. Two visions clash in this idyllic place that is the garden of pleasure: On the one hand the authority in place who has done everything for the best of a newly emerging humanity and on the other hand this humanity that wishes to take itself in hand by not accepting any superiority other than his own decision. This is the meaning of this well-known act of picking the forbidden fruit for consumption.
The many in this text is represented by Adam and Eve at the instigation of the Serpent who comes to destabilize the order of things as established before. By doing so, Adam and Eve distance themselves from their original state. From the first lines that describes their decision-making to disobedience, the consequences of their choice are expressed by the fact that God no longer finds them in the garden. A separation occurred, a separation was created between the two parties. On the one hand, from a divine point of view, a benevolent authority and on the other a small group which is not satisfied with this benevolence and who would like to be able to manage itself. Or if you prefer, from a human point of view, on the one hand there is the imposed authority and on the other the humanity that wants to define itself outside this imposed authority. God is no longer part of the circle of humans. The radiant action of Adam and Eve is to seek their own identity under the influence of a third party (Genesis 3: 4). The mutual decision taken by man and woman will direct them on the path of politics which will distance them from their achievements of tranquility and well-being while propelling them towards a new world of which God certainly knew the outcome; the admonitions made to them express this new reality (Genesis 3: 15-19).
Taking this forbiden fruit signified they rejected this superior authority. They, therefore, separate from the source of life to follow the path of the unknown that leads to death, which is the separation from God. This burden is borne by all. Although… God does not seek the absolute death of humanity. The man and the woman must pursue their way, but outside of what was once offered to them. Thence, the Garden of Eden disappears, and both, woman and man, must now acquire this knowledge of this new reality.
The significance of this text is this new path to follow, this ‘going forward’ that directs Eve and Adam towards one goal: the woman’s offspring will crush the serpent’s head. In other words, someone will come to overcome this separation from God. Neither Adam nor Eve lamented having lost a dream life. They met the challenge to move forward knowing that despite their decision, God will continue to walk with them. God, or if one prefers, this higher authority is surprising. For instead of burning its opponents to the ground, of castigating them with a thousand evils, or simply starting anew, He looks beyond their horizon to intervene in the restoration of a more just society. Should I say that God will accompany these rebellious human beings to rebuild a better world with them?
The consequence of their decision is certainly dramatic for both of them, not to mention the disaster caused to their immediate descendants. And even if divine words are hard to hear, they nevertheless bear witness to a reality: the act committed has repercussions in daily life. For everything that humanity have known until then will be turned upside down. Difficulties will invade all spheres of their existence. There are two interesting facets to note.
First, God offers a goal and a means to achieve: “Your descendants will crush the head of the serpent“ (Genesis 3:15). This statement made by God responds to the dire situation mankind threw itself in when coveting what was forbidden. But instead of destroying everything as he might have done, he choose the lesser evil: pain and suffering will now be part of human life, but not total destruction. For there will come a time when the serpent’s head will be crushed. We must understand that the cause of all their problems will disappear. God does not want to destroy humanity, on the contrary he wants to maintain it and offer an exit. The means he offers to the first human couple lies in their descendants, more exactly the offspring of the woman. For it is through her that the divine promise will be fulfilled. God, therefore, takes the side of humanity by introducing salvation through the offspring of women.
Adam understood very well for he acknowledged in Eve the life she will later transmit. The first name ‘’ ’Eve’ ’means’ ’the one who gives life.’ Mankind decides to look ahead, not what it has lost with the Garden of Eden. It will learn to walk through this new life marked by misery, pain, suffering and even death until that fateful moment when the woman’s offspring crushes the head of the serpent.
It is this positive outlook, this hope that encourages to continue to live in spite of hardship. It is this hopeful prospect that motivates humanity to design a better future, whether one is a believer or not. And, in that sense, all is not obscure. Hope is very present and very much alive; motivation is real, not utopian.
Change, progress is an integral part of human life. God initiated the movement – and this without considering the creative act which would be the first example.
We could conclude with Roland Poupon: “Politics becomes great when it listens to the little ones” (Roland Poupon, Lebanon, Aïn Aar, 1948) and we could add: « to uplift them. ”
“what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” Psalms 8:4,5
1-Diary’s Writer, Musings about Europe, March 1876, Feodor Dostoyevski, Russian writer – Moscow October 30, 1821 – St-Petersburg January 28, 1881. (retour au texte)
2-Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, Greek Philosopher, 384 – 322 BC (retour au texte)
3-Plato, Greek Philosopher, 427-347 BC, Athens (retour au texte)