Powers and Authorities
The success of Jesus’ ministry provoked the antagonism of the Jewish political and religious leaders. In Mark 3:6, we see how the Pharisees and the Herodians plot together to destroy him. Then the scribes from Jerusalem verbally attack him saying, “He has Beelzebub, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons” (Mark 3: 22). The political and religious structure had been so corrupted that the Jewish leaders fail to recognise the Messiah. In the end, they incite the crowns to demand his crucifixion (Mark 15: 13).
We, too, live at a time when many of the ‘authorities and powers’ manifest themselves in evil and corrupt structures (Eph. 6:12). Structural evil arises from structures within human society rather than from individual wickedness or religious conceptions such as original sin. According to Andrew Basden, structural evil occurs because people contribute to its creation by accepting it without protest so that over time it is normalised.
For example, we see structural evil in the power that multinational corporations exert over governments trying to minimise regulations, corporate taxes and avoid competition. They control prices and pay meagre wages to workers in developing countries to maximise profits. Their commitment is to profits rather than their workers or the countries in which they operate. They are often among the world’s great polluters, rarely demonstrate environmental concern, using up vast amounts of natural resources and energy. They show little interest in acting justly or in the common good.
In response, we must ask: If the products we purchase and the luxuries we consume were created by oppression or injustice, are we morally responsible for that injustice? We must face up to the reality that such practices do not conform with God’s order. To imagine that others are to blame for such injustices is to disobey God’s demand for justice and perpetuate the cycle of structural evil from which there is no end. We must act by raising these issues in the public discourse and require that products we purchase be ethically made and the workers receive fair wages, etc.
Lord, help us to act with courage.