According to Revelation – the apocalypic birth narrative of our future utopia – “when heaven is established, it will be a bloody business.” I have been trying to argue that any attempt to establish utopia – whether that be heaven or the perfect revolutionary proletarian republic – is a violent business, and we should therefore look for other models.
The violence of utopia comes from its desire to purge impurity – either when that impurity threatens it from within, or when a utopian group goes out to expand its boundaries. The removal of violence requires us to change our dirt boundaries, just as Jesus did. As I write in the new book:
Dworkin outlines what a middle position might look like by examining Jay Winter’s idea of ‘minor utopias’. Winter’s book Dreams of Peace and Freedom describes these places as ones that ‘sketch out a world very different from the one we live in, but from which not all social conflict or all oppression has been eliminated’.
It is in the light of this description that I think we can gain a new perspective [on] Jesus’ miracles in his very short ministry. In each of these examples we can see that they carry hints of ‘a world very different from the one we live in’, while not attempting to be permanent statements or manifestations of that new world order, and certainly not attempting to eliminate all social conflict or oppression. Jesus fed 5,000 people, but only for one afternoon.
If he were to continue this as a daily event, would it have to be restricted to those who were there for the original miracle? If so, who would check? What would happen to those who made a living from making bread or catching fish if Jesus continued to undercut their sales by this miraculous multiplication? Would he still have to be there today, feeding a population of six billion and more with free food? What sort of people would that make us into, and what sort of God would it be that we were worshipping?
We can see that Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5000 only works if we are prepared to take it as a temporary event. The attempt to solidify it into a utopia where no one need eat again necessarily descends into violence and absurdity. We have to accept that hunger will return, and thus accept a world ‘from which not all social conflict or all oppression has been eliminated.’
The question this leaves us with is this: does the elimination of violence from heaven actually requires heaven to be a place where impurity and impermanence is accepted?