Parables for Independent Progressives on Managing Money

Greens (and some other independent-minded progressive / radical organizations) have issues dealing with raising and spending money while preserving their independence from the rich 1%,  from banks,  and from big corporations, and from the corporate-capitalist parties.

Herewith some parables are offered as possible aids to understanding; and as guides to money management for radical groups:

Concerning whether to accept, and how to deal with fiscal (i.e. governmental) revenues from “unclean” sources (should the Greens, or other true progressives and radicals, ever come to govern this American society of ours at any level of government), this story:

When the Roman Emperor Vespasian instituted pay toilets in Rome, his son and heir, the future Emperor Titus objected.

Titus apparently felt that it was unworthy, and would demean the Empire, to collect revenues from such a vulgar source as public toilets.

The Emperor Vespasian thereupon handed his son Titus a one-denarius coin.

“Sniff it,” Vespasian said.

Titus put the coin to his nose and sniffed.

“What do you smell?” Vespasian asked.  “Anything?”

“No,” answered Titus.  “I don’t smell a thing.”

Pecunia non olet!”  the Emperor pronounced in silver Latin tones, rising from his seat, and snatching the denarius back from his son’s hand.

Moral: Money does not have an odor.    

(This applies, strictly speaking, however only to coins of the realm. Nowadays, paper currency actually does have an odor: the odor of illegal drugs.)


Concerning how to deal with those who would buy from us that which is not for sale (as for example our independence and integrity), and concerning those who, with evil intent, would offer us money to attempt to corrupt our pure purposes, I cite a parable from this famous first century C.E. classic, a Hellenistic, Judaeo-Christian work of historical fiction:

Acts of the Apostles, the Eighth Chapter, v. 17-24  (King James Version):

17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.

Note that, once Simon has repented of his attempt at “simony” (i.e to buy for money, and to use for commercial purposes, a power to be held in sacred trust, which can only be given and received as a gift), there is no indication that Peter continues to refuse to accept Simon’s offer of money.  Apparently, once the donation is offered for a proper purpose (i.e. prayer that “none of these things which [Peter has] spoken come upon [Simon]”) there is no longer any bar to accepting the donation.

The story becomes even more interesting, and even fascinating, when one reflects that Simon was Peter’s original name before “conversion”.  In other words, Simon is Peter’s dark-side alter-ego; and Peter is Simon’s liberatory-side alter-ego.

Unsurprisingly, the medieval Church either misinterpreted this passage, or ignored it entirely.  Since nothing that the Church did officially could be regarded as “simony”, the permissibility of priests’ collecting money to say prayers was regarded as the whole point of the story, when that is not what the parable is about, at all.

Of course, what the story is truly about is the impermissibility of selling that which is supposed to be held in sacred trust.


Concerning how a radical or revolutionary organization should collect donations from members of the rich and propertied classes whose sincere devotion to the cause may be in doubt:

Acts of the Apostles, the Fifth Chapter, v. 1-11  (King James Version):

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.

10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carryingher forth, buried her by her husband.

11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

To view this story as a wildly fanciful tale of  the ecclesiastical execution of two colluding, reprobate, false contributors to the Church–executions carried out by means of the improbable miraculous power of the chief Apostle, Peter, is to miss the point entirely.  Rather, the whole point of the story is profoundly Machiavellian.  Unable to win over the rich and propertied 1% to his organization through their unalloyed love and devotion to the cause, Peter wins their respect by inducing a great fear among them.

It is highly doubtful that these miraculous apostolic executions ever occurred; most likely, the leaders of the early Church caused a rumor of the miraculous executions to circulate among their followers in order to induce a healthy sense of fear, and respect for their power.

Unsurprisingly, this radical understanding of the passage was suppressed by the medieval Church.


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