Long ago and far away, there was a country in which there was a corrupt collusion between church and state. The local ruler, autocratic and wealthy, a representative of empire, used religion to legitimate his authority, and he was notorious for his swift and cruel suppression of dissent. The high priest and his clergy, aristocratic, associate with the upper class, had an “understanding” with the political establishment, and together they were bastions of conservative values. The local Temple, recently rebuilt, was the focus of the religious and political economy, and, of course, this cathedral was highly symbolically charged.
And then along comes a young person. His mother had sung protest songs. His entourage is working class. He himself is notorious for his big mouth, his loose morals, his partying lifestyle, his solidarity with the disenfranchised and the sisters, his threat to the family, his confrontations with authority, his gift for clever speech, concerted action – and for street theatre. He decides to stage a nonviolent protest at the centre of power, the Temple. He causes major disruption, almost a shutdown of cultic activity. He calls the sanctuary a “den of thieves”. He shocks the worshippers. He angers the officiants. This threat to public and pious order must be stopped. Indeed the authorities must make an example of him.
Church and state working hand and hand, as per, there follows an arrest for hooliganism and blasphemy, a show trial, a miscarriage of justice, and an extremely harsh verdict and punishment. In this case, death. And the precipitating event was, as the headlines put it, “Riot in the Temple”.