Here is an excerpt from “Weeping and Hoping in Jerusalem”, chapter two in Walter Brueggemann’s new book Mandate to Difference: An Invitation to the Contemporary Church (2007). Brueggemann is summarizing his analysis of the city of Jerusalem under King Solomon.
“The core ingredients of the new urban economy of Solomon are expansive building [as a symbolic expression of oligarchic power], acquisitive commerce [not least through a huge investment in the arms trade], strong military apparatus [financed by taxes falling inequitably on the poor, who also, of course, comprise the main source of recruitment], cheap labor by inscription [replicating the slave-driven economy of Egypt], and sexual politics [for dynastic purposes]. Every aspect of this development of political economy is in sharp tension with the old covenantal assumptions that governed, according to Israel’s memory, the pre-urban society of Israel. All of that - major achievement that it is, precisely because it is radically innovative in Israel - required theological legitimation, and for that reason the building of the temple occupies the center of the Solomon narrative. Solomon is officially pious and devoted to ‘good works.’
“However, a close and careful reading of the I Kings narrative clearly reveals that the temple is in fact a royal chapel designed for state purposes in which the leadership and liturgical imagination are enthralled by the Solomonic apparatus (see Amos 7:13 for a like notion). State religion thus exists to maintain the status quo of aggressive acquisitiveness by the elites that is based on taxation and conscription of the peasant economy. At the center of this ambitious and shameless program of legitimacy is the God of the temple, YHWH, now portrayed as patron of the dynasty and its economic apparatus, designed to dwell benignly in Jerusalem forever (see I Kgs 8:12-13)…
“In sum, then, the Solomonic urban achievement, according to the text, constitutes a convergence of an economic monopoly, political oligarchy, and a religion of equilibrium. This emergence gave great stature to Solomon. The narrative, however, does not hide the conviction that it was, in toto, a system of aggressive exploitation and oppression that amounted to a deep contradiction of and repudiation of the covenant God of emancipation who had dreamed of covenantal justice.”
Readers can make the requisite extrapolations for our contemporary context. If you need any help, note that Brueggemann first presented this chapter at a conference on urban ministry at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. (”National Cathedral”: now there’s an oxymoron if ever there was one!)