The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ: Summary and Review

The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ

The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ: And Other Essays by Jay Haley

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The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ


Jesus’ innovation was to attempt to seize power by organizing the poor and the powerless. His template was then copied by scores of populists that came after him.

The author uses examples from the Bible of Jesus’ power tactics, inviting the reader to assess Jesus’ behaviour and not his teachings. For example, Jesus teaches to turn the other cheek when persecuted, but Jesus himself answers insults with attacks when his own authority is threatened.

For centuries this idea of Jesus was overlooked and so the poor were not a threat to the establishment; the most that could be expected of them was an occasional sporadic riot. In this century the poor must be taken into account everywhere because there are men who will devote their lives to rousing and organizing them.


Jesus’ basic strategy is:

  1. Define the poor and disadvantaged as more powerful than any other class
  2. Organize a set of cronies that are expected to give up all other ambitions, cut family ties, and abandon all loyalties except loyalty to the leader
    1. Once the cronies have severed all outside ties, they cannot abandon the movement. Emphasize their persecution by outsiders to give them a sense of mission and purpose.
    2. Offer to the cronies the promise of being an elite in the kingdom that is to come.
  3. Pitch your movement publicly as one that “has the benevolent purpose of saving mankind”.
    1. Claim that the movement is inevitable because it is the next step in the development of man.
    2. Promise a paradise in some undefined future if only you follow the leader. Threaten misery if you do not follow the leader.
    3. Appeal to the young, because they have the least investment in the existing establishment.
    4. Incite the young to retaliate against their elders, to break family ties and to lash followers towards the movement
  4. Make great personal sacrifices to avoid the appearance of seeking personal power
    1. Claim you are merely an interpreter of a preexisting supernatural force.
    2. However, you are the only correct interpretation of that force.
  5. Publicly announce your authority as equal to the entire existing established authority
    1. Use flexible tactics, answering attacks with attacks where the establishment is weak, but with nonviolence techniques where the establishment is strong.
    2. In the final struggle with the establishment, do not negotiate, as your goal is power outside the establishment, hence no compromise is possible.

When such men succeed, their power is unlimited because all other authority has been discredited.

Under this analysis, Jesus’ crucifixion was an unintentional miscalculation, as his arrest and trial had one of 4 outcomes:

  1. Without any evidence against him, the Sanhedrin would have to acquit Jesus, thus proving the impotence of the establishment in the face of his movement.
  2. The Sanhedrin would have to convict Jesus without evidence, which would also discredit the establishment.
  3. Pilate would put the decision to the crowd. Given his popularity, Jesus would be freed and prove that a popular movement could not be stopped by the establishment.
  4. Pilate puts the decision to the crowd but the crowd votes to execute him. This doesn’t seem likely, yet it is the outcome that happened.

Jesus’ reputation as a miracle healer is not an accident, but a ploy to gain followers among all social strata because illness afflicts everyone regardless of wealth or class.

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