How We Define "Crisis": A Perspective from the Book of Micah

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I have been seething in shame and indignation since the beginning of our banking/Wall Street crisis.  For one thing, it seems that the President's proposal, now made law, amounts to taking out a credit card to pay out-of-control credit card debts.  It is so typically American that there have been no calls for the people to reflect upon their greed and get-rich-quick mentality.  The answer is a "strategy", that is, a device that will solve our problem without requiring any change on our part.  This is beyond my expertise, I know, but it seems to me that the fall of the stock market is a good thing: the sooner the bubble comes down the better we avoid it completely bursting.  Bad-tasting medicine is usually good for the body.

But the evident folly of our response is not what so dismays me.  Instead it is our definition of a crisis.  Here we have the President of the United States and the leaders of Congress -- both parties sudddenly united for action.  There is a crisis in the land!  And what qualifies as a crisis?  The fact that increasing numbers of children grow up in America without fathers?  The savage exploitation of women and corrupting of men through legalized pornography?  The systematic corruption that is our moneyed political system?  The fact that a mother's womb is the place where the great majority of violent deaths take place in our communities?

Of course not.  The crisis is a threat to our money.  No, that is not even really correct.  What John McCain initially said is mainly true: our economy is pretty sound (almost every other country would love to have 6% unemployment, etc. -- note also how quickly McCain's campaign required him to cease speaking truth).  This really is a threat to our short-term bonanza of quick-and-easy profits, that is, to the current Wall Street system of megawealth for those who crave it.  Of course, the sub-prime mortgage situation needs addressing and a government response is appropriate.  And I know that the material well-being of many ordinary folks is involved, and that is a matter of real concern.  But unless I am badly mistaken -- and having received an M.B.A. from the Wharton School, I do not think I am entirely clueless as to this -- the crisis is mainly to the idolatrous culture of super-hyper-mega-wealth among the corporate and Wall Street elite. And it reveals a moral and spiritual cancer in our society that will not improve by feeding it, but will only spread its corruption to the more sure demise of our nation.

I recognize that this post has something of a rantish quality about it -- I have been sitting on this for a couple of weeks to minimize that.  But my mind keeps returning to the voice of the prophet Micah, which I think is as relevant a biblical book to the values of 21st Century America as any other:

"Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds!  When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand.  They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance...

"For you kept the statutes of Omri, and all the works of the house of Ahab; and you have walked in their counsels, that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing" (Mic. 2:1-2; 6:16).

Of course, one cannot draw seemless parallels between God's dealing with His old covenant people and any contemporary nation.  But He is the same God today as then.  And the "statutes of Omri and the works of Ahab" are very well exegeted by the board deliberations of today's corporations and Wall Street power-brokers, whose actions reveal little concern for the common good and a lust for ever-greater luxury and power.  History bears testimony to the rising and falling of nations, the latter always resulting from their pride, greed, and violence.  I do not think this bodes well for America in light of our response to this current "crisis".  For what does the Lord require? "To do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Mic. 6:8).  The want of these is the true crisis of our times.  Yet as to this crisis, the voices of our leaders, and so many of our pulpits, is silent.

Posted October 10, 2008 @ 12:35 PM by Rick Phillips
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