Greed is not God

Last week I had the great honor of officiating the wedding of an old friend down in New Orleans. It was a light-hearted and festive affair, and I enjoyed myself immensely.

However, as I was able to steal a few private moments for myself, I took great pains to look around and to listen.

I spoke with several of the locals of the recent events out in the Gulf of Mexico and I could sense the palpable tension behind their soft Cajun dialect and winsome smiles. I saw it in their eyes, they knew.

When the party was over, I turned my back to the darkening waters and returned home. As I ventured back to East Texas, I could not help but feel the hot breath of a “Pale Horse” galloping behind me.

Even now, as I write these words, a man-made fissure on the sea floor of the Gulf is billowing great plumes of petroleum that will wreak havoc upon the natural habitat and irrevocably transform the way of life for millions of residents along the coast.

Not only are the numerous living creatures and ecology endangered, but the way of life for everyone in the path of this great creeping blight. Economically, the tourism and seafood industries will see a sharp decline, and it is a shockwave that will continue to emanate outward.

I have heard some so-called experts opine that it will take a lifetime to recover, others predict the damage will be irreversible…  that this will be a permanent stain upon the face of the earth.

As a resident of East Texas, an area which owes much of its own existence to the petroleum industry, I cannot help but wonder at the ramifications of this tragedy and how this will impact many of my friends and relatives whose subsistence are thus aligned. But there is a deeper concern of mine…

Our churches pray for the economy and for business to prosper, but are we doing so while also ignoring the writing on the wall?

It seems that issues of the environment and of renewable energy sources were considered political heresy and that mantras of “Drill, Baby, Drill” were being preached to the choir.

The ruling laissez-faire paradigm of our free-market system have entrusted these billion-dollar corporations license well beyond the scope of credulity. It is as morally absurd as to let the proverbial wolf guard the proverbial henhouse.

Surely, we as Christians would have a better insight into the human condition than this.

Our faith teaches us that man, when left to his own devices, is a confounded mess and must therefore be chastened by the Law before he can even be brought to an understanding of the mercies of Grace. No entity, irrespective of how it might stand to profit our households or nation, must be allowed to go unchecked.

Christians in this country can believe in “free market” while yet holding their market accountable, in the same manner that free speech is not allowed to run rampant without some manner of regulation.

In the broader Evangelical culture, the priority of conservation, environmentalism, and the long-term biological ramifications of our roaring capitalistic machine have been waved away as the alarmist prattling of fringe leftist “Chicken Littles” always ready to cry that the sky is falling.

But the chickens have come home to roost on the blackened shores of the Gulf.

What’s worse, this isn’t even the first such occurrence this year. Have we already forgotten how the “too big to fail” banks and moneylenders sent this nation spiraling into our current recession? What about the horrendous mine explosion that killed 29 coal miners in West Virginia?

Those that helm these corporations are not innocent little choirboys, who can be brought to heel with a stern talking-to, they are steely-eyed armies of warrior-merchants drilling blindly at depths a mile and more beneath the ocean surface. All while doing everything their powerful corporate lobby enables them to silence the clamor of environmental oversight necessary to protect human lives and preserve the vitality of the ecosystem.

Should not we, who lay claim to being “children of light” and profess to adore the Creator of this terrestrial sphere, be at the forefront of stewarding and caring for the billions of its residents?

When the natural environment is used up, unsustainable for future generations, cultures die. When regions like the Gulf are dead, when mountaintops are removed, when forests are razed with nothing left in their place, when animal populations disappear, and the land itself begins to die… cultures die, too.

…and what’s left in the place of these cultures and traditions is an individualism that is defined simply by the wanton appetites for sex, violence, and unrestrained avarice. That’s not “conservative” and it sure as hell ain’t Christian.

Let the free-market idol-worshippers bemoan another thousand-point plunge in the Dow Jones, while we demand justice from the robber-barons that would rape and pillage the landscape of divine Creation.

Sometimes God speaks to mankind in a still small voice, and sometimes He is the eye of the storm, but always is He calling us to a far higher purpose than our own base desires.

Right now, a part of our culture stands tenuously upon the precipice of a possible extinction. If you do not think so, I’m hear to tell you that it’s later than you think.

Now is the time for us to open our eyes and stop living our lives in doe-eyed isolation.

We are without excuse.


7 thoughts on “Greed is not God

  1. First I must preface by saying that we did not get to speak much at the wedding, but I urge you to in no way take anything that I say personally.  I like to argue in the classical sense of the word (e.g. Socrates, Locke, etc.), and I find it is how I gain my greatest insights into not only what I believe, but also insight into the beliefs of others (which ultimately enriches and expands my views).

    So, now I begin my views that are contrasting to yours, and ask you to ponder on them as I have pondered on yours. I see your argument being in two main categories: Political and Religious. First I will start with the religious aspect of your contentions:

    I must first ask the question: Do we as Christians believe that God is in control; or do we believe that through our actions, we can curtail the ultimate fate that God has set for us? This question is one that I do not believe enough Christians are asking them/ourselves these days. If we are to believe that God (through Moses) plighted Egypt with the plagues, that God himself parted the Red Sea swallowing the Pharaoh and the pursuing Egyptian soldiers, and ultimately leading the Hebrews through the desert by a pillar of fire…then why do we as Christians have a hard time fathoming that God’s will shall be done? We all give lip service to the idea, but I believe that we truly have a hard time coming to complete grips with the concept. We can all (as Christians) say that Haiti, Katrina, etc. were God’s hand at work, so why can we not see where the disaster in the Gulf may be part of God’s divine plan?

    If God is in control, we must admit to ourselves that he is in full control, not half-control, nor partial control. Therefore, if the oil leak is part of God’s plan, it is not to necessarily serve as a “wake up call” to people. As Christians we can not pick and choose what parts of the Bible we are to believe. It should be one of those “all or nothing” things. If we believe that Revelations is real, then there are going to have to be certain events to lead us down that path. In your writing you alluded to the “Pale Horse”, was the “Pale Horse” not divinely released?

    Should we as Christians respect the planet that our creator made for us? Yes. Should we as Christians believe that we have any control over this ball of life? No. For us to believe that we as a divinely created species can control that which God has made, takes the power from God’s hands and places it in our own. It is my personal belief that Christians can not believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming, for this same reason. If God did not want it to happen it would not, and if God says “So Mote it Be” then there is nothing that we can do to stop it. I believe Jesus said it best “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

    Both politics and religion are topics that I can write volumes on, but I am trying to not be as verbose as usual…because this is your blog, and you may not appreciate a twenty-six page diatribe posted in response to it. And, I have yet to respond to the political aspect of what you are asking for.

    While I have no contention that man left to his own results in anarchy and mob rule, and must therefore have certain boundaries and repercussions for stepping over the boundaries (this is what we call “Law”). However; I must also contend that too much law leads man down another dark path which takes away his God-given freedoms under a totalitarian state. The question then becomes: Where do we draw the line? While the free market does lead to corruption, abuse, and most certainly troubled economic times…it also allows the individual the maximum amount of freedom necessary to make not only their lives better, but also the lives of the rest of society (think: medical advancements, automobiles, and for those of us in the south…Air conditioning). We are all very quick to call for more governmental oversight after a disaster (Economic or ecological), but do we truly understand what we are asking for? The nature of the government is to attempt to gain control and power. A law by very definition is the limiting of a freedom or right. Even a law which purportedly “grants” a right, by very definition limits that right to the language of said law. It is human nature to agree with a law or oversight when it limits something that we disagree with, but very quick to jump on the “disagreement bandwagon” when it starts hitting close to home. Which once again posits the question: Where do we draw the line?

    The more power the government is given, the more the government will take. Every totalitarian regime in history was given power because they were trying to save the people from themselves, and the people believed they needed saving. While you may call for more oversight power into environmental issues such as the disaster in the Gulf, where will you stand when the government starts religious oversight? There are already bills in congress that would allow the government to take away a church’s tax exempt status for politically motivated sermons. Where will this leave the church’s duty to speak out against abortion, gay-marriage, etc.?

    As I stated earlier, take no offense to anything that I have stated; because that is in no way my intention. I truly hope that I have not offended you in anyway. This is how I learn, adapt, and move down the path intended for me. I am one of those rare people who do not get upset at religious and political disagreements, because I believe that we can all learn from someone else’s experience and points of view.

    1. Thanks for your comment Shaun. For what it’s worth, I don’t mind a reasoned and sincere inquiry into any of my assertions. Moreover, I welcome the opportunity to better communicate my own thoughts on a given matter. So, no offense taken.

      In answering to your initial question: yes, I would affirm the utter dominion of the Sovereign Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the same God who despised the Ammonite’s child-sacrifices to their false god Moloch, who yet slew the firstborn of the Egyptians. The same JEHOVAH who planted the Tree in the Garden of Eden, yet forbade mankind to eat of its fruit.

      Is God in control or are we responsible for our own actions? The answer is yes. However, man can no more thwart the will of God than he can escape his own destiny. Our lives are surely the sum of our choices, which are yet determined by our desires and ambitions.

      So, yes, the oil leak is part of God’s plan… and it is to be understood that it is a wretched part, just like the “Slaughter of the Innocents,” and the Holocaust, or even the train-wreck that is modern culture. Not that God’s plan is faulty, but that God’s plan takes into account the hardness of human hearts.

      In Christian theology/philosophy this is best understood through the term “Compatibilism” but I’ll not belabor the point. In short: 1.) nothing exists outside God’s will, and 2.) mankind is held accountable for his actions. At the same time, it’s a pretty big leap into a fatalistic view of God: i.e. “God is in control, why should we worry about it?” He has issued a Creation mandate for mankind, that we are to maintain the Earth as stewards.

      The oil spill was a part of God’s plan, and so too was the negligence by the corporation that caused it. We do not “control” the earth but we participate in the actions and consequences of the order and natural laws that he established. However, that is to not pardon those who are responsible.

      If I decide to jump out in front of a speeding bus, “I” am deciding to do so. It is “my” desire to end my life in such a manner. I am given something in the matter of control over my existence and even some limited manner of control in the lives of those I might influence, but I cannot alter the natural order of the Universe nor abort the plans of God.

      When the Christian says: “Not mine but Thine,” he is acknowledging his small part in the larger tapestry that his Creator is weaving, but he does not pretend that he carries no responsibility.

      I pray that my children will come to know and love the Lord. I teach them of their Creator and try to show them what pale imitation of Jesus Christ that I might, but overall I know that He will accomplish all that He will. Nevertheless, I must still be a father to them and will be held accountable for ought.

      Also, I do agree that too much law can and often will result in a political legalism that is no more preferable than reckless abandon. However, one does not measure the yardstick by the cloth.

      Just as corporations must be regulated by law, are those regulations to be held into account by a higher standard than for their own sake. The same slippery slope into statist totalitarianism leads the pitfalls of libertine anarchy. It’s two sides of the same coin.

      So… where do we draw the line?

      I think the line is drawn where the state begins to stray from it’s own foundation for existing in the first place. If the state exceeds its powers, it must be checked – either from outside or from within. Moreover, if it neglects its responsibilities, the same must occur.

      All the same, I confess that I see myself as a foreigner here.

      Though I recognize my allegiance to this nation for being a native-born citizen, one who enjoys the protections and also contributes as a taxpaying and landowning consumer, I am also an heir to a monarch of a foreign kingdom… an emissary and a priest, one that has been given authority to share the King’s message of a coming judgment and the need for repentance.

      God’s utter dominion and sovereignty over the very fabric of reality does not preclude ours or any other nation from His eternal standard.

  2. Mr. Eaves, you weren’t addressing me and I am sensitive to the fact that I am entering a conversation where I wasn’t exactly invited, but as we both enjoy a well-formed critical discussion, and in hopes that it will help the formation of your own insights, I thought I might contribute very briefly with your permission.

    Your discussion of the providential work of GOD is of ancient interest. In just that context of the evil that men do, Joseph, the son of Jacob, said to his brothers that the same event was moved by both the creature and his GOD. However, he also demonstrated that it is perfectly appropriate to castigate the human being for his evil while praising GOD for determining the same event on the basis of purpose and the disposition of one’s heart. In other words, GOD meant these things for good while we mean them for evil (Genesis 50:15-21).

    In that case, it is perfectly appropriate for Matthew to admonish human beings for precisely the same events which he would cite in effusive praise of our LORD. Jesus did the same in Matthew 11:20-26 when upbraiding the cities who refused to believe in His miracles while, at the same time, praising our Father for this same reality… for such is His gracious will. GOD is right to seek these things because of His ends, but men are wrong for the same because their intentions are evil.

    As for the political question, I will not comment upon that because I am of the conviction that it is impossible to be actively political in a way faithful to Scripture and its teachings on law. I realize, however, that I am in the minority with such a view.

  3. I am watching unbelievable pictures tonight of endless swaths of brown oil mixed with the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, of dying wetlands and marshes, of miles of contaminated coastlines, of dead birds and animals, of helpless and hopeless Gulf Coast residents sadly witnessing their livelihoods and their lives slipping away. With the explosion and sinking of the BP oil rig six weeks ago, the immediate talk was about environmental threats and technical fixes, economic losses and political blaming, and debates about responsibility for the costs. But with the failure of the latest attempt to stop the spill, and with both BP and the federal government admitting they still really don’t know how much oil has already spilled or will spill, a national discussion is beginning about the fundamental moral issues at stake, and perhaps even a national reflection on our whole way of life based on oil dependence and addiction.

    After the failure of “top kills” and “cut and cap” strategies, it now appears the gushing of oil into the sea could continue until at least August, or maybe even longer. This could be one of those moments when the nation’s attention all turns to the same thing, as in 9/11 and the days after Katrina. To use an over-used phrase, this could be a “teachable moment,” but as 9/11 and Katrina demonstrated, we don’t necessarily learn the right lessons from teachable moments. This time we had better do so.

    First, we have to change our language. This isn’t a little “spill,” it is an environmental catastrophe — the potential contamination of a whole gulf (already a third is now off limits for fishing) and hundreds of miles of coastline, and it threatens to expand to an ocean and more coastlines. It will bring the destruction of critical wetlands, endanger countless species, end human ways of life dependent upon the sea, and now, it will increase the danger of a hurricane season that could dump not just water, but waves of oil just miles inland from the coasts.

    Theologically, we are witnessing a massive despoiling of God’s creation. We were meant to be stewards of the Gulf of Mexico, the wetlands that protect and spawn life, the islands and beaches, and all of God’s creatures who inhabit the marine world. But instead, we are watching the destruction of all that. Why? Because of the greed for profits; because of deception and lies; because of both private and public irresponsibility. And at the root, because of an ethic of endless economic growth, fueled by carbon-based fossil fuels, that is ultimately unsustainable and unstable.

    It’s not just that BP has lied, even though they have — over and over — to cover up their behavior and avoid their obligations. It is that BP is a lie; what it stands for is a lie. It is a lie that we can continue to live this way, a lie that our style of life is stable and sustainable, a lie that these huge oil companies are really committed to a safe and renewable energy future. BP should indeed be made to pay for this crime against the creation — likely with its very existence.

    But I am also reminded of what G.K. Chesterton once said when asked what was most wrong with the world. He reportedly replied, “I am.” Already, we are hearing some deeper reflection on the meaning of this daily disaster. Almost everyone now apparently agrees with the new direction of a “clean energy economy.” And we know that will require a re-wiring of the energy grid (which many hope BP will have no part in). But it will also require a re-wiring of ourselves — our demands, requirements, and insatiable desires. Our oil addiction has led us to environmental destruction, endless wars, and the sacrifice of young lives, and it has put our very souls in jeopardy. New York Times columnist Tom Freidman recently wondered about the deeper meaning of the Great Recession when he asked, “What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last fifty years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said, ‘No More.’” The Great Spill makes the point even more.

    There is not one answer to this calamity; there are many: corporate responsibility, for a change; serious government regulation, for a change; public accountability, for a change; and real civic mobilization to protect the endangered waters, coasts, species, and people’s livelihoods. But at a deeper level, we literally need a conversion of our habits of the heart, our energy sources, and our lifestyle choices. And somebody will need to lead the way. Who will dare to say that an economy of endless growth must be confronted and converted to an economy of sustainability, to what the Bible calls stewardship. What about the community of faith?

    I am told this morning that the smell of oil is already apparent in the parks and playgrounds near the Mississippi coast. Unless this crisis in the Gulf finally becomes the wake-up call that signals a new national commitment to end our dependence on oil, our children may now be smelling their future.

    1. Wow, Jim, I don’t have near enough time to interact with the many propositions set forth in your comment but thanks for stopping by and for reading…

  4. Okay… well, thanks all for your contributions to this obviously very impassioned issue. However, I think I’ll be closing this journal entry’s comments henceforth.

    Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

Comments are closed.