Saturday, October 9, 2010

Apathy's Trojan Horse

Computer geeks battle invasive Trojan Horses. Mythology tells how Odysseus sent his Greek ships home from Troy, but left them a gift. Using his “Trojan horse,” he deceived and defeated the Trojans by making them think he had given up.

While the jubilant Trojans dragged their huge wheeled, wooden horse inside the gates and celebrated,Greek soldiers silently dropped through the trap door in the horse's belly, killed the Trojans, set the city ablaze, and quickly ended the war.

Amos announced a Trojan horse in Israel. Governed by the elite and affluent, this apathetic minority fostered a false gospel of economic prosperity. They enjoyed affluence, but ignored the systematic destruction of the nation’s character. Amos observed the empty shell of the affluent nation, and saw an apathetic majority occupying a moral vacuum.

Religion no longer played a strategic role in national life. Amos saw religious symbolism and religious rites celebrated everywhere. Yet, Israel’s faith lacked the vitality with which parents identify a small boy in a big house. They sense his presence before they see him. When they neither see nor hear him, they know to discover what holds his attention.

Israel wore its faith proudly and Amos recognized abundant symbolism everywhere. People attended worship punctually; they observed all rites and rituals. On the other hand, Amos saw the wealthy selfishly wasting their time with personal preoccupations and, therefore, he denounced Bashan’s socialites. He accused them of having nothing better to do than lay around on covered couches, petulantly demanding that husbands serve their wives vintage wines.

Amos watched Jerusalem’s wealthy citizens waste their lives, absorbed in opulent luxury, yet grasping for more, as if without tomorrow. Eroded family structures surrounded him. Unprincipled men, satiated with greed, catered to narcissistic families, each playing a role in legally exploiting the underprivileged.

With uncontrolled greed running amuck, Amos aimed at the affluence corroding the legal system, calling it terminal. The malignant cancer fed on the host body, destroying its host one day at a time. Skilled entrepreneurs took unfair advantage of scandalous business deals, manipulating the market for personal gain. Wealthy politicians bribed the courts. Money bought favorable verdicts that allowed them to get away with murder.

Irresponsible officials looked the other direction, making justice for all a mockery. This nation, with its long, religious heritage dating back to the Exodus, stockpiled evil deeds one upon the other, heap by heap. External signs proclaimed a flourishing faith, but apathy corroded and compromised the core.

The disadvantaged had no hope. Without money to purchase influence or bribe their way to equal justice, they fell in the ditch--“legal” victims. Amos watched the painful process engulf the masses--first, struggling; then, surrendering to the spiraling current, and slowly sinking to the depths,

Resisting the rich and powerful religious power brokers proved futile. The heartiest flailed desperately, attempting to stay on the surface long enough to reach safety. The most vulnerable sadly sank to the bottom, drowned in a system that rewarded the wealthy and stripped the poor.

Of course, Israel had no Government subsidy programs, no modern welfare. Pragmatic prosperity blurred the rights of the unprotected, voiding the best intentions of the legal system. Religious leaders no longer defended the disenfranchised. The Year of Jubilee no longer promised hope of restoration for families, properties, or faith.

Amos held human rights as a moral value the nation must maintain at all cost; yet, the wealthy maintained their religious fa├žade at the expense of the majority. Amos found Israel’s character deeply flawed. International diplomacy further revealed a corroded and corrupted heart and soul. Without moral values, Israel sowed to the wind. Although enjoying a spring-like atmosphere of national prosperity, they would reap a whirlwind!

People found it intolerable when Amos detailed personal, ethical, and social sins. Denying the truth always comes easier than extending grace and practicing righteousness. Amos greatly feared apathy’s pervasive passiveness, while he also struggled for survival. He agonized as he watched his nation slowly succumb--silent victims of warriors hidden in the hollow horse of apathy.

What could Amos say to us? Would he see our Trojan horse, occupied by affluence, apathy, and political dissonance? Would he warn us of a false gospel of “compassionate conservatism” that supports an unrestrained market with diminishing taxes, regulations, and public safety nets, that reduces government to protection of personal property and national defense?. Would he charge us with sponsoring a Super Bowl event without rulebook or referee, where the minority spectators enjoy the game at the expense of the impoverished majority?

America’s Constitution and Bill of Rights promised a bargain. Our Founding Fathers agreed on certain inalienable rights for all when they established America. Yet, slavery flourished. John Henry Hammond argued vehemently, “I feel firmly convinced that under any circumstances, and by any means, emancipation, gradual or immediate, is impossible ... Slavery can never be abolished.”1

Jefferson described the principle of certain inalienable rights on paper, yet four decades later Lincoln faced War Between the States. “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved” Lincoln declared, “I do not expect the house to fall--but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”2

We freed the slaves but we still wrestle with racial inequities. We extended voting rights to women, but we struggle to provide those inalienable rights to “all” citizens. Without a continuing community to uphold our laws and maintain our principles of equal justice for all society, none of us has assurance of protection.

Our government must remain of, for, and by the people, for our laws expose the soul of our corporate politic, as well as our means of building a strong ethical bond with The Almighty. Without equal enforcement of our laws, we have no sure foundation for building right relationships between neighbor and neighbor.

Amos recognized the symptoms. Today, too many divorce their faith from their behavior, as they manipulate the system. When someone questioned Chuck Colson about the demise of Jim Baker’s PTL Empire,Colson overlooked Baker’s sexual indiscretion, while attributing Baker’s downfall to “preaching a false gospel of material advancement: if people would only trust God.”

Sounding more like Amos than a Journalist, Chuck Stone, editorialized on the pains and gains of North American capitalism. He took exception with the direct compensation of that CEO receiving $88 million a year from a Fortune 500 Company. “I can no longer support an $88 million habit,” Stone concluded, calling it the “pornography of greed.”

Writing in Losing Our Democracy (93) Mark Green charged that the average line worker today “often pays only a slightly higher percentage of her income in taxes than the company she works for--and at times even more than the CEO who just left the firm with a $50 million golden parachute.” So, Woody Guthrie, sings, “Through this world I’ve rambled, I’ve met lots of funny men. Some rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen.”

Since economic profit provides the primary measurement of our culture, our profits continue to funnel into the pockets of fewer and fewer, impoverishing more and more. Dare we challenge the perils of greed and complacency lurking about us? Will we harness the whirlwinds of waste and war? How socially responsible are current attitudes of non-involvement, self-ism, and “do your own thing”?

When will we demand justice and equality as the norm for all, rather than special interests? Or, will we look the other way, with apathy? Apathy hides itself, lacking the moral character to confront political greed, waste and expediency. Apathy dares not challenge established political and economic dependence on questionable ventures such as sale of arms and military technology.

A while back, Lockheed Martin reported a recent Profit Rise of ten percent. AP writer, Stephen Manning, reported combat vehicles to the Army and corporate jets pushing General Dynamic’s fourth-quarter profits up 42 percent. This defense contractor's 2008 outlook fell short of Wall Street forecasts, while revenue rose 15 percent, to $7.52 billion, missing Wall Street's estimate of $7.55 billion.

Is it still true, as Lincoln said, that we hold these truths to be self evident, and that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed (my emphasis). I suggest inalienable human rights are a larger issue than our democratic system and we dare not shove them aside as the personal perspectives of a so-called liberal theologian or left-wing politician. Discovery of God does not come through superior western technology or self-righteousness!

When will we admit that the narrowing concentration of accumulated wealth of the past 20-30 years reflects the lavish living of a prodigal nation? Hear again the powerful plea of this prayerful prophet: “Seek the Lord and live . . . Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everlasting stream” (Amos 6:6, 24, RSV).
1 William Henry Miller, Arguing Slavery, (N.Y.: Alfred Knopf, 1996), p139.
2 Abraham Lincoln Speeches and Writings 1832-1858 (NY. The Library of America, Ed by Don Fehrenbacher, 1989), p.426.

From Warner’s World,
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Anonymous said...

Inalienable rights are not the same as unalienable rights.

Inalienable rights are rights that a person can relinquish if he so chooses to do so. These are rights that are bestowed by governments or other manmade structures.

Unalienable rights cannot be given up in any circumstances, because they are given by God. These rights belong to everyone.

The Declaration of Independence does not recognize inalienable rights. It recognizes unalienable rights. It also recognizes that governments exist not to grant rights but to secure or hold safe those rights that were already bestowed by God.

Unfortunately, in today's society unalienable rights are no longer "self-evident." People of today think that rights are granted by the government, but rights cannot be granted by anyone but God. Governments only keep those rights safe and make sure that everyone has an equal chance to enjoy those rights.

This does not mean that everyone will enjoy the same level of success in life. That is simply unrealistic. Jesus said that the poor would always be with us. This means that regardless of what we might do there will always be some who have and some who don't have.

Trying to make the wealth of a society equal among the members of that society is a laudible but impossible goal. To achieve this kind of "equality" it is necessary that the society deprive some of its people of their unalienable rights, and in doing so, it eliminates it own reason for being - to secure the unalienable rights for all of its people. In other words, rich people have the right to be rich and maintain that wealth as long as their doing so does not infringe upon the rights of other people to attempt to do the same thing. (Notice that there is no right to riches, only a right to pursue them.)

Wayne said...

Hey friend:
you made me research that one. I found inalienable, which said liberty is an inalienable right (not to be taken away). Of 3 dictionaries I found unalienable in WEBSTERS NEW AMERICAN DICTI0NARY, 1995. It showed the usual markings and called it "adj: inalienable" So much for that argument.
The bible clearly teaches that some have 10 talents, others 5 and 1. At no point in my article did I argue for the sameness that you describe; that was advocated by communism but not practiced by them.
I am maintaining that our constitution guarantees us inalienable rights under God that Govt cannot morally take away, but Govt can help structure.
As for the rich, et al; they have a right to be rich. However, the Bible clearly describes he have more as being responsible for more.
you distinguish between the right to riches and the right to pursue riches, AND I AGREE. That IS my point, Our govt has an obligation to maintain the conditions for EQUAL RIGHTS TO PURSUE RICHES and not set up an unfair system that favors special and protected interests that allows CEOs to earn 2-300 % increaes while average citizens increase their wages the 18% or so that I read recently.
When the rights of the wealthy are protected in ways the rights of the poor are not protected THAT IS UNAMERICAN, IMMORAL, and UNCHRISTIAN, which is precisely what I described.

Wayne said...

Dear Anonymous:
If you read my recent blog re Warring on Working People, you read this paragraph:

"My reading of the Bible tells me Jesus defended the vulnerable, the impoverished, and the wasted masses. With that in mind, I found much of what Dobb’s criticized in “American life” decidedly unchristian. For example: Dobbs noted:
'income increase up 18% for median family income;
up 200% for top 1% of wealthiest'" (16).
We may not like some govt intervention, but as Americans we have right to enough govt to equalize that game.
If it was basketball, I'd say we need enough referees et al to make it a fair game for both the 7' fwd and the 5' 7" guard.
Thanks for your comments......