« September 2023 »
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics
F unAQs
idiosyncratic egotism
legal matters
my books
Political and economic
Positive prayers and posi
Pure Satire
Where in the Bible  «
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
Are conservative Christian theology and liberal politics compatible?
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
A psalm speaking to politics, politicians and their promises
Topic: Where in the Bible

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save.  When their spirits depart, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them--the Lord, who remains faithful for ever. 

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. 

The Lord watches over the alien, and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever...

Psalm 147:3-10a (NIV). 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 8:29 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 10 March 2010 8:37 PM EST
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Zimri ben Salu, a true modern American in ancient Israel
Topic: Where in the Bible

The story of the modern American who had the misfortune of living among the Israelites during the lifetime of Moses is found in the Bible in Numbers 25.  The Moabites, and, as is stated later, the Midianites, attempted to defeat Israel by seducing its young leaders--first into sexual immorality with foreign women, then into worship of their new girlfriends' gods.  The result was predictable: "and the Lord's anger burned against them." Numbers 25:3.  Because God's wrath was burning, there was a plague among the people.  Numbers 25:8.

God instructed Moses to end the plague by exposing publicly the men who had joined in worshipping false gods, and commanding the judges to put these men to death.  Numbers 25:4-5. 

Nevertheless, a family leader named Zimri brought a Midianite woman to his family right before the eyes of Moses while the people were mourning.  Numbers 25:6. 

However, it is Flavius Josephus who adds a description of what Zimri said on this occasion that makes him sound like a true modern American:

"Yes, indeed, Moses, thou art at liberty to make use of such laws as thhou art so fond of, and hast, by accustoming thyself to them, made them firm; otherwise, if things had not been thus, thou hadst often been punished before now, and hadst known that that the Hebrews are not easily put upon; but thou shalt not have me one of thy followers in thy tyrraanical commands, for thou dost nothing else hiterto, but, under pretense of laws, and of God, wickedly impose on us slavery, and gain dominion of thyelf, while thou deprivest us of the sweetness of life, which consists in acting according to our own wills, and is the right of free men, and of those that have no lord over them.  Nay, indeed, this man is harder upon the Hebrews that were the Egyptians themselves, as pretending to punish, according to his laws, every one's acting what is most agreeable to himself; but thou thyself better deservest punishment, who presumest to abolish what every one acknowledges to be what is good for him, and aimest to make thy single opinion to have more force than all the rest; and what bI do now, and think to be right, I shall not hereafter deny to be according to my own sentiments.  I have married, as thou sayest rightly, a strange woman, and thou heares what I do from myself as from one that is free, for I truly did not intend to conceal myself.  I also own that I sacrificed to those gods to whom you did not think fit to sacrifice; and I think it right to come at truth by inquiring of many people, and not like one that lives under tyranny, to suffer the whole hope of my life to depend on one man; nor shall any one find cause to rejoice who declares himself to have more authority over my actions than myself."

Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Ch. 6 (W. Whiston, Tr.) (italics added).

While the writings of Josephus are not Scripture, Josephus' account of Zimri's speech shows Zimri to be a true American, concerned above all things with what he wanted, felt, and believed to be right.  Zimri's self-centered attitude is highly prized in America.

Moses, however, did not prize Zimri's attitude, and neither did God.  The plague among the people ended when Phinehas, son of Eleazar the high priest, followed Zimri into his tent and put a spear through Zimri and his new wife together.  Numbers 25:7-9. 


See also, Substantive Errors Involving Individual Believers.

Posted by ian_j_site2 at 9:21 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 10 January 2010 9:32 PM EST
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Where in the Bible is a corporate "free market" commanded
Topic: Where in the Bible

My next fundamental disturbing question of political economics is where does the Bible prescribe a corporate "free market?"

That is, where does the Bible teach that government must leave corporations free to do whatever the market allows?

This question must be raised because, whenever someone in government proposes any major restrictions on what a class of corporations may do, or talks of changing to a method of providing or distributing anything that doesn't depend on corporations competing in a market to make the largest possible profit for their shareholders, Christian conservatives tend to scream about improperly interfering with the "free market."  They tend to imply that any such interference is ungodly and blasphemous.  The best current examples of this are health care reform and the President's plan to keep some control over what corporate recipients of economic stimulus money do with that money (instead of simply giving them money to do whatever they want to do with it, the "free market" approach to a subsidy!).  

 Now I have been an utra-conservative in the past, and I am well aware that, among conservatives, the term "free market" is a buzzword--an emotionally charged term that has been carefully conditioned to draw a knee-jerk response and has largely lost its original denotational meaning.  (Thus, it is somewhat similar to the term "freedom of choice" among liberals, a term which no longer refers to freedom to choose careers, or friends, or food, or clothing styles... I explain the use of buzzwords much more fully in my entry on the Buzzword Fallacy, elsewhere).  Any attempt to limit corporate greed is immediately labeled as a threat to the American "free market" system, a system which it is usully implied God Himself endorses.  Therefore, for the government to enact, or for me to support, the anathematized change (whatever it is) would be a grave sin.

Leaving aside for a later entry the question whether any of the "free markets" we are urged to protect at all costs are really free (I don't see any evidence that they are, they are simply regulated for the benefit of those corporations that presently dominate them), I now raise the question where God has said that corporations must be left free.

I suspect that some one will attempt to answer this question by directing my attention to Jesus' parable of the workers in Matthew 20:1-16.  In attempting to explain his statement that "the last will be first, and the first last" in the Kingdom of heaven, Jesus told a story about a rich landowner who needed workers for his vineyard.  So he went to the marketplace, and hired workers throughout the day.  Each of the workers agreed with him individually to work that day for a denarius.  At the end of the day, the landowner brought the workers who had been hired last, and had worked only one hour, in first and paid them each a denarius.  He then brought in those who had been hired just before them, and paid each a denarius.  When those who had been hired first, and had worked the whole day, came in, he also paid them a denarius, as agreed.  These workers who had worked the whole day expected to be paid more, and grumbled about it.  I have heard preachers use the fictional landowner's answer to these workers' complaint as an argument that all markets must be left free.  The landowner said:  "Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go.  I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"  Matthew 20:13-15.  The italicized language is taken as a statement that the rich must always be left free to do whatever they want with their own money.

However, that is not what Jesus was saying at all.  He was saying that, because God  is generous, he will ultimately richly reward all who labor in his Kingdom--those who came to him with only a little time left equally with those who have walked with Him a long time.  For all who walk with Him, His reward will be exactly what he promised. Our eternal rewards depend on His generosity.   The passage has nothing to do with the prerogatives of wealth in the world--it simply assumed the existence of one of those prerogatives, with which Jesus' listeners would have been very familiar, to make a point about God's generosity and fidelity to His promise, and our equality before Him.

Two other things need to be noted about the Matthew 20 passage.  First, Jesus' never answered the fictional landowner's rhetorical question, "Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?"  He left the listener to answer it the way any wealthy person of that day would have answered it ("yes").   That unstated, rhetorical answer can't be taken as God's command for all time.

Second, the fictional landowner in the parable was a real human being--and a real human being who had decided to be generous, at that.  He was not a corporation, a fictional person who exists only for legal purposes on paper.  In fact, corporate executives generally would not understand themselves to be free to perform the act of generosity that Jesus' fictional landowner did.  If a corporation had agreed with the first set of workers that they were to work a 12-hour day for a denarius, it would undoubtedly have paid the last set of workers, who worked only one hour, only one-twelfth of a denarius.  Any other approach would overvalue the labor used, reduce the corporation's profits, and therefore be a breach of the corporation's fiduciary duty to its stockholders!

As I have written previously, I do post responses.  If you can point to anyplace the Bible supports the corporate "free market" concept, send a comment and I will post it.




Posted by ian_j_site2 at 4:51 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 7 March 2009 5:02 PM EST
Thursday, 5 March 2009
Where in the Bible does it teach the sanctity of the business corporation?
Topic: Where in the Bible

I will begin my series on "Where in the Bible" does it teach various aspects of modern Conservative political doctrine with this intriguing question:

Where in the Bible does it teach the sanctity of the modern business corporation?


Where does the Bible speak of corporations at all?

The genius of the modern business corporation as an economic tool consists of three elements--


1) a corporation has an exsitence, albeit a fictional existence (in the sense of a legal fiction), beyond the existence of the mortal human beings who belong to it, and can thus be used to accumulate wealth beyond a human lifetime;

2) the human members of the corporate entity have a loyalty and a fiduciary duty to serve the profit of the fictional entity itself, not to themselves or to any other mortal human; and

3) the modern business corporation is a "limited liability" entity in whcih its owners (the usually faceless "stockholders") are liable to lose only the amounts they have freely chosen to invest and not the amount of any other damage the entity may do to third parties.  All of these elements are important if corporations are to accumulate capital and continue growing and producing more.  Or, at least, this is what traditional economic theory says:  the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of our modern and prosperous economy, depended upon the legal invention of stable "limited liability" corporate entities that continued to grow over several generations.

But what I want to know is where the Bible either prescribes or encourges any of the three essential elements of a modern business corporation.  it seems to me that any the first and second elements, if unmodified, are invitations to idolatry, and that all three, if left unchecked, invite greedy exploitation of people for the profit of  faceless machines.

Organizing an economy around fictional entities to which the legal system ascribes at least two attributes of divinity--immortality and the right to the  worship (unquestioned loyalty) of men--pretty plainly can lead to idolatry.  Moreover, the fact that the people who belong to a corporate machine are generally conceived as having a first duty to the profits of that machine, ahead of any duty to mere mortal humans (such as compassion, mercy, or ethical obligations), plainly invites greedy exploitation and ethical abuses--such as, indeed, we have been seeing with increasing numbers and intensity of late.

However, the element of a modern business corporation which makes the other two really dangerous, if given too much legal protection, is limited liability.  When you combine immortal legal entities that exist only for their own profit, with human members doing the actual work who are not allowed to act on compassion or ethical impulses in the face of the demands of the immortal entities to which they belong, and you add to that control by major stockholders and officers who know that they cannot lose anything more than they have voluntarily contributed, no matter how badly their deceisions mess up the lives of their employees or innocent (and totally unimportant!) third parties, you have a real recipe for oppression.  It's virtually guaranteed.  And it has been happening.  It is breaking out in the news all over.

But when anyone talks about changing this part of the system, even a little, people start waiving their Bibles and calling the person calling for change a "godless atheist Communist."

What I want to know is where in the Bible it prescribes that business corporations should be permitted to exist with minimum regulation.

I invite comments on this question (and will publish any I receive, so long as they refrain from profane language and character attacks on real, living people).     

Posted by ian_j_site2 at 12:01 AM EST

Newer | Latest | Older