Time to Take on the Corporate State

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….a time to be silent and a time to speak…a time for war and a time for peace.”
–Ecclesiastes 3

When it came to America, I used to be a cockeyed optimist, like most of my countrymen. I used to think that no matter what challenges we faced, we would get through it. As a nation, after all, we have been through a lot together: a Revolution, a bloody Civil War, slavery, Reconstruction, two World Wars, a Great Depression, a Cold War, Vietnam, the turbulent 60s and the struggle for civil rights, and Watergate. Often there arose leaders of integrity, strong voices of reason, faith or sanity (Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Martin Luther King, Jr., RFK) who helped steer our bark through the storm; at other times, it was the people themselves who banged on the gates and clamored for justice, when our leaders were silent.

Now we are facing a new set of challenges, perhaps the most formidable in our short history: a conspiracy of powerful moneyed interests, coupled with a corruption that has spread to all three branches of government, and a public that is uninformed and easily led. A deadly concoction for an ailing republic. And one has to admit, history is against us. When faced with similar problems, the great democracies and republics of the past have all tanked. So pardon me if I do not wax patriotic about America’s great heritage and her destiny upon the world stage, or of Americans themselves and their penchant for hard work and stick-to-itiveness. When the patient is dying, it’s not a time for poetry or duck-billed platitudes, but for prayer and action.

Our Founders never took it for granted that America would endure or endure long. They were not so foolish. For them the new nation was but an “experiment in democracy.” They knew their history well and they trembled at the grave pitfalls and temptations they knew we would face as a people. They were hopeful but hardly optimistic. As James Madison wrote, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

As I have watched the last decade unfold and how we have reacted to it, there are several reasons that I fear for the future of my country:

1. An ignorance and contempt for the Constitution. In the face of fear, too many Americans seem too eager to chuck what generations fought so hard for. And they seem unaware of what is at stake. Our leaders have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution, but it is not just up to them. “Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder,” said George Washington. Our leaders may have sold themselves at auction (and if you knew for how much you would wonder at their pretensions to patriotism), but we cannot afford such cynicism. “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Tag, we’re it.

2. A contempt for basic human rights. The thought that a majority of Americans not only do not oppose but actually support the use of torture makes my head spin. That they also do not oppose the President’s policy of ordering the assassination of individuals, including American citizens, who are suspected of terrorism, is a grievous moral failure. And God is not blind. We will reap what we sow. “The arc of the universe is long,” Dr. King said, “but it bends toward justice.”

3. The break down of the system of checks and balances. Congress has basically abdicated its role in making war, giving that power instead to the Chief Executive. Our Founders would flip! And with both parties and every branch of government now beholden to the moneyed interests (whether Congress, White House, or judges, it’s pay to play), it’s not surprising that there is essentially one party line: socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.

4. A blind support for an increasingly imperial Presidency. I’m not referring to a single individual here but to the office itself. Most Americans are resigned that we are in a perpetual state of war with no specific goals or end in sight. Madison, the Father of the Constitution, firmly believed that “No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.”

5. An indiscriminate consumption of media. With the ever increasing corporate control of media and the dismal failure of public education, Americans are the among the worst informed and least educated people in the industrialized world. It’s not that we lack media stimulus, but our brains are like our bodies, fat but malnourished. When official press releases, infotainment and propaganda pass for news and fact, and “fair and balanced” means exactly the opposite, we have as a nation entered a frighteningly Orwellian stage. “And they drink up waters in abundance” (Ps 73:10). John Adams fervently believed that the success of any democracy depended upon an educated and informed citizenry. That is why we cannot depend on media to educate us; we must search for the truth and educate ourselves.

If America does not pull through the present storm, it will be because we do not deserve to. If we will not put down our Ring-Dings and remote controls, rise up and take on the corporate state, then we may well deserve to lose all that has been handed down to us. If the powerful have taken our democratic institutions hostage, it is because we have allowed them to do so. Like dogs mating in the street, they no longer have any shame, but now do openly and without fear what was once done in back rooms– because they have nothing to fear from us, so they think.

And the church in America is either AWOL or, like the head lemming, it is leading the charge over the cliff. A dog that cannot bark, it has lost its prophetic voice. And Satan is so deeply invested in keeping it so. Would that the church would focus its political crusade against the injustice of the corporate state, instead of some imaginary socialism.

Some may say, Forget about those things and focus on the kingdom of God. By all means, let’s. But is not God’s kingdom one of justice and truth? And when we have led them to Christ, what kind of church will we be bringing them into? Can the church be part of the problem and the solution at the same time? No. God’s kingdom is good news for the poor and the oppressed. It is bad news for greed and oppression. When the church starts doing its duty and speaks out against evil instead of coddling it, then I don’t believe most people will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to church. The world knows better than we what the church ought to look like. It ought to look like Jesus. And Jesus is attractive.

So pray for this nation, pray for God’s mercy, pray for our enemies; get involved, get organized, speak out, clamor for peace, clamor for justice; write, email your elected officials, speak truth to power; talk to your children about what is happening; and don’t be afraid to be a pain in the keister– the prophets of old were just that.

We’re going to be a pain in somebody’s backside, either man’s or God’s. So let us choose wisely.

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