You cannot serve God and Mammon

June 13, 2010

The June 13 Huffington Post features an article by Les Leopold entitled “Is there a Global War Between Financial Theocracy and Democracy?” Leopold writes that, after gains on behalf of working people against financial interests during the New Deal, those interests went on the counter-offensive beginning in the 1970s:

The Deregulatory Counter-Offensive: By the late 1970s, bankers regained the advantage through the spread of a new faith in self-regulated markets. The economic apostles of unfettered markets lobbied against progressive taxes, unions, and social welfare programs. The new orthodoxy was: Let the elites collect the money—they’ll invest wisely (instead of consuming), and all boats will rise. This near-religious revolution rapidly spread through the economic and policy establishment. Regulations were dismantled right and left, and the revolving door between government and Wall Street started spinning. The American financial catechism ruled the world. And on Wall Street, the money tap was open. It did not trickle down.

Then, suddenly, in 2008, the market gods destroyed themselves as the unregulated financial casinos crashed and burned, just like they did in 1929. . . This was the perfect moment for democracy to reassert democratic control on financial markets, just as we did during the New Deal. We blew it.

The article made me think right away of Walter Wink’s analysis of the Powers in his brilliant series of books on the Powers, the spiritual reality behind the various structures and institutions of oppression in modern civilization, as seen through the lens of Christian scripture’s ‘angelology’—the ways that Christian scripture names and describes the Principalities, Powers and other angelic entities in its worldview and how we might understand them in our own social science worldview.

Jesus focused a great deal of attention on the specific Power at work in the current financial crisis and ensuing Great Recession. He even game him a name: Mammon.

The parable of the dishonest manager in Luke (16:1-14) speaks directly to the situation Leopold describes, of financial theocracy, of making a god of the market and trusting the priest-managers who benefit from and manage it. Here’s how it ends:

Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth (mammon), who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.

This calls for a brief series on the considerable number of passages in the gospels in which Jesus warns—or curses—the rich and the lust for wealth. The various forces that fetishize deregulation, the hypocrites who pretend to be populists while punishing the poor, who claim to love Christ and actually love the ‘free market’—beware! Your Jesus envisions some gnashing of teeth.

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2 Responses to “You cannot serve God and Mammon”

  1. Rick Whetstone Says:

    There was a time in my past, in which I saw the same theme in the mammon parable that you are writing about. However my view of this parable has changed.

    I believe that Jesus is talking about the foundation that God will use to reward all mankind in the next life.

    The key is true riches. God will entrust us with true riches in the next life.

    The next word is entrust. God will give us areas to rule in the the next life.

    That is why the standard, faithful is used. Or our word today is trustworthy.

    Who will give you “What is your own”

    We know that the great spiritual people of that day did not get their reward in this life. So our reward is in the next life.

    thanks for your time

    • biblemonster Says:

      I would love to respond to your comment, Rick, but I’m about to go on a short trip, so I’ll have to get to it when I get back. Thanks.

      Steven

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