Naturally, the Bible makes no mention of either democracy or corporations, so it’s easy to understand how such a question might sound preposterous. And while I am by no means an eschatology-obsessed Christian, last week’s Supreme Court ruling that further declared money to be one-in-the-same as speech reminded me of a famous Bible quote.
That quote is Revelation 13:16-17. It speaks of the beast – the representative of Satan to whom all the nations will bow down. It says, “And he [the beast] causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or their forehead, and he provides that no one should be a able to buy or sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.”
Most people think the beast is a person, but I’ve considered for a long time that if the nations and their rulers obey it, it must be something other than a nation or a ruler. It must be something more powerful. And since Revelation 13 tells us that the beast controls buying and selling, then it stands to reason that the beast is a commercial force that controls politics and the lives of all people. Throughout history, it was impossible for most people to imagine that there could be something more powerful than a nation or a king. But today, it’s not difficult at all, thanks to the immense and highly-concentrated accumulations of wealth that corporate capitalism creates. Therefore, the commercial force of which the Bible speaks just might be corporate power.
Today, corporations are multi-national. Our largest corporations, and the individuals who reap the bulk of their profits, have more wealth than many small nations do. A day will come when they have more wealth and power than even the large nations. If things keep progressing as they are, it’s unimaginable for this not to happen. In such a world, law enforcement and even the strongest militaries will do the bidding of the wealthy, not of the people whom they were originally created to protect. If that sounds far-fetched, we need to look no further than the Iraq war to see that it’s already happening. The objective of the war was eventually achieved: our massive oil companies now control Iraq’s oil. Our government did the bidding of powerful oil companies and told lies to make us think the war was for our protection.
One might think that in a democracy such as ours, people would vote against the power of the wealthy few. But thanks to the Supreme Court, we don’t always get a vote. Such was the case this past week, as well as in the Citizens’ United ruling of 2010, when five Republican-appointed justices overruled four Democrat-appointed justices in striking down democratically-created laws that protected the people from the power of the corporate wealthy to buy elections and have undue influence over politicians who must now rely on them for support. Add to that the fact that Republicans have been chipping away at democracy with voter ID laws, re-redistricting, and the replacement of the majority-of-voters with majority of districts (which they’ve redesigned) in elections, and it’s easy to see how corporate predators will defeat democracy.
The Bible’s prophecy is both good and bad news for Christians. The bad news is that we will lose this battle. Corporate power will someday abolish our freedoms and enslave the world. The best we can expect to do is to stave it off for a while. Ultimately, the devil will win. On the other hand, the fact that the Bible predicted that there would someday be a commercial force greater than the nations is all the more reason to believe in God and in the fact that He has revealed himself to us through the Bible.