Does the Bible Predict the Corporate Takeover of Democracy?

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.

Hobby Lobby is wrong! Corporations cannot be Christian!

According to Hobby Lobby, the company leading the challenge against the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that it denies religious freedom, corporations can actually be Christians. And even though Christian individuals are not protected from having their tax dollars fund such un-Christian things as invasions of other nations, so-called Christian corporations like Hobby Lobby expect to be exempted from having to provide health insurance for their employees, because they disapprove of certain forms of birth control covered under the act that are, effectively, abortion bills.

As an anti-abortion Christian, I share their concerns (that is if, indeed, these are really abortion pills – I’m no expert on the various pills out there). And from a practical perspective, I don’t believe that health insurance should cover birth control any more than I believe car insurance should cover oil changes. However, as a Christian who fears rapidly expanding corporate power (now, in the name of “Corporations are people, my friend”), I dread hearing of the Supreme Court ruling that corporations may now be exempt from the law because their religious beliefs oppose it.

First, I think such a ruling opens a Pandora’s Box, as numerous corporations might claim various religious beliefs to exempt themselves from the law. Elena Kagan made a great point when she asked what happens when an employer (most likely a Jehovah’s Witness) can deny employees insurance that covers any procedure involving a blood transfusion, because the employer’s religion opposes blood transfusions. But I believe it can go beyond that, as a conservative victory here could establish a dangerous precedent. For example, if a corporation claims to be atheist, could it fire and refuse to hire Christian employees? Could atheists become major shareholders in a hospital and turn away dying Christians at the door? We’ve seen atheists use “freedom of Religion” to attack Christianity displayed in public, such a court precedent may expand that persecution to the workplace.

I repeatedly hear Christians cry that our faith will be persecuted more and more throughout the future, yet these very same Christians want to create a society in which any company can do whatever it wants in the name of religious rights (the Arizona bill to allow discrimination against customers with differing religious beliefs is further proof of this). Someday, this will backfire on us when non-Christians oppress Christians in the name of liberty.

Religious freedom is not absolute. For example, if you believe in Harem’s, you can’t have one. If the people of your nation have voted to make harems illegal, there’s nothing you can do to hoard wives for yourself, and that’s a good thing. With the thousands of religious beliefs held by various Americans, almost any law denies somebody the ability to fully carry out their religious beliefs.

Second, if Hobby Lobby is so devoutly Christian, why are they a corporation?

On their video at the website, the owners claim to have been a family-owned business from the beginning. If so, it’s unlikely that they incorporated to raise capital. Rather, they incorporated to protect their liability. The whole foundation of the corporate structure is liability protection. If a business’s owners make millions of dollars when times are good but wind up owing millions of dollars when the company someday fails, corporate liability protection allows them to keep the millions they have been paid in the form of dividends, while sticking their creditors, customers, and suppliers with the millions they owe (it’s called bankruptcy). This is stealing. God allowed no such injustice in ancient Israel. If someone owed debts, they had to sell everything, if necessary, to pay them.

If Hobby Lobby were so devoted to adhering to Christian purity in every little thing, they would be a partnership, not a corporation. The fact that they are incorporated means they are willing to steal by pushing their debts on society in the event hard times come. Since all corporations are, by definition, institutions of stealing, they can’t be Christian. They can be Satanists, maybe, but not Christians.

If the folks at Hobby Lobby are worried about God’s wrath against them for obeying the law, here’s something that should make them feel better. When religious leaders questioned Jesus on whether it was lawful to pay the tax to Caesar, Jesus didn’t say it was only lawful in the event that the emperor spent the money in accordance with Christian or Jewish beliefs. If we Christians are forced by the law to pay a tax or provide a benefit to others, God will not hold us accountable.

The purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to rescue the poor and oppressed from life-ruining healthcare costs and to keep hospitals from folding when impoverished patients can’t pay. Yes, paying for birth control goes a bit too far. I’m all in favor of making an adjustment to that portion of the Affordable Care Act in the future. But to exempt employers from providing insurance due to the employer’s religious beliefs is to say that the employers own the employees as if they were slaves. Slave owners always had the right to make healthcare decisions for their salves. But in a free society, workers have rights to make their own healthcare decisions. Let’s hope the Supreme Court agrees.

Is the “Ban Bossy” campaign anti-Christian?

Like the movie, “The Blob,” in which the featured creature grew in size with everything it consumed, the monster known as political correctness just got a whole lot fatter, thanks to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign. With help of Beyonce, Condoleezza Rice, and Jennifer Garner, Sandberg released a video saying such things as, “Girls are less interested in leadership than boys, and that’s because they worry about being called ‘bossy’…Let’s just ban the word, ‘bossy’.”

The purpose of political correctness, over the years, has been to condemn labels that used to be perfectly okay for everyone to say, even in the eyes of those to whom they referred. Suddenly, these words must be replaced by some other word that means the exact same thing. All of this is done to supposedly protect self-proclaimed victims who are, all of the sudden, offended by these words, as if the use of the words causes them even the slightest bit of harm or inconvenience in their lives (which it doesn’t). Therefore, all of society must be inconvenienced by having to change their word choice. If they don’t, they’ll be publicly condemned as insensitive bigots (which actually does do harm).

In most cases up until now, politically-incorrect words have referred to races of people. But thanks to Sandberg’s campaign, now political correctness has been extended to include words that describe behaviors.

What does this mean for us Christians?

On the positive side, it’s good not to call people names. To say to someone, “You’re bossy!”, as an insult intended to make them feel bad is un-Christian. In fact, name-calling is the purest form of judgmentalism, which is one of the biggest sins in the Bible.

On the negative side, if we cannot speak of bossiness, then we cannot identify it, label it as inappropriate behavior, and try to teach our children not to behave that way. Sandberg’s video doesn’t just speak out against name-calling; it proclaims bossiness as righteousness. The Bible teaches the opposite.

What is bossy behavior?

It’s not merely exercising authority. Most employees understand that their boss has the authority to make decisions and take disciplinary action against those who fail to comply. To be bossy is to overstep one’s bounds by being too aggressive, arrogant, unfair, condescending, insensitive, manipulative, or to sum it up – to be on a power trip. Bossy people don’t just exercise power; they abuse it. And in some cases, they exercise authority where they were never given authority, bossing around people of equal rank. Bossiness is simply selfishness.

Many female business people have the wrong idea. They think that a woman needs to be tough, intimidating, condescending and mean-spirited to be respected; but then they complain that when they behave this way, they are called “bossy” or “a bitch”. However, men who behave this way are simply called “jerks” or “a-holes.” Their employees don’t respect them, either. When employees receive nothing but disrespect from their bosses, they show disrespect in return.

What people really do respect is good management skills. Most people know that the Golden Rule of, “do to others as you would have them do to you,” means that we treat all other humans with mutual respect and place them on the same level as ourselves.  Even when we have different roles within a company, those with power are to treat their subordinates as brothers and sisters in Christ, just as the Bible commanded masters to do to their servants. Even books that teach how to be an effective manager promote the Golden Rule in their own words, because it works and is great for morale. These books warn against the condescending, mean-spirited style of management, because it’s anti-productive.

Women who want to be successful in the business world need to stop worrying about labels and start worrying about doing what works. If they do what works, success will follow.

Like all cries for political correctness, this one is ultimately bad for those claiming to be the victims. Most people see political correctness proponents as whining, cry-babies who have it so good that the technicality of other people’s word choices is their biggest problem. So when a people group has a serious, legitimate problem, society brushes it off as just another attempt make up a problem in order to play the victim, since the group has already established itself as victim wannabe’s in the eyes of society.

Book Review: Left Right & Christ – by Lisa Sharon Harper and D.C. Innes

I’m a former hardcore Republican, turned Republican-leaning independent, turned Democrat-leaning independent, turned moderate registered Democrat (I’m in a closed primary state, so if I want to vote in primaries, I have to pick a side). So I appreciate views on both sides, because I’ve been everything along the political spectrum except an extreme liberal or libertarian.

Left Right & Christ got off to a bit of a slow start. The early chapters were a bit vague, thus lowering my expectations. But as the authors got into specific issues, the book delivered and was better than expected.

I was particularly impressed with Lisa Sharon Harper. Most liberal Christian books tend to be high on bleeding-heart liberalism, but light on comprehensive historical and economic facts. I expected Harper to deliver the same thing, but her writing is very well-supported with history. I learned some things from her I didn’t know, and, to me, that’s what books are all about. And even though I’m anti-abortion, I found her understanding of the political realities of this issue to be very helpful.

D.C. Innes writes well, but I was disappointed that such an extremist Republican was chosen to represent the conservative view (but that seems to be the case more and more these days). He says on page 73 that he opposes public schools and school-provided lunches as well as “government environmental protection” and “workplace safety standards.” He says later in the book He wants the Republicans to return to being the party of Reagan, but Reagan was nowhere near this extreme. I wish I could send Innes back 100 years in a time machines so he could experience first hand what a hell hole America was for the working class when there were no worker safety protections (8500 workers killed in the railroad industry alone in 1889) and no environmental protections (the Cuyahoga river caught on fire 13 times from 1868 to 1969, but never since the EPA started in 1971. Meanwhile, Bethlehem was so polluted, only sycamore trees could grow). This guy is not a Reagan Republican; he’s a Gilded Age Robber-Barron Republican. But that seems to be the direction today’s Republican Party has chosen, which is why I finally registered as a Democrat in 2012.

The book’s biggest weakness is that neither author has room to get into any issue in depth. There’s a lot more that could have been said. But it’s still a very worthwhile read. And best of all, it’s one you can recommend to your Christian friends without sounding like an extremist that’s just trying to promote one side of an issue.

Should We Discuss Politics in Bible Study?

I know a man very close to me who has never cared much for going to church. He has never been much of a singer, nor has he ever been moved in a major way by listening to music. He’s not offended by sermons, except on rare occasions; but he’s not excited by them either. He finds church-going to be somewhat of a chore.

He believes in God. He will not dispute what the Bible teaches. Nether does he lead a life full of sins that he would have to give up if he devoted more of his life to serving God. Nonetheless, to focus much of his thinking on God or much of his energy on serving God has never been a priority of his. It always seemed to me that he would never grow closer to God. I had lost hope.

Therefore, I was thrilled when I learned that this man started to attend a weekly men’s Bible study. He told me he did so, because he wanted to learn more about God.

After he attended the study, I asked him how it went. He responded, disappointed, “They spent most of the time talking about politics. All they could talk about was gay marriage and how they all hated Obama.” This man, however, was a Democrat. He had once been a Republican, but their relentless support for the interests of big industry at the expense of workers, consumers, and the environment turned him away.

This man returned to the study the next several weeks, and the conversation changed very little. He felt left out, that everyone was against him, and that he was wasting his time, because he did not attend the study to hear about politics. That he could do by turning on TV. So he stopped attending the study, and has not returned to a church or Bible study since.

This is what talking about politics in the church can do. It can, and does, drive people away from the church and away from God. Here’s what it doesn’t do: It doesn’t change peoples’ political stances, especially those of older adults. Thus, discussing politics in church isn’t worth it. It does little good and lots of harm. So make a promise to yourself that you will never be the one to bring up political issues in church. When you keep this promise, you will be the kind of peacemaker Jesus encouraged us to be.

Book Review: Politics According to the Bible – by Wayne Grudem

As I read the early chapters of this book, I thought I would probably give it three stars in my review. The author, Wayne Grudem, writes well and his material is well-organized. He also supports his points with researched material, even if he does so in a totally one-sided manner. In the book’s early chapters, he uses a lot of Bible quotes in demonstrating that it’s good for Christians to be involved in politics. And he makes good use of the Bible in the areas where the Bible actually does lend strong support to the Republican stance on a given issue.

Unfortunately, the last two-thirds of the book has very little to do with the Bible. Grudem uses Romans 13:4’s quote that government “is a minister of God to you for good” as an excuse to argue the Republican stance on every issue under the sun. He covers everything from cap and trade to foreign policy, to activist judges, to gun control, to his desire to abolish public schools, to the money supply, to his claims that the media has a liberal bias. And he doesn’t just mention these things in passing, he argues the Republican view on them in great detail. I honestly cannot thing of a single political issue he failed to address. This book does nothing more than take advantage of Christians who were looking for biblical guidance in politics. Once Christians are lured into reading it, Grudem bombards then with the Republican stance on everything.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who reads the preface. In it, Grudem reveals how the book came to be: “Alan Sears and Ben Bull of the Alliance Defense Fund [an extreme right-wing litigation group] first approached me several years ago with the interesting idea of writing a book like this. They were able to provide helpful funding for some aspects of the research and editorial work…” In other words, the Republicans paid him to write this book!

Grudem gives away his Republican bias even more in the book’s disastrous economic section. He repeatedly quotes economists from the right-wing Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, but fails to look up the numbers for himself to see if they are deceiving. For example, he quotes the Heritage Foundation saying that the 2001 Bush tax cuts actually increased tax revenues in 2005, thus proving that tax cuts always pay for themselves. But anyone who examines Table 6, column 2, of the IRS Data Book can see that we lost over 100 billion dollars a year in tax revenues in 2002 and 2003, thus proving the Bush tax cuts added to our debt. The CBO calculated that they cost us 2.8 trillion dollars in tax revenue in the first ten years. Thus Grudem deceived his readers by relying on Republican research only.

Most appalling of all is Grudem’s repeated arguments to abolish the public school system and replace it a with a voucher system to fund private schools. What he fails to mention is that the reason our colleges are so expensive is that Pell Grants and student loans enable colleges to charge more, because they’d be stupid to pass up all of that free government money. Republicans argue against Pell Grants for this reason, but they fail to mention that Pell Grants are vouchers, where the government gives everyone money to spend where they want. A private school voucher system will make k-12 education unaffordable for most people. Plus, the logistics of driving and busing kids to schools when they are scattered all over the place also puts lower income Americans at a disadvantage and would be a huge headache.

There are many other points I could argue, but that would take too much of your time. My recommendation is that you not waste your time with this book. In the end, it’s just a political book that uses the Bible where convenient.