Monday, June 29, 2015

Golden Calf, Bronze Bull

Arturo Di Modica, Charging Bull
Photo by Cap'n Surly, via Creative Commons

When the people had lost their way, their leaders called on them to rise up early and make their way to Wall Street, bearing burnt sacrifices, and to lay their communion offerings at the hooves of the bronze bull erected there.  

They invited the people to eat and drink and indulge in revelry, at their corporate sponsors’ expense.  Men and women alike, giddy with visions of wealth and domination, crowded around to stroke the bull’s gleaming scrotum, all the while giggling and joking drunkenly.  “This is your god, who brought you up out of the wilderness,” their leaders told them.  “Let the good times roll!” 

Then the Lord said to Francis, “I have seen these people, and they are a stiff-necked people.  They steal from their brethren and plunder my creation, then call themselves creators of wealth.  They treat the world I have given them as their private preserve, made for those with the quickest hands to grab the most for themselves.”    

“They have turned away from what I commanded them, and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a bull. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘The market is our god, and the bronze bull is his image.  He is the pure energy of greed run free, able to trample all in his path.  The market is the answer to all questions, the solution to all problems, the measure of all things.  All power and praise be to the market!’”

“The smoke from their sacrifices, in exhaust fumes and emissions from belching smokestacks, has reached even heaven,” said the Lord.  “Now leave me alone, so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.  Let the seas rise and flood their coasts, droughts scorch their crops, fires turn their forests to ashes, heat waves fell them in their cities and fields, and violent storms flatten their houses and business places.  Let them become nations of helpless wanderers, with no place to lay their head and call home.” 
But Francis sought the favor of the Lord, and tried to avert his wrath.  “Turn away from your fierce anger,” he pleaded.  “Relent, and do not bring such disasters on your people.”

The Lord heard Francis’s plea, and said, “I shall stay the full force of my righteous anger for a spell.  You have but a brief moment in time; let us see whether you can recall the people from their idolatry and blasphemy.”
Francis turned and hurried down the mountain, with the text of an encyclical in his hands, pages inscribed on both sides, front and back.  He spoke to the people, trying to summon them back to the God who had given them the land and the sea and the air they had fouled and despoiled.  He thundered against the worship of money and markets.  He shone the light of truth on an economy that widens inequality and tosses aside billions of people like soiled disposable diapers.  “Such an economy kills,” he proclaimed.  “The culture of prosperity deadens us.”  

And Francis warned the idol-worshippers that a system with a selfish ideal as its foundation is like a house built over a worked-out mine shaft.  “Those who dwell therein are poised above the abyss,” he cried.  “They are doomed to indifference.  They turn deaf ears to the cries of the poor and lose their ability to weep for other people’s pain.”

But the leaders at the church of avarice would not be swayed.  They understood the mesmerizing power of bombast joined with paranoia, so they took to their iPads and talk shows, calling Francis “a meddlesome egoist and an ideologue,” who dared to speak out against the god they had forged.  “He does not preach the true religion,” they complained.  “He is an adherent of a modern pagan green religion.”  “His rantings are nothing more than Marxism, nothing more than communism.”

The people listened and pondered these things, while God waited and looked on.  

© Tony Russell, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

“So What’s Your Question, Larry?”

Executioners control panel for lethal injection
Photo by David from Washington, DC
Wikimedia Commons


Reporter #1: Governor, Nebraska is the latest state to repeal capital punishment, now that the legislature has overridden your veto.  You’ve said you’re still going to go ahead and execute the ten people already on death row here.  None of the other eighteen states that have done away with capital punishment have executed anyone after their new law passed.  Why are you so hellbent on executing people? 

Governor: Look at it this way, Chet: if the state’s chief executive can’t execute, what’s the point?  

Reporter #2: Since 1973, there have been 143 prisoners on death row in the U.S. who were found to be innocent of the crime for which they were convicted.  Doesn’t that make you just a little uneasy?

Governor: Not at all, Danny.  I don’t second guess the justice system--just the legislature.  

Reporter #2: But obviously people who do second guess the justice system have found a lot of mistakes and wrongful convictions.

Governor: So be it.  Nobody likes a Monday-morning quarterback.

Reporter #3:  Almost all the prisoners on death row, here and around the country, are poor, uneducated, black, Hispanic, or some combination of those things, Governor.  Are you comfortable with the way income, education, and race seem to affect who gets the death penalty?

Governor: Not as long as I’m rich, educated, white, and a home-grown English speaker, Marcia.  (Has a second thought)  Don’t quote me on that.

Reporter #4: Governor, how do you explain all these legislators who voted to do away with the death penalty?  Most of them are well-off, educated, white, English-speaking conservatives, just like yourself.  But they opposed you on this capital punishment thing. They argued that the death penalty is horribly expensive, is ineffective as a deterrent, puts the lives of innocent people at risk, and gives government too much unnecessary power.

Governor: What you have to understand, Glen, is that we conservatives say we don’t like government spending, but the fact is we’ll pour money into things that matter.  (Delivers standard applause line)  And what matters the most is security: protecting the people of this great state and country from murderers at home and abroad.    

Reporter #3: But if you execute these ten people--or even one of them, as far as that goes--doesn’t that make you one of those murderers we need to protect ourselves against?

Governor: (Exasperated) Where do you people come up with ideas like that?  Executions aren’t murders, Marcia.  The first is legal and good, the other is illegal and evil.

Reporter #3: But as I understand it, Governor, the legislature just decided executions are not legal and not good.

Governor: That may be their opinion going forward, but it’s not retroactive.  

Reporter #2: Still, doesn’t it make sense that you’d honor the spirit of their decision?

Governor: They have their spirit; I have mine.  And as long as I’m the governor, mine’s the one that counts.  (Glances at his watch)  Okay, we’ve got time for one more question.  (Points to a reporter who has his hand up)  Larry?

Reporter #5: Speaking of spirit, Governor, you’re a Roman Catholic.  (Consults his notes)  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has opposed the death penalty for the last 38 years, saying that we can’t defend life by taking life.  The Catholic bishops here in Nebraska have issued a joint statement calling for the end of capital punishment.   And Pope Francis called on all men and women of good will to help abolish the death penalty in all of its forms.

Governor: So what’s your question, Larry?

© Tony Russell, 2015