Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dear Lord, Let's Make A Deal

by Tom Bozzo

In its quest to be relevant for the 21st century, Time's cover headline asks, "Does God want you to be rich?" Well, if you need to ask that question, I'll happily arrange a series of counseling sessions at market-competitve prices. Better me than some dude who thought this was a good career move, know what I'm saying?

A more sober appraisal would regard this as yet more evidence that "intelligent design" theory is a crock. For if God did want us (viz.: humanity) to be rich, God made us remarkably bad at getting rich. When I was in D.C. a few weeks ago, my grad school friend who works for McKinsey asked me if I'd heard about the nine-figure quantity of Chinese and Indians who have, through the miracle of globalization, seen their incomes rise from $1/day to $2. While I wish the nascent Chinese and Indian middle classes well, this could serve as a reminder that the vast majority of the human population lives somewhere between routine and abject poverty — the person who assembled your iPod may work in the 21st century answer to the Satanic mills of the 19th, but s/he wasn't exactly yanked out of the Garden of Eden, either.

Even in the rich world, most people really aren't doing so hot. Recent research tries to suggest that middle-aged Americans have been, if anything, over-saving — but I'm not inclined to buy. The latest data suggest that the median pre-retirement boomer's financial assets will throw off just about enough income to fund the Medicare Part D donut hole, and indeed would be looking at a material living standard hit even assuming his/her home equity could be cheaply turned into an annuity, which is not actually possible. So there.

But we were talking about religion? Oh yeah. Now, the birth of Republican Jesus is not exactly news — it's in fact a key part of the c*cktease we call our ruling coalition: the alliance of the religious and corporate right wings. Certain academics who are not exactly beloved in conservative circles have, indeed, depicted the corporatist perversion of Christianity as a major problem of modern society.

This is fairly evident in a box that pits biblical verse against biblical verse in an attempt to answer the original question. Needless to say, the "No" side is well-represented with New Testament citations. The "Yes" side, resorting to Malachi on the OT front — not something you'll hear everyday in a Catholic Mass — strains even to cherry-pick something from the NT.

Here's what's offered:

Luke 6:38, verse beginning with, "Give, and it will be given to you."

In an extreme stretch, you could take this wildly out of context as approval of the marginal productivity theory of labor compensation. But significant elements of the Really Rich should be terrified at the prospect of being compensated according to their marginal products, let alone getting their charitableness (arts organizations don't count by this standard) reflected back at them.

If you think that was weak, try John 10:10, which says in significant part: "I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly."

Here, I am moved to utter one of Drek's favorite expletives (*). Really, does anyone with the least shred of Christian religious education not understand that the referenced abundance is spiritual? The Time research staff get 0/10 points for this one.

Evangelical capitalist friends, there is no getting past it: Jesus was, by modern standards, a raving socialist. Get rich if you're so inclined, but don't think anyone's blessing your business deals. Just look at Saint Kenny Boy.


(*) Yes, the linked image came up in a Google image search for "Drek."

Well, it's nice to know that Time is maintaining a high standard of journalism. What's next? "Does Osama bin Laden want YOU to adopt a puppy?"
This is just an update of John Elson's cover story from before you were born, Is God Dead?. (Elson's conclusion, of course, was Absolutely Not.)

If G-d wanted me to be rich, why did She invent tithing?
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