Monday, April 19, 2010

Wisteria and Wall Street - I

Wisteria Tree A
The Apostle John writes:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will God lives forever. 1 John 2:15 – 17.

When I was a young Christian I was with a church that thought of the “world” exclusively in terms of outward image and display and certain actions. The way people looked and dressed was vital. Whether folks drank alcohol or smoked or used swear words was critical. These were signs that you either were or weren’t a Christian. Things were oriented to the external and little was said about the heart or about the thought-life.

The other end of the pendulum is that the outward doesn’t matter one wit, that you can do and say anything you like but that at the end of the day it’s your motive and heart that matter. Both approaches – as old as philosophy and religion, miss a number of points which I’ll forgo in order to narrow my thoughts to wisteria and image and deceit and our society – especially in the midst of economic depression and uncertainty. 

There is a connection between the inward and outward, that’s why there is Madison Avenue – create images for the consumer to desire, to lust after; create images for the consumer to give himself to in the form of money and lifestyle.

But in addition to Madison Avenue we have not an avenue but a street, a street that has a history older than Madison Avenue’s, a street that creates its own images and provides its own rationales for lust and desire – Wall Street.

Wall Street radiates images of wealth, power, control, prestige; it radiates images of an “in-crowd” that those in the know should desire to join.

Wall Street has crashed and burned to varying degrees throughout our history. It occurs in every generation to some extent. I recently read an early 20th century sermon in which the speaker made the same point, proving once again, as Solomon wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Every country has its Wall Street; it is as old as fallen humanity.

In Revelation Chapters 17 and 18 we have either two Babylons portrayed or one Babylon with two distinct elements to it – John saw an entity (or two entities) characterized by 1) spiritual promiscuity and 2) economic promiscuity. Or, if I may be so blunt as to use Biblical imagery, John saw a whore (or two whores) who traffics in religion and economics.

In Revelation Chapter 13 we see that a primary characteristic of the Beast is economic control (Rev. 13:16 – 18).

Economics is a distinctive thread in Revelation. It is even more so if we consider that early Christians were economically persecuted if they were members of guilds, for members of guilds were required to participate in pagan ceremonies in honor of the particular guild’s idol-patron – and failure to participate led to revocation of membership, which usually led to the inability to practice one’s trade.

So again, as I wondered in a previous post, where has been the voice of the North American church in the midst of our collective greedy and lustful pursuit of wealth? Where have our warnings been to those who have pursued wealth the way others pursue sex or drugs? How have we taught Christians about the relationship between the Cross and wealth? We lament the prevalence of pornographic addiction within our churches, but do we lament preoccupation with the promiscuous pursuit of wealth? If not, is it because one can’t tithe pornography but one can give to the church a portion of one’s money?

More to come on this…

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