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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Externalizing Evil Enables Evil

On Friday, May 1, there will be another May Day get together at Union Square in New York City (click here for flyer). Except in the United States, May Day is known as Labor Day and it is a day to celebrate the contributions which workers make to all of our lives. Unfortunately, workers are being more commodified and less celebrated today as the world becomes more enslaved than usual by the love of money. Trade agreements along with sold out democracies have allowed the wealthy to exploit a growing number of workers during the past several years. 

Karl Marx explained how labor becomes a commodity in the Capitalist economic system. As people provide their labor for a set financial compensation only, such as with a wage, their work is being paid for in a similar enough way that raw materials and resources are being purchased. And we know what can happen when the same raw materials can be procured elsewhere at a lower price. Thus, old workers are often discarded and the new ones become employed. That means that workers are always in a tenuous state of employment and are considered to be disposable objects of profit. And as today's globalization expands the labor market, today's workers often lose their jobs to other workers as a way and this maximizes profits for business owners. Here business owners can refer to the people who own their own companies. But business owners can also refer to those who buy stocks for the sole purpose getting the greatest ROI.

So with the new globalization, we often see workers being displaced as new workers take their place. And we also see workers who migrate, are trafficked, are enslaved, work for poverty wages, or work in sweatshop conditions. Here, when it is said we see this, it isn't really us who see it, it those workers who are exploited who do. And one of the horrific and disillusioning failures of the conservative churches in America is that, for the most part, they not only keep silent, they provide spiritual havens for those who are a part of the economic machine that exploits labor. The silence of these churches on this matter shows how they themselves are sold out to the love of money. For they dare not offend members regarding the sins of our economic system.

And so the speeches one will hear at a May Day celebration, such as the one I will be attending in NYC, will often be loud and sound angry. Such speeches will turnoff many in the pampered Middle Class because those in the Middle Class live too comfortably to want to listen to anything that does not sound "nice" and soothing. 

But there is another problem here and it will be shared by all who will be participating. The problem is that those in business and government who profit from and thus support the exploitation in our economic system aren't the only ones who practice injustice; we all do too. We may do that in small ways on an individual basis, but we have all practiced injustice against others. We have all compromised standards for expediency. And thus we must be careful about how we want justice to be served. Do we want justice so that those who are oppressing and exploiting others are swiftly punished, or do we want justice by way of ending the oppression and exploitation? And along with this, do we want to punish those who are oppressing and exploiting others, or do we want our opponents to cross the line and join our side?

The advantage in focusing on the sins of others, such as what will happen during many of the speeches on May Day, is that we can lose sight of our own sins. We've seen this principle conveniently used by those seeking power in revolutionary movements. For all that some had to do during the French and Russian Revolutions was to assert that one's intramural rivals were really counter-revolutionary and it was off with their heads, the rivals' heads that is. And this could be done because of the binary worldview employed by many in the revolutions. To the revolutionaries, they were good and their opponents were evil. Thus, to be a counter-revolutionary was to be guilty and worthy of death. And we should note that many counter-revoluionaries also embraced their own version of a binary worldview. 

During the speeches, the concept, if not the word, amnesty will be promoted and cheered. There is a valid reason for supporting amnesty: no person's existence should be counted as being illegal. And what amnesty would do would be to discount the illegal entering of the country so that the person entering could legally stay. Amnesty here would release a person from the law's demands.

Jesus taught a form of amnesty. One example where He did this was in the Lord's prayer. It is found in the line that speaks of forgiveness (click here and see verse 12):
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Here, Jesus is getting at a universal truth about people: that we all need forgiveness and that how we regard and treat each other should reflect that universal need. It is that universal need that those conservatives, who are adamantly against amnesty for "illegal immigrants," should reconsider their opposition to amnesty. But this universal need for forgiveness also speaks to us who angrily challenge those with wealth and power. Instead of looking to punish them, we should challenge them by granting them an amnesty for past wrongs. And the point of doing so would be that it is preferable to win people over than to have to conquer them. This is especially true when the differences between us are smaller than we would guess. For it is in our attempts to conquer others, especially done for some righteous cause, that we give ourselves permission to practice evil of which we claimed to be incapable. All of that is what we've seen in revolutions past.

Yes, we need to work for social justice. But we need to do so as fellow sinners, not as moral superiors, to those whom we are protesting. Otherwise, we will overlook the sins from our past and excuse our present and future sins. 

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