Thursday, February 11, 2010

Economics of Babylon

(Contrast to Economics of Jesus post of December 7, 2009)

As Christians, we are aware that Zion is often juxtaposed with Babylon—the first denoting the “faithful of God,”1 the second, the “mother of harlots.” 2 It’s pretty graphic imagery.
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH (New Testament Revelation 17:5)

For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. (New Testament Revelation 18:3, emphasis added)
The latter-day Book of Mormon also sets forth the opposition:
And it came to pass that [the angel] said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil. And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people (Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 14:9-11, emphasis added).
With all the scriptural denunciations and warnings,3 it seems tragically myopic to me, WHY we have become so obsessed with the abuses and one-world agenda of socialism/communism and so cavalier about the excesses, abuses, and one-world agendas of Babylon—the whore of all the earth; the real nemesis—our corrupted capitalism.4

WHY do we denounce and soundbite all manner of “socialistic” schemas, while we romanticize, deregulate, and hype those of Babylon? Why do we continue to worship,5 at the altars of self-regulating supply and demand, global “free-markets,” and “invisible hand” loyalties when real-world dynamics debunks them all? Why in the name of prosperity and providence, do we pursue the “blessings” of increasingly unregulated finance capitalism that violate the divine fundamentals of faith, hope, and charity?

While we castigate the socialists, we frolic beneath the Trojan horse of Babylon.

Are we so blind we can’t discern a Screwtape6 substitution—a “socialist” danger God seems rather silent about, distracting from a greater one He decries in graphic language?7

What are the economic philosophies of Babylon? Are they not the same as that espoused by our corrupted capitalism? (The opposites of what God advocates?)
• Self-interest
• Survival of the fittest
• Primacy of efficiency and profit
• Competition as the genus of ingenuity, innovation, creativity, progress, profit
• Freedom from law and regulation to allow markets to self-adjust, self-regulate, and maximize profit; to be a law unto themselves8
• Grandiosity, pomp & ceremony, size, appearance, power, privileges
• You can buy (and justify) anything in this world for money.
And what does Babylon offer?
The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. (New Testament Revelation 18:12-13, emphasis added)

And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it. And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots. And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church. (Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 13:6-8)
Is Babylon, with all her “free-markets” talk, really so free of “detested” coercions?
• Ask the foreign and/or developing nations that have been forced into the “Washington Consensus” and other conditions in order to merit World Bank or IMF loans.
• Ask corporations who have sought market share in global markets.
• Ask businesses who have joined the race to the bottom in order to compete with unethical competitors. Ask their oppressed employees.
• Ask governments who have been pressured to bailout too-big-to-fail corporations.
• Ask taxpayers who bear the costs of corporate externalizing.
• Ask politicians and elected officials about lobbyists, campaign funding, election and re-election “necessities.”
• Ask dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens; but DON’T ask concurring Chief Justice John Glover Roberts and company who don’t seem to have a clue9 that “free to,” in this case, means free to dominate, dictate, suppress, oppress, propagandize, monopolize, chill others speech, etc.10 (Citizens United)
• Ask Google about her venture into China.
• Ask John the Revelator: “And he [a beast of Babylon] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (New Testament Revelation 13:16-17, emphasis added)
What does God say about finance capital in His kingdom?
For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. (Old Testament Isaiah 52:3, emphasis added)

HO, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Old Testament Isaiah 55:1, emphasis added; see also Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 9:50 - 51)

Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price. (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 26:25, emphasis added)
And what does God say about the future of Babylon?
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. (Old Testament Isaiah 13:19)

Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD's vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence. Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD's hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. 8 Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed. We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies. (Old Testament Jeremiah 51:6-9)

Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: (New Testament Revelation 18:8-10)
As Christians, we should be aware that the end of times portends a great and dreadful day of justice and judgment—a day when Babylon falls. So why are we so persistent in, not just turning a blind eye to, but participating in and promoting her corruptions, excesses, follies, and falsehoods?

When are we going to grasp that freedom is not to be without law or regulation? It is to be ringed and bounded by just and equitable laws that protect the dignity of all people from the natural man’s11 drive to power and wealth through exploitation and plunder. That has been the forever déjà vu of history. But in our time, when the natural man aggregates into a collective of other “naturals” (and into a legalized fiction,12) all devoted to bottom-line profit and the disintegration of accountability and connectedness, the recipe is perfect for maximized abomination and a proliferation of harlots. Graphic imagery, yes—over two thousand years old.

Knowing that Babylon is our greatest nemesis, why then do we not, in the words of Jeremiah, put forth every effort to heal her13—our corrupted capitalism—beginning with our own conduct and continuing as far as our influence can reach?14

1. In my view, the faithful of God are those who choose Him and seek to live according to the light they have been given; good people found amongst all nations, kindreds, tongues, and creeds. This does not mean we will not have to adjust our thoughts and actions to greater light when it is received; it means we are seeking to do the best we can with what we have been given and with where we are at.
2. And when the day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil, then, at that day, the work of the Father shall commence, in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel (Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 14:17); Suggested reading: New Testament Revelation 18:2-24
3. Reward [Babylon] even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: (New Testament Revelation 18:6-11)
4. Yes, I am equating the present state of corrupted capitalism with Babylon. The principled concept of capitalism, in my view, is where one envisions one’s own prosperity and excess as a resource for another’s needed capital—a voluntary commitment to a “neighbor’s” hopes and to the common good. Instead, our present system has devolved into a twisted contest of unfettered power, maximized profit, unabashed arrogance, and “justified” usury, where freedom is defined as being without law or regulation and where self-focused individualists claim/demand the right to be trusted to be a law unto themselves and that their devotion to self-interest (“Trust ME”) will devolve to the common good.
5. Free-market ideology often presents itself in religious-type language and zeal. How often do our laissez-faire, libertarian ideologues manifest greater faith in markets and finance capital than in their God? Listen to the foremost advocates. Look at the edifices—often built in likeness to cathedrals and temples. Witness the justice, equity, fairness, and integrity of business practices?!
6. Strategies advocated by a senior assistant devil, Screwtape, from The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis.
7. God seems singularly unconcerned with what the poor allegedly do to the rich and far more concerned with what the rich do to the poor. (See Oct. 9, 2009 blog posting “To those afflicted with riches.”)
8. They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. (Doctrine and Covenants Section 1:16)
9. Or alternately, too much of a clue!
11. For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Book of Mormon Mosiah 3:19)
12. Is there any better description for a systemic legal fiction than: “...the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” New Testament Revelation 17:8)
13. Old Testament Jeremiah 51:8-9
14. There are many books to help inform oneself about ways to attempt healing our broken system. Perhaps try William Greider's One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism