Posted on August 22nd, 2011 | Filed under Featured, Social Issues, Theology
Tagged with creator, Enriched, Harper Simon, image of God, imago dei, Impoverished, job-creators, Money, Paul Simon, Warren Buffett, worship
Harper Simon, son of Paul Simon and inheritor of a voice with breathtaking semblance to his dad’s, sings us a hymn at the beginning of his beautiful self-titled collection of songs:
“No, I never did believe / That I ever would be saved /Without giving my all to God… / So I freely give my whole / My body and my soul / To the good Lord /Amen.”
Giving all to God, means worshipping God. So, yes. Let us give our all to God. But let’s be careful who that God we worship is. Let’s be careful to whom we are giving our all.
I have long been mystified by the dynamic by which the impoverished defend the enriched (Is it self-loathing? Is it a kind of Stockholm syndrome?). But, I am mystified no longer. The defense is a kind of worship. It is almost as if the defense of the enriched has bought in to the lie that the mega-rich are ‘job-creators.’ And what is due to the Creator if not worship? You see, theology matters. How we answer the question, Who is God? matters.
In a culture, like ours, where money is worshipped, I find it makes perfect sense that the possessors of money are likewise worshipped. Think they’re not? In Minnesota, obnoxiously-and-offensively-enriched persons pay a lower tax rate than relatively impoverished persons. And, of course, we are aware of Warrren Buffet’s August 14, 2011 plea in the New York Times to policy makers in Washington DC to “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich” who enjoy cozy relations with “friends in high places.”
Before proceeding, let me suggest that we need to change the way we talk. Buffett says, “Super-Rich,” but he should say, “Super-Enriched.” It seems to me that there are no such things as “the rich” and “the poor.” Those are not cosmological categories; they are not forces of nature. In fact, there are only “the enriched” and “the impoverished.” Wealth is withheld from some by others who do the withholding. What is undoubtedly on the increase is the concentration of wealth into the hands of the few; the enrichment of the few—and this is done by the active impoverishment of others. And let’s be clear: when a scant 400 people have accumulated wealth equal to the wealth of 150,000,000 people (i.e. half of the population of the US), as has happened in the United States, almost all of us are impoverished by the enriched. And we continue to give our all to them.
Now, if God amounts to nothing but the richest being—i.e. the being whose sole possession is only everything—and we live as if we humans are created in the image of that God (Gen 1:26, etc), then it is only logical to deduce that the most enriched person is the most reflective of the being of God. The imitation of the God who is the ultimate owner, the ultimate accumulator, the ultimate possessor requires the person to own, accumulate, and possess. By this dynamism, those who are bereft of owning, accumulating, and possessing are less God-like, less images and likenesses of God.
So, do you think that God is a really-really-, super-, mega-, über- (add your favorite superlativist prefix here) rich being in the sky? Even if you say you don’t, I challenge you to question a little deeper. If your tax and political ideology effectively worship the rich, by giving all to them (and, incidentally, if you are among the enriched, and think that’s just fine, that would mean that you feel ‘entitled’ to have it all given to you)—as Harper Simon reminds us we are encouraged to give our all to God— then I think you really do worship money, you really do worship the enriched persons who by their actions impoverish the rest of us.
I’m not saying we should all get greedy. I’m saying we should all be mindful where our treasure is, where our heart is. It is time to dethrone the enriched—which means stop sacrificing to them, stop worshipping them. And it is time to re-imagine God and re-image ourselves not as accumulators, owners and possessors—but rather as incarnations of love, reflectors of love, images of love, because God really is love.
And together, we’ll become a new creation of love.
Paul Joseph Greene is attending the second year of his doctoral program, seeking a Ph.D. in systematic theology at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota. "Let's talk interreligiously about liberation, identity, power, privilege, creative transformation, process, politics, and Glee! And by virtue of our relationship, let's become a new creation together." Paul was selected as one of three Outstanding Contributing Scholars to speak at State of Formation's workshop held at the 2013 American Academy of Religion.