Sunday, August 12, 2012

Showdown on Wall Street: God vs Greed

Speaking out Against the Baals

The prophet Elijah had Moxie. Moxie is a soft drink that was popular in the Boston area for a time especially in the 40's when Ted Williams endorsed the tonic tasting soft drink. Hence the generic word for Soda and Pop is the Boston area is Tonic to old timers like me. Ted Williams had Moxie when it came to the Boston Press.

Elijah had plenty of Moxie. He took on Ahab and Jezabel and in one unforgettable scene at Mount Carmel. There was a confrontation between the lone prophet and all the powers and principalities of his time. They had turned their back on God and had turned to the Baals for worship and service. The corruption and violence in the land was disquieting to God and to his servant Elijah, and Elijah alone was left. He against the 450 prophets of Baal were no match until that one day. 

Elijah went among the people and asked them to make a choice; if God is God then follow God. If the Baals are gods then follow them. The people were afraid to answer. So then Elijah gathered the people to him and promised that God would indeed reveal God’s power on the mountain. So the people gathered as did all the prophets of Baal. And then Elijah put it to them all this way. You folks, take a bull and cut it into pieces and put it up on a bed of wood but lay no fire to it and I will do the same. You then call upon the Baals and ask them if they can set the sacrifice to fire or not and I will do the same. We then will know whether God is God or whether Baal is god.

The prophets of Baal called on their gods all morning long until the noon day sun but there was only silence. So Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal by saying that perhaps he is musing, or that he has gone on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened. The prophets then went on raving all day long but alas no one answered. 

Come near to me now Elijah said to the people, and when they did he repaired the altar and set twelve stones about the altar each according to the number of the tribes of Israel. He placed the wood in order and the cut up the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood and then he told the people; “Take four jars of water and drench the bull”. They did so. Then he called on them to do so a second time and so they did. Yet again, he called upon the people to drench the bull yet again the third time and this they did. 

So then Elijah prayed to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel and to show to the people that God is indeed God. You know what happened then. The fire indeed did rain down upon the offering. And then the prophets of Baal met an unpleasant end.

The moment did not resolve much with the Powers and Principalities, mind you. When Ahab told Jezabel what had happened, she swore that the next day would not come and go before the same unpleasantness would come upon our friend Elijah. Thus we meet him in today’s lesson, afraid under a broom tree and asking God that he might be allowed to die. 

An angel touched him and told him to arise and eat of the bread of those very angels. They told him to drink because the journey ahead was a long one. And so on the strength of that bread and that jar of water, he went on we’re told for 40 days until he came to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, the same place that God revealed the Law to Moses. The Law and the Prophets thus came together under the authority of God.

We may think of these as fanciful stories unless we think through the metaphors. The Baals of today are not a bunch of Bedouin nomads, but are more likely the sort of banking and finance traders that would make the hucksters in all the annals of chicanery blush. 

What were once the most trusted names in banking and finance; Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, AIG, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and so on, so contorted the mortgage industry that when the housing bubble burst, so many Americans found themselves upside down on their mortgages, and these very bankers then went on to foreclose on those very same mortgages leaving millions of our countrymen without their most basic of American Dreams. That was in 2008. 

The markets took a dive and our Pension Funds and our life time savings took a hard hit. And we sit by as does our government, like a deer in the headlamps. The Baals of our time pocket their billions since they bet their options on the losses. They continue to bet on the worst for Greece, Spain and Italy. And as nations fall to their economic distress, they make money hand over fist.  It was the Bankers that played it fast and loose such that they really were at the heart of the S&L Scandals of the 80's, the Market Crash of 2008 and most recently the Libor scandal in London.

Interestingly enough, whether the markets go up or down, whether national economies prosper or collapse the traders and bankers are somehow always making money. And Greed knows no bounds. Who said we have no Baals to worship today?

As if that weren’t bad enough, this year the banking scandals merely got worse, now in London as the greed migrates across the pond to the World Capital of Greed. Now enter Barclays Bank and the LIBOR scandal; The London Interbank Offered Rate, or that interest rate that is set around noonday Greenwich Mean Time, by a tiny group of manipulative and shady characters. There are scores of books now to read to help us understand these amazingly creative and sophisticated financial strategies and techniques. But the long and short of it, is that they are robbing us blind. Bloomberg News recently observed; “The scandal over the manipulation of Libor has the potential to become on the most costly and consequential in the history of banking”.

To add insult to injury, the TARP funds that we took from our tax dollars to save their skins were merely a transfer of wealth from the Middle Class the the Super Rich. They refused to invest or loan out to American Businesses. Instead they kept the money so that they could steal more!

Let the word go out from this place: We're on to you!

No one has been prosecuted. No one has been convicted. No one has gone to jail. Billions and billions and billions of dollars, our dollars, have gone missing. No one is prosecuted. All the CEO’s are shocked that their underlings would do such things. They feign sorrow, and crocodile like they shed their tears at all too polite Congressional Hearing and it all makes me want to scream. 

Any kid that takes a few bucks from a Wawa or a 7/11 has to serve time. These folks count their billions and get off Scott free. Of all the books that go on to describe the looting of the S&L Industry and analyze the crash of 2008 and now the Libor scandal, my favorite title so far is; "The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One". The last ones we ended up jailing were the folks from Enron and Bernie Madoff. This crop of Robber Barons make Bernie look like a petty crook.

Showdown on Wall Street

If I had the power to do so, I’d call on America to make a choice between the way of honesty integrity and accountability (aka the Way of God) or the way of Greed, unregulated, unhampered, unbridled Greed. 

I may not have the power to do so, but I sure have the Moxie! Any President; Democrat or Republican may have that power but not so likely to have the Moxie!

If it were up to me I’d summon all the CEO’s of these Banks and Financial institutions and force them to OCCUPY WALL STREET. I'd give them the whole day long to call on the Bronze Bull they pray to, the Billions and Billions they worship and see if that Bull or those Billions can waken from sleep long enough to explain why these modern prophets of Baal should not spend the rest of their natural days in prison for Grand Larceny, Fraud and Theft. I suspect the Bull would remain silent.

At the end of the day, if they were unable to make the Bull talk, I’d lock them up and throw away the key. 

Mind you the Powers and Principalities are still very much alive. They are unlikely to lie down and play dead. They will unleash their fury with new corruption and new violence. They will unleash their power many fold more upon those of us who insist on what we thought the Banks stood for in the first place; Honesty, Integrity, and Accountability.

Alas, we sit under our broom trees, perhaps cowering before their power. I might ask God to just let me alone and die. But the Angels will have none of that. They will waken me from slumber. Oh God, how I'd like to see us waken from slumber! The Angles will point to the Altar of God. They will tell me to eat and drink from the Body and the Blood of Jesus, because the journey ahead is a long one. And so since I find, oh well, I’m still alive, and since that loaf of bread is a savory one, one of the favorites of the Bedoin nomads for millennia, by the way, I too will journey on with God. 

The Baals and the Billions are not like the Bread of Heaven spoken of in today's Gospel lesson. Their bread they keep to themselves. The Bread of Jesus feeds the multitudes. It will not satisfy me if I amass all the wealth in the world and my neighbor starves. Not at all. Jesus is the Bread of Heaven and whoever feeds on the life he gives us will live forever. "Feed my sheep", the savior said. Even if there’s only five loaves and two fish, I will not feast until all the others are fed first. Notice that the Apostle Paul got it exactly right in today's lesson"Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy." 

What a novel idea! Work honestly with your own hands so you have something to share with the needy. Whatever happened to this kind and compassionate ethic?

The Baals have much to learn about Jesus. The Nation must choose between God and the Baals. I’m hankering for our showdown on Wall Street.

A blessing on all!

Fr. Paul


Anonymous said...

Sadly I don't trust any politician to right this disgusting wrong. :l

"Fr. Paul" Bresnahan said...

Sadly you cynicism is justified Anonymous. Tim Geitner knows what is going on and somehow it goes on. Nobody is prosecuted. The Attorney General and Justice Department is SILENT!!! Obama has the CEO of GE as Chief Economic Adviser and still our jobs go overseas and GE pays NO taxes. AND Romney/Ryan will even be mores in their pockets. But I can dream of a day when there will be a showdown. Poor deluded soul that I am.