An Excerpt from NEW INSTITUTES Chapter 1 America and Religion

America is, once again, at the very crossroads of her cultural being. While the nation aspires to worship a God who jealously forbids graven images, it slavishly serves an advertising culture conditioned by a panoply of sensuous visual idols. The clash between the exclusively auditory commands of a Hebraic God and the Greek primacy of visual imagery could not be greater. Just as the photograph of the blue marble of Earth from outer space unified environmentalism, the pro-Life movement would be unimaginable without visual images of the fetus. Without the assumption of monotheistic deontological commands, how could George W. Bush ever have become president? Caught in the mesh of these two vast machines, America seeks its identity even while it morphs beyond recognition.

By plunging headlong on a course of rapidly increasing technological change without regard for consequences, America risks religious apostasy, on the one hand, and betrayal of her sacred constitutive principles of equality and liberty, based on civil rights of man secured by positive law, on the other. Faced with mounting evidence of sheer human incapacity, rightwing “Christian” conservatives stridently insist that humans enjoy a boundless free will and condemn victims for their own disenfranchisement, without any sense of having abandoned a religious mission to intercede on behalf of “widows, orphans, and the poor.” The contrast between human inability and corporate empowerment is as stunning as that chasm between the resources and clout of most individuals and, say, Exxon Mobil or the Pentagon; yet most Americans seem oblivious to such distinctions. Do they really believe that the economic hegemony of capitalism or multinational corporations will look out for their interests? Do they believe that transnational corporations are an extension of the body of Christ, as Mother Church was once held to be?

Still worse: blithe acceptance of corporate capitalism’s economic orthodoxy—What’s good for Wall Street or Halliburton is good for the country—shows the extent to which these same Christian conservatives have embraced the very secularism that they so often superficially denounce. What boggles the mind is how a widespread public belief in the good will of multinational and transnational corporations goes hand in hand with abject political disillusionment, or the carte blanche granted to the corporate organization of the private sector with a pathological mistrust of “big government” and its ability to serve the public good. Betrayal of our sacred political principles by a majority of individual citizens represents a perilous abdication of moral and political responsibility, one that poses a dire threat to this Republic.


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