Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Koch brothers' day of reckoning

Many of you are aware of the political activity of Charles and David Koch, septuagenarian industrialists reportedly worth $62 billion between them. But if you're not, here's a short rundown: The American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-business lobby which essentially, and in some cases, literally wrote legislation. Americans for Prosperity, which ran a successful campaign to take down Van Jones, an aide to President Obama for environmental concerns. The "tea-party" movement, for which they contributed much of its financial infrastructure. In addition to all of these, they're involved in building the controversial Keystone XL pipeline -- from which Americans will not receive even one drop of oil -- potentially "buying" the business school at Florida State University and looking into purchases of large newspapers, most notably the Los Angeles Times. All of these to promote their staunchly conservative (read: aristocratic) ideological agenda. (Indeed, half of the Times staff has threatened to quit if the sale goes through, fearing a loss of journalistic independence.)

However, to my knowledge neither of these two ultra-rich men have never produced a credible testimony as to their faith in Jesus Christ. And that should trouble you, at least in part because in the absence of a true American aristocracy the businessman has become the "Christian ideal."

Two things that need to be considered: 1) When they go to meet their Maker, what will happen to all that money that they must leave behind? Of course by then they will no longer control it. 2) Do their present activities glorify Him, building His Kingdom of love, justice and "shalom?"

Far be it from me to say that folks who run businesses don't have a right to make a profit, but to use their financial heft for the sake of political power -- well, that's another thing entirely. What's worse is that much of the Church of Jesus Christ has allowed itself to be bought off; as a result we've lost the ability to speak truth to power; we can't effectively preach against the "love of money" and, more ominously, the power that comes with it. Let us not forget that the rise of the "religious right" in the 1980s was achieved with secular funding, which allowed us to address such cultural issues as abortion, homosexuality and prayer in public schools but never greed or economic exploitation. This is one reason that we have a hard time witnessing to such people -- we identify certain agendas as inherently Christian when they have absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His reconciling power.

On top of that, the world works only in a certain way. I saw a kind of poetic justice in Obama's reelection last year despite all the money the Kochs spent. (Part of that was funneled into some of the 501(c)(4) "public welfare" groups that were, but are not supposed to be, involved in the political process -- which the Internal Revenue Service was looking for last year and that has recently come to light.)

In the end, we will have have to answer to God for not only our relationship to Him but also for the resources that He gave us. All of us. Even the Koch brothers.