If you buy capitalist folklore, life is all about self-interest.  Business is about self-interest in the shopping mall.  Elections are about self-interest in the voting booth. All this self-interest, according to current economic wisdom, is what makes our brand of capitalism great. In fact, if we’d left well enough alone, Donald Trump would not need to make America Great Again.

Truth be told however, we have a penchant for letting advertisers tell us what our self-interest is while shopping, and allowing politicians to decide our self-interest when we vote. Would that we actually were in touch with our real self-interest when we did either.

The white working class just bet their whole enchilada on a billionaire business man with a known history of balancing his books on the backs of workers; outsourcing work overseas; refusing to pay his fair share of taxes for common use items such as roads and railways, bridges, clean water and the like; and  demonstrating an inability to tell the truth when a lie will do.  It would be hard to find someone who more clearly made his fortune via the economic system that drove the white working class to its knees.  And their vote may well have sealed their fate.  According to economist Paul Krugman, four to five million of the white working class will loose their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act  is repealed.

The fact that  they supported Trump when he was clearly raising their rage without any plan to raise their wages, scamming them for his own gain, speaks to the depth of their despair. Powerlessness can makes rage feel like success. Hatred of their imagined usurpers –  Black, Brown, Muslim or Mexican- may have replaced for awhile, the desperation of life at the bottom but it will not change the economic system that dragged them there.

In return, Trump offers the collapsed working class binders full of billionaires. More binders than Mitt Romney filled with women. Men like Wilbur Ross, nominated for Commerce Secretary, known for saving companies by cutting jobs and benefits. Ross headed up Sago Mine’s parent conglomerate, International Coal Group, when the mine collapsed in 2006, killing 12.  Men like Steven Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary, known as the “foreclosure king,” for his role in evicting thousands of homeowners during the financial crises. And Andy Puzder, fast-food top executive, nominated for labor secretary, a man not taken with regulations or raises.

To a person, Trump’s cabinet nominees claim an entitlement to limitless economic gain before those at the bottom have a right to anything. This is the same approach taken by the free trade agreements Trump spent his white working class speeches condemning. And he was correct.  While his audience lost their access to basic needs during globalization and the free trade boom, those at the top, including Trump, profited relentlessly.

Under Trump, something akin to trickle down economics on steroids will boost the vast inequality in income and wealth which undid the working class to begin with. And who will be there this time when rage erupts at the bottom?  Why all the military generals Trump is nominating to other cabinet and White House posts.  Binders full of them.


Some suggest a wait and see attitude. “Give Trump a chance,” they say although Trump has already  encouraged violent scapegoating of others for his own gain. We’ve seen this before. And it does not improve when given a chance. It grows, metastasizes, sets one against another and eventually kills. No, I do not want to give this a chance.

Still, amidst the swirling fog and fear, there is no clear path to what faithful resistance might look like. For clarity to come, we need to first give ourselves a chance — to heal our own negativity so it can become creativity and anchor us for whatever comes next.

Speaking of fog and fear, I believe scripture sets before us a scene where God comes forth, precisely from the whirlwind, to remind our forbearer Job, “I’ve got your back.” (Job 38: 1) So, I also want to give God a chance. Whatever my involvements, I want to watch how the Holy uses Trump to further the evolution of love in the world. Grant it, it seems an impossibility, but I’ve seen enough to know that even in the midst of the sickest of human thought and action, the redemptive power of God is not stopped.  Rather, it is where we get our cues about effective and timely resistance to the death dealing around us.

Let’s heal, watch for God, and enter the flow. Let’s be alert to what  is needed, what we can offer, and prepare ourselves to offer it.  It may be lobbying, group study, street protest, intervening in racial, religious, or ethnic conflict, accompanying those who are frightened, walking with someone into heightened political action, or many other things. Today’s sermon in the small UCC church I attend asked how our congregation might literally stand with congregations likely to be targets of racial and religious violence.

Let us pray to be where we are needed and, as the Black Lives Matter movement counsels us, let us “Stay Woke.”

According to The Book of Deuteronomy, idolatry ends in self-destruction. Deuteronomy has been heavy on my mind these days in the aftermath of the debt ceiling/deficit debacle.

American Christianity has always had a theocratic thread of belief that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. But we are way beyond that now. Listen to the deficit hawks and the up and coming Republican Presidential candidates out doing each other in claiming divine status for the Market and its laws, as if the Market is God’s way of being in the world. Thus will the blood-brain barrier between church and state be breached, not by law or edict, but by economics itself masquerading as faith; God-made-mammon.

So let me sin a little here, let me risk a heresy. The God of the Judeo-Christian scriptures warns against the wealthy and their ways of centralizing ownership and the power it gives them, (Amos, Micah) On the other hand, this same God repeatedly favors those the wealthy would disregard, discard, or otherwise generally dis: the poor, the widow, the orphan, the alien, the sinners – really there is room here for all of us. The homeless, the foreclosed, the unemployed, the sick. (Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus) We find these same folks in the Christian Testament too and the Powers still dismissing them as not worth the investment. But it gets really testy in the Gospels. These are the folks Jesus moves in with. Forget the sound bytes and read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus opts for the underside. He’d even have us do civil disobedience in court rather than cave to economic oppression. (Matt 5: 40-41)

You simply can’t get from the God of Moses and Jesus to the God of the Free Market without first detouring through hell. Which is exactly what happens with idolatry.  We take what is good, make it a God, turn heaven into hell, and destroy ourselves in the

If you think the current debt ceiling and deficit debates are about economics, you’re wrong. They are not even primarily about politics. We’re debating theology and if we don’t get straight whose God is pulling the deficit and debt ceiling strings, there’ll be hell to pay later on.

Official Protestant and Catholic voices for economic justice are nearly mute these days. That narrows the theological playing field. The Tea Party coalition is present and participating with their conflated cultural and religious preferences. God may be a Cut, Cap and Balance believer, but if their man, Congressman Paul Ryan, Chair of the House Budget Committee has his way, Ayn Rand will trump Jesus.

Then there is The Family, quieter and more subtle, a kind of elite fundamentalist sect, under one name or another it has been gathering the powers for prayer since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Their network of prayer cells in the capital and pentagon is now larger than most main-stream U.S dioceses and includes Members of Congress, Senators, business leaders foreign and domestic, judges, foreign potentates.  They share prayer around an understanding of Christ which, among other things, equates free markets with God’s will.  And here we are at the heart of the debate now clothed in debates over deficits and debt ceilings.

The Family’s founding dogma holds that the Great Depression – and really all the economic woes of the poor – are punishments from God for economic sins, like union organizing. Founder Abraham Vereide had a vision of God in the likeness of James Augustine Farrell, head of US steel. It was God, looking just like Farrell, who revealed that economic suffering was the result of the poor’s prideful disobedience. Then God gave Abraham a second revelation: those with wealth and power are God’s chosen. It is they who arrange for what is needed by those who accept Jesus.  I am not sure at what point Vereide learned that God was a free marketer. Maybe it was just obvious all along.

Let’s review the resulting theological points which we are now debating under cover of debt ceiling and deficit: 1) Poverty has been the fault of the poor ever since they started trying to organize; 2) The wealthy are the elect of God, privilege is due. It is their role to organize a society dedicated to Jesus; 3) God has ordained a free market economy which God’s invisible hand upholds; and thus, 4) Government and its regulations are unGodly. Christ will save America, not government regulation, not government at all.

Did I forget to say, The Family also organizes the annual National Prayer Breakfast?

   Whatever it was that President Obama tried to do by putting Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security on the chopping block as part of the debt ceiling talks, he succeeded in laying bare for all but the most fog-bound, John Boehner’s loyalties. While Boehner feigned amazement at Obama suggesting, “massive tax hikes in the middle of a jobs crises,” the fog has flown on Boehner-speak. The code is broken. None
of the loop holes, subsidies and tax breaks Obama wanted to close as part of his “grand bargain” touched middle class taxes, or even their close kin on up the economic ladder.

Obama focused the revenue side of his plan at the levels where wealth and profit are most concentrated. It seems logical. You can draw a straight line from this sector to the collapse of the American economy in 2008, something you cannot do between lets say Medicare recipients and the collapse. And, along with our wars which have also been lucrative for the top-tier, the collapse is largely responsible for the national debt. While this sector of the American economy has benefitted from years of tax relief, tax avoidance and tax subsidies, as employers they have largely abandoned the American worker. From those they do employ, higher production is demanded at scaled-back salaries.

And as far as raising taxes being a job killer, the fog has flown here too. The assertion
that  low business taxes translates into greater hiring was disproved during both the Clinton Administration, when business taxes were increased and hiring did not falter, and the last Bush Administration, when taxes were not increased and neither was  hiring. So much fog. So few taxes.

Since the collapse, and without the scapegoat of increased taxes, the corporate sector has generally refused to hire, keeping unemployment and thus the economy from rebounding. But when Obama says it is time for shared sacrifice, Boehner says no, no not yet, not for my Corporations; my handlers must remain competitive – you know, so they can create jobs. American corporations have rebounded and then some since
the collapse, stored their wealth overseas, and not hired. The issue here is
not competitiveness but compensation. Before hiring, they need a safety net for
their investors. Competitiveness means, for example, ensuring CEOs their grand
bonuses so no one will flee to another company. At what cost to American
society?  For Boehner that does not appear to be a question. And so the idea of tampering with oil subsidies, private jet subsidies, corporate tax loop holes, and on and on ad nauseam, was just too much for Boehner.  It trumped – as it always has – his concern over the debt crises and unemployment, and now the debt ceiling.

“I am opposed to all forms of [market] control.  I am for an absolute, laize faire, free, economy.  I am challenging the moral code of altruism.  Let me put it briefly.  I am for the separation of state and economics.” Ayn Rand in an interview with Mike Wallace.