Do God and Business Mix?

I find myself wondering what happens to God if a businessman becomes president of the United States?

Herman Cain and Mitt Romney keep saying that a businessman needs to run the country. Romney, in his stint as governor of Massachusetts, has shown that even as a businessman,  he has some compassion for “the least of these.” People seem to matter to him, not just profit, at least from a distance.

Mr. Cain has no such record, but what I keep thinking is that the purpose of business is to make a profit, to use the people for the sake of making the profit. Some people will rise, some will fall, but business people really work for the preservation of “the bottom line.”

We, the United States, are in a financial mess, and we do need to fix it, and soon. But do business people factor God, and the will of God, into their daily operations and daily plans? Somehow, I do not think so.

When the Civil War began, Mayor Fernando Wood of New York City suggested that New York should  secede in solidarity with its southern brothers and sisters. South Carolina was talking secession, and Wood was ready to lead his northern city into the fray.

At the heart of Wood’s position was a concern not for the plight of the slaves of the South and their predicament, but, rather, the preservation of the financial and maritime industries of New York City.  Northern cities were becoming wealthy on the backs of slave labor; as cotton was picked, Southern landowners benefitted as did the textile industry.

In the North, immigrants suffered horrible working conditions as they worked the docks and in the textile industry.  Work was a precious commodity; immigrants resented free blacks as they competed for the same jobs, and when the Union issued a draft in 1863, these immigrants revolted. They were scrounging around, working in horrible conditions, and they were not about to support a war and fight in a war that was against slavery because they felt the slaves were not suffering any more than were they.

Meanwhile, the business people continued their concern with doing whatever they needed to do to bring in big dollars. The people who made it happen for them were not that big a concern. Business people also were able to keep their own children out of the army. “The least of these” were the sacrificial lambs.

Today, we have Romney saying that “corporations are people,” and Cain saying that a businessman needs to run the country. We have people saying that there are some businesses too big to fail, while “the least of these” are falling like flies all over the country. It’s not just the poor who are falling. It’s people who used to have good jobs, members of the quickly disappearing middle class, who are falling as well.

In many churches, the focus has shifted from prophecy to profit-making, from God to greed, with God being mentioned minimally at best, or in ways that support a gospel of prosperity. Where in the New Testament, or in the Hebrew scriptures, is such a disconnect with “the least of these” supported? Where does Yahweh, in the Hebrew scriptures, and Jesus in the New Testament show a Texas-sized concern for the proliferation of the rich at the expense of the poor and suffering?

Yes, it is true that the United States needs to get its deficit reduced, its spending redirected, its debt eliminated, but at what cost? Who is “allowed” to suffer? I am afraid that the basic businessman would find such a question absurd and maybe naïve.

A candid observation …

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