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Happy investing, Mr. President

Rich Mayfield

You don’t have to believe that the ancient story of the Garden of Eden is factually accurate to know that it is true. Our primeval myths don’t have to be historically verifiable to be right. One need only peek at the headlines during this discouraging summer to understand how accurately our religious predecessors predicted our current and sorry state of affairs. Forget economists’ analysis. Get me a theologian!

What our president has failed to apparently understand in his less than strenuous critique of ill-gotten corporate gains is that old, old story from Genesis. What we have here is not a unique circumstance but a common condition. What we have here is sin.

That’s right. Sin … with a capital “S”.

He can call it a crime or a lapse in judgment but we in the pews call it what it is: Original Sin. And whether we are Born-Again Baptists or Low-Octane Lutherans, whether we understand that tragic tale as literal fact or dramatic fantasy, we know the truth when we see it.

Why, I wonder, doesn’t he?

Doesn’t he remember from his childhood church-going days that humankind, when left to our own devices, will inevitably opt for the selfish way out. It’s our curse the good book says and, like it or not, it’s here to stay.

So why in the world would a good Christian boy like George W. think unfettered capitalism could possibly end up anywhere else but east of Eden? Surely he didn’t actually believe all his pre-election rhetoric? Certainly he knew that business without boundaries belies all that we learned in Sunday School?

What has happened at Enron and WorldCom is nothing more than an ancient story turned modern. In the distant past, our foreparents forged some pretty stringent rules for running not just a business, but society as well. These 10 laws were carved in stone, so the story goes, and the punishments for breaking them were a tad worse than being forced to sell your Aspen chalet.

There is a famous cartoon from The New Yorker that has a cat pulling a mouse in a wagon. The mouse’s mouse-friend is shouting, “For God’s sake, think! Why is he being so nice to you?” We are all motivated by self-interest and the sooner we remember what has been passed down for millennia the sooner we will find a way out of the moral abyss we in America have fallen into.

The reason ancient stories become sacred isn’t, I am convinced, because they drop down from the sky but rather rise up from the world. Our foremothers and forefathers learned from experience that left to our own devices we can get pretty devious.

As preventative they proposed a few propositions that forgotten lead to perdition. It was all quite dramatic and certainly has been used in terribly abusive ways but the truth of the teaching remains. We can’t do it on our own. We need help. Call it what you will, we need laws that recognize the truth of original sin and a government that will enforce them.

Never one to thump my Bible, I nevertheless humbly suggest our president open his.

These are perilous times and the sooner Mr. Bush remembers his catechism the better off we all will be.

Rich Mayfield is pastor of the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church and a regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.


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