Fears about the economy. Anger on the campaign trail. Which concerns you most? How should we respond?
1…..We should have a funeral for two dead false gods, the market and the American empire. (They died at the same time; in fact, they killed each other.) Then we should have a party to celebrate their deaths. Then?
2…..The more an idea becomes a successful operational ideology, the more its promoters believe in it, trust it, even come to worship it: the ideology morphs into a deity. When the false god fails, the deity is exposed as an idol and its worshipers as idolaters.
3…..”The God That Failed” is the title of many exposέs of economic idolatry. In 1949, Arthur Koestler (and others) produced the classic of this title, detailing the oncoming collapse of communism. / In 1991, it was the lead song in an album of this title (on the songwriter’s disappointment with Christian Science’s failure to save his mother’s life). / In 1999, in the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly, Harvey Cox wrote of “The Market as God,” unfettered capitalism’s commodification of creation, of which capitalists are owners (rather than, as in the Bible, stewards responsible to the Creator-Owner). Cox correctly perceived that the free market ideology had become an idolatry of infinite growth (“There is never enough.”). Ludwig von Mises’ Austrian School and Milton Friedman’s Chicago School successfully preached the now-shown-to-be-false gospel of unregulated capitalism as self-correcting: government, stay away. / In 2001, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, in his “Democracy: The God That Failed,” heightened free-market capitalism into a full-blown libertarian philosophy of “natural order.” Democracy is “worse than monarchy” in interfering with private property. / In 2008, Chris Floyd updated (10.13.08 “counterpunch”) the attack on the market as God: “The God That Failed: The 30-Year Lie of the Market Cult.” That false god is dead.
4…..The other dead false God is political. Hoppe used his economic false god against democracy, which itself became in American politics a false god. “Democracy,” as a quasi-sacred export, became the name of American imperialism, which now has been crippled by trillions of dollars of national debt (with more bail-outs to come).
5…..In the terms of the “On Faith” question, the first dead god’s legacy is “fears about the economy.” The second dead god’s legacy is “Anger on the campaign trail.” “How should we respond?” First, by self-examination as to how America came to worship those false gods. Second, by taking the double humiliation as an invitation to re-ask life’s fundamental questions as to what is real, what is true, what leads to hope instead of fear and to justice and peace instead of anger. Third, by a more serious and costly personal engagement in the common life of our communities/nation/world. America has experienced a number of “great awakenings.” It’s time for another.
6…..The former “great awakenings” were personal and societal re-appropriations of the Christian faith and experience, turning from the idols to God, who has come to the world in Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I of course would welcome another such. But as Americans in an increasingly pluralistic culture, we all – of whatever particular faith – can humbly seek a better way for our people and world on the basis of our shared, common vision and values.