Published on March 3rd, 2010 | by Harmonist staff4
The Great Recession is not just an economic crisis, it is the result of a loss of values, a moral crisis. And to say that it is a moral crisis is also to say that it is a spiritual crisis. At the center of most religions is the question of who and what we worship? Where is our deepest allegiance?
So the Great Recession bears some “religious” reflection, as the market has gradually become all pervasive–a replacement for religion and even for God. It is the Market now that now seems to have all the godlike qualities–all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, even eternal–unable to be resisted or even questioned. Performing necessary roles and providing important goods and services are not the same things as commanding ultimate allegiance. Idolatry means that something has taken the place of God. The market can be good thing and even necessary; but it now commands too much, claims ultimate significance, controls too much space in our lives, and has gone far beyond its proper limits.
Idolatry comes in a lot of different forms. Today, it is much more subtle than bowing down to a golden calf. It often takes the form of choosing the wrong priorities, trusting in the wrong things, and putting our confidence where it does not belong.
Today, instead of statues, we now have hedge funds, mortgage-backed securities, 401(k)s, and mutual funds and, for some, bonuses. We place blind faith in the hope that the stock indexes will just keep rising and real estate prices keep climbing. Market mechanisms were supposed to distribute risk so well that even those who were reckless would never see the consequences of their actions. Trust, security, and hope in the future were all as close to us as the nearest financial planner’s office. Life and the world around us could all be explained with just the right market lens. These idols were supposed to make us happy and secure, and provide for all our needs. Those who manage them became the leaders, to whom we looked, not just for financial leadership, but direction for our entire lives. That is indeed idolatry.
Rich and poor alike were sucked into making heroes out of those who seemed to be able to turn everything they touched into gold. Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel lost virtually all of his personal wealth and his foundation’s, up to $37 million, to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. “We gave him everything, we thought he was God, we trusted everything in his hands,” Weisel said.
The market even has its priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, and shamans. These money and market commentators translate the often confusing signals of the Dow, international currency exchange rates, or futures indexes and tell us all what they mean and how they should act as a result. Sometimes they preach famine and the retribution of the market for the sins of the people, and other times they praise the market and the feast it provides. Those who question the market “god” are called heretics and lunatics and are burned at the stake on conservative talk radio.
In claiming the power to define what is real and true, and bowing to no limits beyond itself, the market now claims “a comprehensive wisdom that in the past only the gods have known,” according to theologian Harvey Cox. And like a god to be feared and worshipped, we now can even know the market’s moods on a daily basis–moody, angry, restless, or satisfied. And to even question the market’s “high priests” and their declarations is now to commit heresy. The worship of this false god, The Market, has become quite ecumenical. Across denominational and faith persuasions, herds of us are bowing down to the doctrines and dictates of The Market.
Read the entire Huffington post article, here.