I’m a Jew. And while there is some competition between religious institutions for the soul of mortal man, I find the Pope’s statement about the idolatry of money to resonate with my core beliefs and an accurate description of the consensus of minds throughout the world. Mark Twain made the point when he wrote “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg” and the “$30,000 Bequest.” Of course Twain also said that he congratulated the human race on reaching the conclusion that there is only one true religion — “several of them.” His stories chronicle fictional characters who exhibit all too human tendencies in human character. True believers who have lived their lives teaching and living the “word” of G-d are faced with the temptation of a large sum of money and immediately throw their spiritual teaching to the winds.
There has always been resistance to my comments that money is the one true religion to which everyone subscribes throughout the world (with a few notable exceptions) and that for most people given a choice between money and spiritual or moral choices, most people will rationalize their actions in favor of money. And they do this without any thought or understanding of money. The definitions of money vary, depend upon whom you ask, but the underlying theme is that it is a faith that the prevailing currency defines one’s wealth. Why?
Money is an illusory concept that has no definite correspondent relationship with any item found in our physical reality. It derives its value from faith and belief that everyone else will see it the same way you do — that every other person in the world will accept your “money” as a medium of exchange and store of value. People accept it in exchange for goods and services and they pursue it in their attempt to pay for goods and services and to accumulate a mythological wealth that must translate into a sum of money. It appears as paper, computer entries coded in 1’s and 0’s, or now cash equivalent paper deriving its value from the promise to pay money.
Money is a derivative, deriving its value from this common belief in its reality without any proof. Our belief in it causes us to consent or submit to power of those who are said to have money and who have amassed large quantities of it. Indeed we consent to be governed by a Republic that issues money on its own “full faith and credit” and we acknowledge the superior qualities of those who have the most money — even if they stole it.
Blaming Wall Street or the high priests of money in our financial system is justified because they shifted their method of operation from acting as intermediaries to becoming predators separating those who trusted in them from their money. And it turns out that this trust represents a belief system which is based in a faith that is so immutable that it serves as a rationale for accepting the behavior of bad people doing bad things to innocent victims. Investors, insurers, traders, Government guarantee agencies, borrowers, rating agencies all of whom believed blatant lies and all suffered as a result of believing those lies. And despite all evidence in the public domain of this fraud, the judiciary, lawyers and even the borrowers cannot reconcile their belief in money with the acts of theft that continue in the court system. In the end, most of them resolve the conflict in favor of the high priests of money.
But blaming the high priests of money or the government is only part of the problem. The rest of us need to take a ruthless inventory of ourselves and decide whether we will continue to let money rule our lives, whether we will continue to admire people for their wealth, and whether we might do something today, on Thanksgiving, that turns the course of our lives on a new heading. That is what the evangelical community is getting at, along with Orthodox Jews, and similar movements whose commonality is to observe the demands of spiritual and moral values.
Let’s give thanks for our children, our family, and pay it forward in our acts. Let’s stop our apathy to being brutally deprived of our homes and property by a system based on the accepted awe of the high priests of money. Let’s insist on a moral standard of right and wrong upon which we have already agreed — that a wrong-doer should get no presumptions or acceptance of any standard that further enables them to do wrong, and that the wrongdoer should never be allowed to retain the fruits of their wrongful endeavors.
People who have been victims of such wrongdoing should not be labeled as deadbeats or stupid money managers; but it still remains true that their own belief in money overcame their natural good judgment — by relying on the high priests of money, borrowers gave their implicit ignorant consent to being a part of a scheme that defrauded pension funds and other investors. It is a supreme irony that the borrower’s retirement funds frequently came from a pension fund that was heavily invested in mortgage backed securities. They lost both their homes and will soon lose part or all of their pension or retirement money.
Let’s give thanks that we can still celebrate humane behavior based upon moral choices of right and wrong, but let’s also remember that if we did not believe so much in money and the high priests of money, those who would do wrong causing untold tragedies around the world would never have had the chance to do so. The term “cold hard cash” is outdated. It should be replaced by “warm moral choices.”
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