Jesus, Temptation, and Worldly Power

Jesus in the Wilderness

Jesus in the Wilderness

The temptation of Jesus.  This story comes around each year on the first Sunday of Lent- the story of Jesus’ encounter with the devil and his struggle with temptation.  I have preached on this story many times, for instance, in “Struggling in the Wilderness of Our Souls.”

This story is about identity, authenticity, discernment, resistance, and surrender.  There’s so much here:  Jesus’ struggle with what it meant to be true to his calling as one who is beloved of God;  his forty days of self-denial in the wilderness, which our journey through Lent parallels; his resistance to the temptations that seduce us into being less than who we really are.

This story also shows “the devil” (figuratively speaking) as the power behind “all the kingdoms” of the world.  We may think that our “kingdom,” the United States of America, is an exception, but it is not.  Of course, there are many good things about this country, but we fall far short of our stated ideals of democracy and justice for all.  Our government is the primary promoter of unrestrained free-market capitalism, which is causing poverty, inequity, and environmental devastation  here at home and on a global scale.  This global economic system is dominated by corporations and is enforced by militarized police forces and by the most powerful military-industrial complex the world has ever seen.  (For more on this subject read “A System of Global Domination,” an excerpt from Shaking the Gates of Hell.)

In his book The Word Before the Powers, Charles Campbell tells the story like this:  “All of the kingdoms can be yours,” the devil tells Jesus, “if you will just lord your power over others and take up the sword of the nations.  Take charge of the biological weapons, deploy some troops, command the implementation of a `Star Wars’ missile defense system [or a drone warfare program].  All the kingdoms can be yours–if you will just use the world’s means of power:  domination and violence.”

We may not think that this applies to us, especially if we do not use domination and violence in our interpersonal relationships.  But as members of a society propped up by domination and violence, we are complicit.  Our temptation is to go along with the current state of affairs, to ignore the violence that props up our way of life, to accept the worldly benefits that come with our consent to the destructiveness of the current system.

But the cost is too high!  The cost is our ability to discern right from wrong and to take right action.   If we fall for this temptation, we become servants of the State, complicit in harming ourselves and others.  By so doing, we turn our backs on our identity as God’s beloved children and on God’s intention for our lives.

Lent, for me, is a journey with Jesus through this process of discernment.  It is a struggle with the temptation to be less than I am called to be, spiritual resistance to the patterns of thought and action that keep me bound, and surrender to the Love at the heart of the universe, the ground of our being.

Corporate Globalization and God’s Good Creation

The "Golden Bull" at Occupy Wall Street

The “Golden Bull” at Occupy Wall Street

I have contributed several times to Tikkun Daily, an Interfaith online blog.  I was recently invited to be one of their regular authors.  Here is what I wrote to introduce the topics I will cover:

As a new Tikkun Daily author, this is an introduction to the themes I will cover in my postings to this blog.  Many of these themes are covered in detail in my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, which makes the case that today’s dominant global economic system, based on unrestrained free market capitalism, is damaging the human family and destroying the earth.  The book is a call to action and a call to spiritual renewal.  It proposes a way for people of faith and conscience to join together to resist corporate domination and to work for a peaceful, just, and sustainable world.   My blog postings to Tikkun Daily will touch on these themes and will relate to the following three  aspects of globalization:

1)  Corporate Globalization:  This is the current system of global economic integration, dominated by transnational corporations and based upon the ideology of Market Fundamentalism.  The U.S. military/industrial complex enforces this interlocking network of political, economic, military, and ideological institutions, which Walter Wink calls the “Domination System.”

2)  The globalization of harm:  The outward effects of corporate globalization include climate change, loss of biodiversity, pollution, shortages of food and water, increasing inequity, violence, terror, and endless war.  The inner, spiritual effects include moral confusion, a sense of futility, loss of hope, and relinquishment of moral agency.

3)  Globalization from below:  The antidote to the harm caused by corporate globalization is a “peoples’ globalization” or “globalization from below.”  There is an emerging paradigm of values that include sustainability, justice, equity, diversity, community, peace.  Around the world people are rising up in nonviolent resistance, sharing in community action and in the hope for a transformed world.

I believe that success in these efforts will require a widespread awakening to what is at stake and to the need for spiritual empowerment and divine aid.    For this reason, my writings usually address or imply the question, “Where does faith fit into these real world issues?”  While I often refer to my own (Christian) faith, my purpose is to challenge people to go deeper into their own faith traditions to find the inner resources that will revive their hope and motivate them to action toward a peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

I write on a variety of issues, but this is where they all tie together:  Corporate domination of the world’s cultures, economies, and political systems is harming God’s good creation and we human beings, with God’s help, are the only ones who can turn this around.

Global Agreement from Hell

Shaking photo

The Trans-Pacific Partnership:  

A Global Agreement from Hell:

In Seattle in 1999 and again in Cancun in 2003, I joined in nonviolent direct action to shut down the meetings of the World Trade Organization, one of the most powerful and anti-democratic global institutions this world has ever seen.  Public opposition has taken its toll on the WTO, but the US government is working around this problem by negotiating bilateral and multilateral “free-trade agreements” with various countries.

The latest of these is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a secretive system of rules for government to follow.  It masquerades as a trade agreement, but is actually a corporate bill of rights.  Of its twenty-six chapters, only two have to do with trade.  The TPP would give corporations more power over governments and continue the movement toward the global consolidation of corporate power.

I describe this top-down form of globalization in my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, and I join with others in proposing as the remedy a “people’s globalization” or “globalization from below.”  Such a remedy would require a widespread awakening of the earth’s people to the damage of the current global system and to the hope of transformation.

The TPP, like the WTO and NAFTA, would give corporations more power over governments by restricting the ability of member nations to enact domestic health, safety, environmental, or human rights laws that could infringe on corporate profits.  With the WTO, corporations must convince their home governments to file disputes against other countries, but the TPP (like NAFTA) would allow foreign corporations to directly file disputes against governments that have such laws, and to claim reimbursement for lost profits, past, present, and future.  The position of the US government, which initiates and promotes such agreements, is that we will change our laws in order to comply.

As Lori Wallach from Global Trade Watch explains in this video, “Leaked TPP Draft:  Corporate Dictatorship,” the TPP at present includes only nine Pacific countries, including the United States, which initiated this agreement, but it will be left open for other countries to join.  Once fully instituted, it could essentially replace the WTO, becoming a binding global agreement of corporate rules for governments to follow.

The text of the TPP is shrouded in secrecy.  While corporate leaders have access to negotiations and have helped to draft it, members of Congress, even those with security clearance, have not been allowed to see it.  Why?  In the words of US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, “In the past…, when the text was revealed, we couldn’t finish it. ” They “couldn’t finish it” because global civil society successfully organized against agreements such as the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in the WTO.  Trade negotiators don’t want us to have time to get organized against this one.

The negotiations are secret because the negotiators are aware that the TPP, like all bureaucracies, can only function with the consent of the people.  They want to consolidate their rule before we awaken to what is at stake.

There are many ways that we can respond to this underhanded attempt to push through a binding global agreement that will have such profound impacts on federal, state, and local governments.  First, find out more.  Watch this video with Lori Wallach, learn more and take action at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. 

Need I say that this is a spiritual issue?  Everything we care about is at stake.  Consent to the current direction being taken by this idolatrous global system is spiritual death.  Spiritual awakening and organizing ourselves for nonviolent action is a direction toward transformation.

The TPP threatens to consolidate corporate power on a global level.  Now is the time for us to awaken to what is at stake, step fully into our humanity, and take responsibility for what is going on in our name and with our tax dollars.  The corporate domination of cultures, economies, and governments can only happen with the consent of the people.  Join with me in withdrawing your consent.  Keep current on these issues by following my blogs or by “Liking” the new FaceBook page for Shaking the Gates of Hell.  Don’t buy corporate rule.