“If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to hell.”
So said Martin Luther King Jr. two weeks before his assassination.
America will go to hell.
A society without economic justice,
a society in which wealth is concentrated in a very few,
leaving very many in abject poverty,
is a society on the way to hell.
Of course, that kind of rhetoric could be dismissed
as pernicious nonsense of an envious underclass,
or as a seditious threat that should be annihilated.
America answered that question within two weeks.
Jesus once said, “be on guard against all kinds of greed;
for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possession.”
Pernicious nonsense or seditious threat?
Well, they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
But here’s the thing,
the overwhelming weight of biblical witness,
the compellingly consistent economic vision of the bible,
stands with Martin and Jesus
in its pernicious nonsense and seditious threat.
The accumulation of wealth,
the hoarding of possessions,
the expropriation of land,
the opulence of affluence,
the fetish with prosperity,
is all, from a biblical perspective,
“Woe to you,” wrote ancient Isaiah,
“who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is room for no one but you ….”
In other words,
woe to you who engage in straight up,
everyday, normal, and acceptable
Or more pointedly,
woe to you who are successful at prosperity,
woe to you who achieve such wealth,
and woe to you who gain power by means of such wealth.
Or perhaps more offensively,
to hell with you!
Do I need to spell it out?
But let it be said that to have this week begin
with Martin Luther King Jr. Day
and end with the inauguration of Donald J. Trump
is a sadly tragic irony.