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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A prayer for our times...

On Christmas Day you can't get sore,
Your fellow man you must adore.
There's time to rob him all the more
The other three hundred and sixty-four.

- Tom Lehrer ("A Christmas Carol")
Every so often I go check out the comment streams on certain sites (even FreeRepublic on very rare occasions - it's that "know thine enemy" thing) just to see if there's anything, you know, interesting.

I spotted a comment stream over at Rabble which dealt with the topic of the "historical Jesus". Although I consider myself an agnostic (which I define as "an atheist who's hedging his bets") with heavily humanist leanings, I figured it was worth checking out. It turned out to be most interesting (though the comment stream is a long one) and, given the subject, the tone of the discussions was quite civil.

At one point the stream veered into a discussion of ethics, and as I was reading that section my brain started running the song I've quoted above. From there my thoughts diverged to the late-19th century "Christian" robber barons (they were very careful to be prominently seen in church on Sundays, as the tenor of the times was such that being seen as a "good upstanding Christian" was indicative of the soundness of one's business and honesty) and their modern corporate counterparts.

I've recently been re-reading Mark Kurlansky's book 1968: The Year That Rocked the World (Ballantine, ©2004). In it he mentions an incident that has great relevance to what I'd been thinking about:
On January 23, 1968, a right-wing Hamburg pastor, Helmuth Thielicke, found his church filled with students wanting to denounce his sermon. He called in West German troops to clear his church of the students, who were distributing pamphlets with a revised Lord's Prayer. (p. 148)
While the incident itself may not seem to be overly important (especially, some 30 years later, in light of the APEC protest in Vancouver and the "Battle in Seattle"), it's that "revised Lord's Prayer" that has even more relevance today than it did on that long-ago day in 1968.

Here is that prayer:
Our capital, which art in the West, amortized be Thy investments.
Thy profits come, Thy interest rates increase,
In Wall Street as they do in Europe.
Give us this day, our daily turnover,
And extend to us our credits, as we extend them to our creditors.
Lead us not into bankruptcy, but deliver us from the trade unions,
For thine is half the world, the power and the riches,
For the last two hundred years.
Hmmmmm....perhaps all those protesters at the upcoming Republican National Convention should be handing out copies of this prayer. Someone might actually get the hint.

For it is indeed true that "by their works ye shall know them."