Jesus comes out looking pretty good in Michael Moore’s latest movie “Capitalism: A Love Story”. Instead of taking shots at religion, which is so “de rigeur” these days, Michael Moore gets Jesus to take a few shots at Capitalism. The priest who did Moore’s wedding in the third world American city of Flint Michigan states that the Capitalist system is “radical evil”. His Bishop backs him up stating that he is awe of Capitalism’s propaganda machine.
Moore is perhaps today’s most recognized modern day prophet. Security guards for corporate towers have his photo posted on their lunch room bulletin boards. His audacious attempts to speak truth to power – this time he shows up to conduct citizen’s arrest on the CEO’s of America’s big banks – crime scenes he calls them.
The 700 billion taxpayer dollars that were handed over to the banks – no strings attached – is what he’s talking about. Do you remember? It was only a year ago that it happened. I can’t believe how quickly it has faded in my own memory. Moore is a prophet because he makes us see – and he won’t let us forget.
He interviews Elizabeth Warren of the Oversight Committee in charge of accounting for the public funds. She tells us frankly that the Secretary of U.S. Treasury Department - Hank Paulson- former bank CEO - placed no restrictions on the banks for their use of the funds. He didn’t ask – and they’re not about to tell us now. We do know that many of their tops executives received huge bonus payments in the months to follow.
The movie would be a comedy of errors if it weren’t for the terrible tragedies that Moore also opens our eyes to. He takes us into the hearts of a family packing up the home they lost to the bank after being on that land for four generations. The father wonders out loud when the rebellion of those who have lost everything will happen?
Moore asks the same question. He points out that 99% of us have the power in our votes to control the 1% who are currently pulling our strings. Why is it taking us so long to catch on?
Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall in a 2005 essay entitled “Christianity and Empire” lists several reasons. He points out how the 60 recorded Empires throughout history have found in Religion themes that serve their powerful interests. Empires need Religion. They need religion’s ability to capture people’s hearts and invest their hopes. It’s when we are convinced to invest our hopes in human systems of power and security that the Bible’s message gets twisted. Halls writes
“What should astonish us today is not how appealing Christianity could be to empire, but rather how uncritically the dominant forms of the Christian religion have adapted themselves to the roles that successive empires have recruited them to play.
From Amos to John the Baptist, prophetic consciousness is impelled to name deception, especially when it finds echoes in the religious community itself. Jesus was crucified not only because he threatened the oppressive empire of Rome but also because he named the hypocrisy of the religious who made an easy alliance with Rome.
Hall concludes: “I believe that following Christ engenders in one a deep suspicion of the dream of empire, and an active vigilance in behalf of empire’s victims.
Moore’s mix of funny and facts; comedy, tragedy, and his own personal history (his uncles participated in a takeover of the Flint Michigan GM plant in a worker strike in the 1930s) reveal how middle class America is quickly joining the ranks of the third world peoples who know clearly that the current system of Capitalism has enslaved them and serves a ungodly master.
A friend forwarded me an email from Michael Moore. I didn’t read it until after I’d seen the movie and then I went back and found it. I checked it out and it was ligit – with a link to Moore’s website. I’ll put a link on my own blog website. And a link to Hall’s essay. But here’s what Moore had to say about what he believes.
“I have come to believe that there is no getting around the fact that capitalism is opposite to everything that Jesus (and Moses and Mohammed and Buddha) taught. All the great religions are clear about one thing: It is evil to take the majority of the pie and leave what's left for everyone to fight over. Jesus said that the rich man would have a very hard time getting into heaven. He told us that we had to be our brother's and sister's keepers and that the riches that did exist were to be divided fairly. He said that if you failed to house the homeless and feed the hungry, you'd have a hard time finding the pin code to the pearly gates.
So, I say the choice is yours. You can close your eyes and pray that God will make it all go away. Or, you can open your eyes and go see “Capitalism: A Love Story” (if you can afford the gas and ticket price?)
Douglas John Hall essay:
Father Peter Dougherty