Posted by: Harold Knight | 12/24/2010

Merry Christmas, Michael R. Francis: you, like the rest of us, will “shuffle off this mortal coil.”

Oh! For the ability to summon the poetic skill and moral authority (the poetic skill might be imaginable; the moral authority is not even a dream) of the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures. You know, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders. . . “

Someone needs to get the attention of the human beings floundering around on planet Earth and announce that the Government rests on the shoulders of neither Barak Obama nor Sarah Palin, Harry Reid nor Mitch McConnell, Michael R. Francis nor Stephen F. Quinn, Jerry Jones nor Lady Gaga, Archbishop Jose Gomez nor Rick Warren, Oprah nor Glenn Beck. None of them knows any more about how to get through this life unscathed than you and I know. Conversely, they have less grasp on reality than you do. They think they have some power over their own destinies—and over your destiny. They are dead wrong, and soon they will all be plain dead, and they’ll turn over the Grand Illusion (the “Government?”) to another crop of unprincipled fools* to whom various factions of the population will pledge their undying allegiance and then die. “The allegiances Americans pledge live after them, the reality is oft always interred with their bones.”—William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2

*Fools in the sense of:
Like the partridge hatching what it did not lay,
so are all who amass wealth unjustly;
in mid-life it will leave them,
and at their end they will prove to be
fools.—Jeremiah 17:11

Then [Jesus] told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” —Luke 11:16-20

Yesterday, driving through Emeryville, California, my sister pointed out the site where a new Target store will be constructed. I asked if this was important news, and she answered to the effect that it is necessary—at least it is to be highly valued in some way—for buying certain commodities—toilet  paper, paper towels, etc. I don’t question that having the store close at hand will make a tiny difference in how those who live in Emeryville and Oakland and surrounding areas—those to whom no one, perhaps with the exception of family and a few friends, owes any allegiance—will pass through this mortal coil ** with more ease than they can now without the store.

**Mortal coil:
Ay, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause.

—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, scene 1

The common folk of Emeryville and environs will have their lives simplified by the closer proximity of a Target store for their convenience. The new site is within walking distance of my hotel, and I’d like to go there right now to get some tooth paste to replace the tube American Airlines gave me when they lost my luggage and knew I’d be without amenities until they found my bag. Their toothpaste is perhaps the vilest tasting substance I have ever knowingly put in my mouth (in its own way precisely what I’m writing about).

No one is as pleased about the construction of the new Target Store as Michael R. Francis. According to Forbes Magazine, Michael R. Francis was paid $6,304,528.00 last year (1). I’ll bet he doesn’t worry about where he’s going to buy toilet paper. And he’s only 47 years old. Michael R. Francis is Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Target Corporation, Minneapolis, MN. $6,304,528.00.

High Priest

High Priest

The Forbes summary of Michael R. Francis’s career lists Target in the “Service” Sector (Discount Variety Store) of the economy. Shall we speak about doublespeak? Making money for yourself ($6,304,528.00) by selling me toilet paper is a “service?”

Americans and those in all countries where Raging Capitalism is the official state religion—despite what Governor Jan Brewer thinks (2)—need to get a grip. Have a reality check. Listen to Shakespeare, if not to God.  “What dreams may come (in that sleep of death). . . must give us pause.”

Dreams when we are dead? Is Shakespeare making a joke, being sardonic? Do we take our dreams with us into the sleep of death? The dream of being wealthy, of being the equal of Michael R. Francis, the dream of a “service” store on every corner, easy access to toilet paper? Or, perhaps the dream in which none of that matters? D.M. Bell of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary concludes it’s possible the “agony of competition” can be overcome. I, too, dream that capitalism can be

. . . overcome as human relations are redeemed from the agony of competition and dominion and revived as the joyous conviviality of love that is the fruit of the proliferation of non-proprietary (that is, participatory) relations. Capitalism is defeated as fear is cast out—the fear of my neighbor that compels me to possess more tightly and acquire more compulsively, the fear that in giving I can only lose. . . .(3)

High altar

High altar

Capitalism is defeated only as we (and most likely the rest of the world) discover and accept the reality that, like our neighbor whom we fear, we (with Michael R. Francis) will shuffle off this mortal coil, and it does not matter how much we have compulsively acquired.  Our use of money is so far removed from work or any other useful enterprise (making and exchanging “things” is a “service” not a fulfilling activity) that it has become an abstract belief, our primary religion.

But unlike the God of our traditional religions, the God of this religion is not based on projections of what we know about power, love, creativity. The God which now

reigns in the basic superstructure [capitalism] is no phantom, no mere epic adventure film shown on the darkened screens of our imagination, but is the actual source of the power of the world. This power is money and its energy is competition. (4)

Cathedral

Cathedral

The chief liturgical ceremony of this religion is Christmas, and the likes of Michael R. Francis are the high priests. We, rushing off to buy each other trinkets at Target, are its votaries, coerced into our worship by the “fear of [our neighbors and/or death] that compels [us] to possess more tightly and acquire more compulsively.”
________________
(1) “Michael R. Francis.” Forbes.com, 2010. Web. 23 Dec. 2010.
(2) See my posting of December 22.
(3) Bell Jr., D.M. “Sacrifice and Suffering: Beyond Justice, Human Rights, and Capitalism.” Modern Theology 18.3 (2002): 348.
(4) Hull, John M. “Competition and Spiritual Development.” International Journal of Children’s Spirituality 6.3 (2001): 263.

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Responses

  1. I do agree with the perception that a person should not place a higher value on material goods than their own soul, because the bible does say what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul, but it also says, and I paraphrase, only a fool fails to make friends with the wealthy for when a person finds himself in need a wealthy friend comes in very very handy.

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    • I think you are a bit confused. In Luke 16:9, Jesus”s sarcasm is showing through. He has just told the parable of the dishonest steward, and then he turns to his disciples and says, “Go ahead, trust the wealthy more than God. See where it gets you.”

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