A Greedy Pursuit
One of the founding American documents, the Declaration of Independence, famously proclaimed that among the inherent rights of all were "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."The full text of her editorial is online here: The American Sin.
Who doesn't know that phrase? Yet how truly revolutionary/unique it is among national manifestoes.
Canada's constitution promises "peace, order and good government." France's extols "liberty, equality, brotherhood." This nation, however, makes a search for "happiness" part of its national persona.
The declaration's ringing phrase has drawn millions of individuals to make this country their home, yet its underbelly might be considered the American sin. The current economic situation must be laid at the feet of those who pursued "happiness" in the manner of Ebenezer Scrooge, described by Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol as a "wrenching, squeezing, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner." Notice the author doesn't call him a "banker" or a "miser."
We are in the midst of the fallout from a greed mania, beginning with the idea that ever-rising home prices would support fundamentally flawed lending practices. Greedy lenders colluded with borrowers who believed the real estate boom would support a debt-fueled lifestyle. Unscrupulous lenders found ways to trick borrowers into taking on mortgages that contained triggers that later made the debt difficult to afford. The stock market's crash has exposed "investment managers" who lied to their clients and stole their money—but the customers lined up to get returns they thought no one else could match and were, in the end, too good to be true.
No one would argue with the idea that "the pursuit of happiness" includes the desire to create a better life for current and future generations, but why should "the American dream" only stand for things—for the house, the car, the overstuffed closets?
Jesus had a fair bit to say about greed. He talked about "those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God"; about how "life is more than food and the body more then clothing."
The church has something to say about it, too, something about knowing when enough is enough, when it's time to share, when there are more important things than things, when sacrifice is called for in order to better the life of another.
Labels: Episcopal Life