During the last two years, two protest movements have emerged in the United States. The Tea Party began in the spring of 2010 to protest growing political corruption as power is increasingly concentrated in the federal government. This corresponds to massive increases in federal spending and a growing national debt.
The second protest movement began in the fall of 2011 in New York City. Known as Occupy Wall Street, this movement, like the Tea Party, has spread all over the country. Like the Tea Party, OWS is protesting growing corruption in the United States, but their concern is corruption in the economic centers of power. They focus largely on big corporations and their executives who often make exorbitant salaries, and sometimes are richly rewarded even as they destroy the profitability of their companies and/or drive them into bankruptcy.
Corruption in the United States is indeed growing. Transparency International’s (PCI) 2011 Corruption Perception Index can be helpful in viewing the global trends in corruption perception. As you look at the global map of corruption, ask yourself these questions:
- What countries have the least corruption? What common faith root do most of those countries share?
- What countries are most corrupt? What are the faith roots of those countries?
- Where is your country on the scale? What is the faith root of your country?
- What correlation might one make between the faith root of a nation and its corruption level?
Since I have been tracking the PCI, the United States has been growing more and more corrupt.
The PCI has nine categories ranging from very clean (9-10) to highly corrupt (0-.9). These nine are grouped into three: least corrupt (7-10), corrupt (4-6.9), and most corrupt (0-3.9). Most Western nations are among the least corrupt. The lowest of the top three least corrupt categories ranges from 7-7.9. The United States has been rapidly falling to the bottom of the least corrupt category.
The first CPI, in 1995, rated the US 15th from the top with a score of 7.79 on a 0-10 point scale. But today the United States is 24th from the top with a score of 7.1 near the bottom of the least corrupt countries categories. The table below shows steady growth in corruption in the United States over the last decade.
If the trend continues, the United States will soon have the dubious distinction of moving from the “clean” category to the “corrupt.”
Americans in the Tea Party Movement and the Occupy Wall Street Movement are drawing the nation’s attention to the swelling political and corporate corruption respectively. This increase in corruption in the US can be traced to the loss of Biblical moorings. As the church has abandoned truth for “faith”… as she has moved from an outward cultural and public-square focus to an inward personal-faith focus … as she has moved from living in an objective external universe to a subjective internal universe … she has failed to disciple the nations.
Instead of promoting and living the virtues of hard work, excellence, thrift, integrity in the market place and public square, the importance of physical purity, and honoring covenantal relationships, the church has turned inward and allowed the market place and public square and even the church to be shaped by atheistic and materialistic culture. During the “good times” we witnessed people buy houses and cars they could not afford, spending on credit cards with abandon. When the economy crashed, people, including Christians, walked away from mortgage and car loan obligations made when the economy was doing well. Now that the economy has tanked, they follow the path of least resistance and walk away from a pledge made rather than help define a different way of living for our broken nation.
We saw this most dramatically when “evangelical Christian” Ken Lay brought down his own company, Enron, in a context of greed and manifest corruption. Lay’s final principle was to make as much money as he could as fast as he could without thought to ethics, the long term health of the company, its employees, stockholders, or the general public.
In his recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, Michael Lindsay, President of Gordon College, writes of the moral courage of Gerard J. Arpey, the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of American Airlines. Arpey exhibits a powerful contrast to many chief executives who run their companies into the ground and leave with a “golden parachute,” a generous severance package with no correlation to the executive’s job performance. Lindsay writes that Arpey “resigned and stepped away with no severance package and nearly worthless stock holdings. He split with his employer of 30 years out of a belief that bankruptcy was morally wrong, and that he could not, in good conscience, lead an organization that followed this familiar path.”
Lindsay continues by quoting Arpey: “It is not good thinking — either at the corporate level or at the personal level — to believe you can simply walk away from your circumstances.”
If we want to see our countries move from corruption to very clean, we need to recognize that the root of a just society is the worship of “… the LORD your God [who] is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes (Deut. 10:17).” Corruption has no place among Christians. We are to be known as the people who seek justice and truth and are willing to pay a price in the market place and public square for our choices.
We can thank God for men and women like Gerard Arpey who are willing to stand on principle and resign a job rather than break the contractual obligations of their companies.
Yes, the OWS and the Tea Party movements are right: there is a growing problem of corruption in the United States. The solution is not more government regulation, but an increase in internal self government based on moral law and Biblical principle of Americas citizens. The solution is not more government bailouts of companies “too big to fail” but a call to the leaders of those companies to fulfill their moral responsibilities to the long term health of the company, employees, and stock holders rather than increasing profits at any cost.
It was Dutch Lawyer and Theologian Hugo Grotius who captured the importance of personal responsibility in society:
He knows not how to rule a kingdom, that cannot manage a province; nor can he wield a province, that cannot order a city; nor he order a city, that knows not how to regulate a village. Not he a village, that cannot guide a family; not can that man govern well a family that knows not how to govern himself; not can he govern himself unless his reason be lord, will and apatite be vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God, and be obedient to Him.
We need a national repentance and reformation that will restore the moral principles of our founding.
– Darrow Miller