TheReligiousLeft.org

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Saving the Corporate Soul

By Jeff Fulmer
Originally posted 12/19/11 at Elephant Journal

No longer content to be cryptic stock symbols resigned to the back of the business section of the newspaper, corporations are coming out, and they’re loud and proud.

When the Supreme Court removed all financial limits on their right of free speech in Citizens United, we knew we would be hearing more from our corporate brethren. Even Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, recently stood up for these misunderstood bastions of capitalism by boldly declaring “Corporations are people!”

Some may be uncomfortable with the notion of multi-conglomerates as their next-door neighbors, or fearful of the kind of influence these behemoths could wield.  However, this could be a terrific boon for churches, which have been suffering from declining memberships and contributions.
If corporations are considered people, this opens up a whole new mission field of souls that need to be saved – and these souls come wrapped in expensive suits with big budgets and disposable incomes.

Converting these souls may be a challenge however. The book and documentary, The Corporation, makes a case that corporations are so driven by self-interest that they behave much like a psychopath.  For the record, psychopaths or sociopaths are often very good at getting what they want from other people, even though they actually have no actual feelings toward anyone.

Similarly, the bottom line dictates every decision a corporation makes, often at the expense of their workers, the environment and society at large.

So, how can we evangelize a “person” with psychopathic traits?

When you peel back the corporate logo, lo-and-behold, you do find real live people. While I’m sure there is a fair share of ambitious managers at the top, they are not intrinsically evil. At the very least, they want the world to be a better place for themselves and their children.
Jesus gives us some simple words of advice that might be applicable here.
“If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  (Matthew 18:15) 
Unfortunately, showing someone the error of their ways does not ensure they will change them.
But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by two or three witnesses.”  (Matthew 18:16) 
Bringing others to the table supports your case and raises the stakes, whether you are asking a company to stop polluting the rivers or price gouging customers or exploiting children in foreign countries.  But what if the CEO (who took home twenty million dollars last year) cannot find it in the budget or his heart to change his ways?
Jesus goes on to say, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”  (Matthew 18:17)
In other words, Jesus advises us to make the entire church aware of the malfeasance in an effort to shame the offending party into doing the right thing. If that doesn’t work, we are finally told to put the person out and turn your back on them. While it might be a stretch, this could be interpreted as not having anything to do with said corporation – or what it sells. And that sounds a lot like a boycott.

Like any respectable sociopath who is only concerned with his own well being; the corporation will want to avoid any negative publicity and lost revenues that could result from a boycott. Even fringe groups like the Florida Family Association made Lowe’s pull their advertising from a reality TV show that featured Muslims in a relatively positive (non-terrorist) light.

If corporations are willing to pander to racists, you might think they would be willing to listen to well reasoned, ethical arguments. There is, of course, a good chance you would be wrong.

Even if you have the high moral ground and the public is behind you, the corporation may still decide not to listen. While you may lose the battle, it’s important to keep your eyes on the big picture and support policies that will restrain the more sociopathic tendencies of a corporation or an entire industry.

For example, most people agree that Wall Street could have benefited from more government regulations prior to mortgage debacle. Yet, even now, there are politicians who want to strip oversight agencies like the SEC, as well as the EPA, and at least two or three other federal departments.

Attempting to evangelize a psychopath, or anything that acts like one, can be a dangerous proposition. And yet, it is impossible to ignore these omnipresent, bigger-than-life personalities we’ve grown dependent on for our most basic needs.

I hope corporations or, more accurately, the people who run them, will look into their hearts and realize that they should be doing what is best for everyone, not just themselves.  Otherwise, Christians may have to take it upon themselves to save their souls, and that might not be good for business.
Jeff Fulmer is the author of the book "Hometown Prophet."

2 comments:

  1. Great stuff, Jeff. There was a guy trying to raise interest for a while at the Boston Occupy site for an event where people could stage fake marriages with the corporation of their choice. This myth of corporate personhood opens up so many possibilities for satire. And evangelization too, apparently!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Carlos... Yes, the 'corporations are people' claim is rich with satirical possibilities. It can also help draw distinctions about how you view business and real people.

    ReplyDelete

 
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