Chris Hedges’ Critique of Corporatism, Inverted Totalitarianism and Me

For those you who are wondering about who has influenced me in my cultural, economic and political analysis, here is an In Depth interview of Chris Hedges on BookTV. It is three hours. I have actually watched it several times, all three hours of it. His critique of the Christian Right is particularly poignant, especially for someone like me who identifies with conservative Evangelicalism. He expresses dismay, as a seminary graduate and former minister with the PCUS in Roxbury, MA, with the inability of the liberal wing of the Protestant church to take on the prosperity Gospel that so characterizes the Right. However, for Hedges the big bugaboo is transnational corporatism which has no borders, no allegiances and no natural checks to its thirst for more at the expense of whomever. It is a case, according to Hedges, of inverted totalitarianism – the invisible rule of the moneyed class without an identifiable charismatic figure. In fact, it has turned the poor against themselves as it constantly speaks of the rights of rich out of some imagined future when they will be one of them.

I am well aware that capitalism has shown the greatest promise of distributing goods and services in the fairest way possible in the kind of fallen world we all live in. But capitalism comes in different shades and it is corporatist capitalism that comes in for the biggest critique by Hedges. Hedges spent 20 years as a war correspondent overseas, or, as he puts it, on the outer edges of the American empire.

I find that Evangelicals are uninterested in economic theory, we who supposedly care so much for the poor and those trapped in disadvantage. Perhaps the closest we come to critique is in the persons of Ron Sider and Jim Wallis. But most of us are usually satisfied with capitalism, without going further about the exact form that it is taking and without much reflection on the heist of the US Treasury by the banks who are, in fact, speculators whose bottom line is bailouts by the politicians whom they own. As Hedges reminds us, it was not too long in the past that speculators were hung for the damage they do to the welfare of society. The disappearance of the middle class has huge implications for the welfare of our country – and for the church. Very little noise from the Evangelical wing. Some noise from the Pope.

The power of money in the church is a truism. Like all pastors, I have seen it up close and personal. Money opens doors and closes doors, and what appears to be a spiritual democracy at the congregational level is in fact no democracy at all. Some pastors make their peace with it and do the best they can. Some drop out. Some protest and try to build the Kingdom of God around the voiceless and dispossessed. When I think about money and the church, I think about the Book of Acts. The first challenges to revival all had to do with money – whether it be the church’s communitarianism, where no one called their good their own, where Ananias and Sapphira were called out over their pretended charity, where the widows and orphans were served well by the appointment of deacons from their own racial and class identities, where Peter healed free of charge, etc. The church lived on generosity and the absence of class distinctions. They were brothers and sisters.

Evangelicals have in many ways bought into the illusion offered to us through corporatism. We are consumers and have brought our appetites into the Kingdom of God baptizing it with God’s will to bless us.

1 John 2:15-17 Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

This theological stance is of such a king to cause even John Piper to cuss as he critiques it as cr..p. There is much more to say on such a serious obscuring of the Gospel. But the more to be said won’t be found among us Evangelicals.