Corporate Greed as Sin


SERMON: The Tragedy of Sin

United Church of Cloverdale

2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Greg Bentall

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20 could be expected.  It was clearly NOT an accident, but a DISASTER waiting to happen.  According to the dictionary, an accident is:

  • Any event that happens unexpectedly, without a deliberate plan or cause.

Police no longer talk about car “ACCIDENTS.”  They are now called COLLISIONS.  The logic here is that accidents are things that happen unexpectedly, and are hence unavoidable.  If a drunk driver causes a collision it is no accident, but rather a predictable tragedy.

Imagine a collision where one driver stops on a green light, and then gets rear-ended by the driver of the second car:  The driver of the second car might protest:  “But I had no chance to stop!  The car in front of me stopped on a green light and I ran into him!”

But the truth is that all automobile collisions could be avoided if only we took action FIVE SECONDS before the collision occurred.  Perhaps the driver in this instance might have been paying closer attention to the traffic and road conditions.  Then, maybe that driver would have seen the dog that darted into the intersection.  Or perhaps, the driver could have slowed down by five or ten miles per hour, giving that driver time to stop, even when the driver in front stopped suddenly at a green light.

At the Deepwater Horizon there were warning signs days ahead that went unnoticed.  The first sign was that the seal on the blowout preventer had blown days ahead, and bits and pieces were appearing on the surface.

It also turns out that the blowout preventer, the so-called “fail-safe” device, was itself DEFECTIVE and inoperable.  Dead batteries on control panels meant that the device could not operate.  There were also leaky hydraulic systems that prevented the control valves from closing.

Hours before the explosion there were numerous signs of the impending failure, but these all went unheeded in the tragically careless push to keep production levels high.  According to reports from the survivors, there was a big argument between the TransOcean drilling chief and a manager from BP.  The drilling chief wanted to stop drilling because of safety concerns.  The BP manager forced the drilling to continue.  This was twelve hours before the explosion.

The issue for BP was simple.  The drilling was already over budget and five weeks behind schedule.  Finishing the well was the top priority, and it seems, the ONLY concern.

The result of this arrogance has been the worst man-made ecological disaster in history:

  • Eleven workers were killed.
  • We can expect hundreds of billions of dollars in economic destruction across the Gulf region, as this spill has crippled the seafood industry and tourism.  This economic disruption may last for decades.
  • We may be looking at the destruction of all life forms in much of the Gulf of Mexico.  This destruction of the whole ecosystem may take decades to repair, if it can be repaired at all.

The Gulf Coast contains some 40% of our nation’s wetlands.  Wetlands are the nurseries of the planet.  Without them many species cannot survive.  Also, wetlands are an important barrier against hurricanes.  Wetlands work like giant sponges, soaking up wind and rain and tidal surges caused by hurricanes.  Without these wetlands hurricanes will become far more destructive than they are now.

This is the TRAGEDY OF SIN.

Sin is:

  • Corporate managers blinded by greed without concern for effects.
  • The reckless disregard for safety of the workers.
  • The reckless disregard for the environment.
  • And, the reckless disregard for all of those living in the Gulf Coast.

Sin is placing an insatiable demand for profits and timelines ahead of safety, ecological responsibility, and the well being of the residence of the Gulf Coast.  Wherever sin rules, bad things happen, and we end up paying a terrible price.

Sin is not about breaking God’s laws.  Sin is about breaking ourselves AGAINST God’s laws.  When we break the laws of God we can expect to have a catastrophic outcome.  The TRAGEDY OF SIN in the Gulf of Mexico is now our worst nightmare.

++++

Our scripture lesson for this morning is about the great moral lapse of King David.  The story of David and Bathsheba shows what happens when SIN reigns.  It is a tragic story right out of a “soap opera.”

David looks out from his castle and spots a beautiful woman bathing on her roof top.  David is instantly seized with lust for her.  He sends his servants to inquire of her, and he discovers that she is the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who is presently off fighting against the Ammonites with David’s army.  David then has Bathsheba brought to the castle where he lies with her, and she becomes pregnant.

David then summons Uriah the Hittite to come and report to him.  While Uriah is in Jerusalem, David encourages him to go and be with his wife.  But Uriah is a man of honor, and the Code of Honor of that day did not allow for any form of conjugal visits during a time of battle.  And so, Uriah refused to go home to his wife.

Actually, that sounds like a wonderful rule for all wars.  Such a rule might cause all battles to be over in a matter of weeks or months, instead of years or decades!

So Uriah returned to the front without seeing his wife.  And Uriah also carried David’s order to Commander JOAB that Uriah was to be killed.  This does not seem fair, does it?

Joab did as David had ordered.  He arranged to have Uriah the Hittite killed in battle.  This was done to prevent King David from being embarrassed by his act of adultery.

David now thinks that all is well until he is confronted by the prophet Nathan.  Prophets are women and men who speak God’s Truth.  Speaking truth to power is the essence of the prophetic witness.  Nathan uncovers David’s tragic sin.  David, now finally realizing the evil that he has done, tries to do repentance before the God.

But things seem to work much differently these days, especially in the political arena.  Instead of David’s confession and repentance, we normally expect a quick fix by a SPIN DOCTOR.  If King David were around today I am sure that his spin doctors would have taken care of everything.

 

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION

Office of Communications

Palace of King David

Jerusalem

 

The King is deeply saddened by the loss of Uriah the Hittite.  Uriah was David’s dearest friend and closest confidant.  And even though Uriah was foreign born, he served his King and Country as well any native son.  He died a hero’s death fighting against the Ammorites.  

The King had recently recalled Uriah to Jerusalem for a consultation.  And while Uriah was in Jerusalem, he went home to see his wife, even though such visits are against a soldiers Code of Honor.  THIS EXPLAINS THE BABY. [Note:  Thankfully, this is before the days of DNA testing!]  But please do not hold this Uriah.  He was a wonderful man even though he BROKE the soldier’s code of honor.  

King David LOVED Uriah so much, that upon Uriah’s death, the King took Uriah’s widow and child to live in the castle, and to be a part of the King’s own family. 

But David did not do the “Spin Doctor” thing.  He sinned badly with a tragic outcome.  Both Uriah the Hittite and his child died as a result of David’s Sin.  But he did listen to the voice of God through the Prophet Nathan and he repented for his Sin.

The walk of faith requires an upright life.  The walk of faith demands an internal moral compass that acts in restraint, and seeks to live in a way that avoids the TRAGEDY OF SIN.

  • If only David had stopped to think before he had Uriah murdered so that he could steal his wife
  • If only the BP manager who ordered that the drilling continued could have paused to consider the tragic loss of human live, and the ecological and economic catastrophe that he was creating by his impatience.
  • If only corporations such as PG&E would stop funding BOGUS and SELF-SERVING propositions such as Proposition 16.  This proposition was designed to prevent municipalities from managing their own electrical power, as is done very successfully in HEALDSBURG.  Instead, this proposition was labeled and argued as the VOTERS RIGHT TO CHOOSE proposition, and PG&E spend millions of dollars to wage a campaign based on self-serving lies and distortions.

The upright life is based upon the simplest of notions.  It does not mean to follow endless rules and regulations imposed upon us.

  • It means to “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”
  • It means to “Love one another as love comes from God.”
  • It means to “Love the Lord our God and our neighbors as ourselves.”
  • It means to “Do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.”
  • It means to care for all creation, and to be a careful steward of our world and all of its resources.  For this is the only world that we have for ourselves and our children’s children.

Whatever science fiction fantasy that we might harbor regarding moving on to another planet, this planet is all that we have.  And when we destroy it we destroy our own habitat and our own future.

This is the TRAGEDY OF SIN.

Greg

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