Does Corporate America Have a Moral Compass?

I've often thought that the corporate system with stocks, shareholders, officers, and directors doesn't work on a moral level. This system separates ownership of the corporation from its operations. The shareholders own the company while the officers run things. The board of directors are voted in by shareholders. They handle high level business issues and look after the interests of the shareholders.

Who is in charge of the moral compass? Does this system give corporations a pretext to abandon their moral compass to more aggressively focus on profit? Investors want to see a profit. However, is it okay to conduct business by any means necessary to achieve maximum profit? Should investors care if their companies cross legal, ethical or moral lines? Most investors don't know or care how the companies they invest in conduct business. Investors seldom see the effect their corporations have on communities overseas or their local economies. For some investors, the businesses they invest are too complicated for them to understand.

Banks have been in trouble lately. Goldman Sachs advised their customers to buy mortgage backed securities they were betting against. Goldman Sachs made big money at the expense of everyone else when the housing market collapsed. More recently, someone at JP Morgan known as the London Whale lost 6.2 BILLION dollars in aggressive (risky) investments, revealing that banks have not learned how to behave after receiving massive government bailouts.

In response, the Justice Department has been fining the banks. The fines have been so small relative to profit, banks see them as a cost of doing business. Not only have the fines been small, the Justice Department has not required banks to admit wrongdoing which would come back to haunt them in civil litigation.

I heard someone on NPR today, argue that big fines and civil penalties are not appropriate because that would penalize the investors and hurt mom and pop pension plans and retirement savings. This bothers me because this view implies shareholders have no responsibility other than collecting dividends and watching the value of their shares grow. Investing involves risk. Investors should have to consider the ethical practices of the companies they invest in and exercise a level of say in how their companies do business.

Shareholders are the owners. They may vote for or against members of the board of directors and on major decisions affecting the company. If a shareholder has owned $2,000 of a company's stock for at least a year, they may submit a resolution on just about anything from executive compensation to environmental policies, and put it to a vote of fellow shareholders.

It's not okay for shareholders to profit from their companies' corrupt practices. You can be a partner in crime if you invest in a corrupt corporation. Maybe you're an unwitting partner. However, you can't argue you're unwitting if your eyes are closed because the profits are so nice. It's not unfair for investors to give some of that back. In the end, society looses much more than these guys and their investors make.

It looks like the justice department is getting ready to file criminal charges in the JP Morgan - London Whale - debacle. However, it appears they're only going after the small fish. Maybe they're working their way up. In the end, I imagine the rich boys will still get to play. Do investors care how their companies make money? They're the owners and I always thought ownership came with responsibility.

Some of My Favorite Van Morrison Spirituals

I've been enjoying Van Morrison recently and noticed he expresses a deep spiritual side in several of his songs. Before watching, I never knew he played the saxophone and guitar.

God and Humanity are Entangled

English: Hydrogen Density Plots for n up to 4.

On a quantum level, particles possess quantum state characteristics such as position, momentum, spin, and polarization. Strangely, particles will share the quantum state characteristics of the particles they interact with. Physicists call this quality, entanglement. I don't believe physicists know the mechanism. However, it's been repeatedly tested and observed. Stranger still, you can separate a pair of entangled particles so they're miles apart. Then, if you change the quantum state of one particle, the quantum state of the other particle immediately changes to match the new quantum state of its partner particle miles away.

Quantum entanglement is a concept that lifts my imagination to consider how we're entangled with God and each other. It's just a metaphor but it's beautiful like poetry and I can't help but apply it to humanities' highest thought. Humanity and God are entangled. Consequently, we're entangled with each other. It's a fundamental truth. Because it's fundamental, it's all over the Bible. Here are some verses that come to mind while inspired by the concept of entanglement.
Genesis 6:6 And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
Proverbs 14:31 He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him(God)hath mercy on the poor.
Proverbs 17:5 Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.
Isaiah 58:7 Is it not (the fast that I have chosen) to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
1 John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
Everything's entangled. In the parable below, Jesus describes a rich man who has little regard for a poor man named Lazarus. Sometimes Lazarus would eat crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. This is one of the few parables Jesus told containing someone's name. I bet it made a powerful impression on his audience.
Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
I believe the crumbs from the rich man's table reflect the kind of devotion he offered God; crumbs from his table; leftovers from his life. What we give God in secret shows out in what we give our neighbor.

Here's a song from Doc Watson called Orphan Girl to tie things up. There's a commercial before the video but you can skip it after a few seconds.

Log Driver's Waltz

I heard this delightful Canadian folk song last night driving from Atlanta to central Mississippi on Alabama Public Radio. Evidently, Canadians have seen this video a thousand times before finishing high school.

The Pawn Shop Crucifix

Sometimes our faith is not what it seems and losing it may be the best option when doing so leads us to a truer vision. This is a fictional story about such a journey of discovery.

I was worshiping before a cross I bought at a pawn shop of all places. I set it in a corner of my bedroom where I would kneel as I said morning and evening prayer. It had a patina of dust and grease that obscured the the figure on it. I was in the habit of cleaning it little by little; trying to preserve the color and the wood.
One morning, I dozed off during prayer. I dreamed I was washing Jesus on my pawn shop crucifix. I wasn't paying much attention to the figure; just the task; noting with pleasure my progress one clean area at a time.
I stood back to admire the fruit of my labor. A nauseous feeling punched me in the stomach and a stormy confusion struck my mind. On that cross was nothing more than an image of myself. I had made Christ in my image and that's the Christ I worshiped.
He gave me a thumbs up with his right hand still nailed to the cross and smiled at me nodding his head. He checked the watch on his left hand and nodded again as he winked. All my efforts to be good and righteous were to be worthy of the worship I gave myself. Self idolatry!
My nausea turned to anger. I grabbed a dumbbell from a corner of my bedroom and began beating the image on the cross over and over. I heard it breaking like porcelain. My head was hot. I was sweating profusely. Ritual drumbeats pounded my temples as I made the porcelain crash. I would rather have no faith than this false one.
Exhausted, I stumbled back and surveyed the damage. I was astonished to see Jesus and I touched him. His flesh was soft but cold. His body lifeless. Next, I lay on a dirt floor in a dark room. I rose to my knees and felt around for stability. I felt a stone table. There lay a body wrapped in something. Jesus! His tomb!
Hans Holbein- The Body of the Dead Christ in t...
The dumbbell was suddenly in my hand again and something told me to beat the floor. The floor cracked. I kept pounding the floor and a hole opened up before me revealing hell. I looked and saw nothing but felt a hopelessness and despair that seemed to pull me in. I was on the verge of falling when a hand gently stopped me and guided me to a wall where I collapsed. I fell asleep; dreaming within a dream.
I awoke in darkness. I sensed the stirring of life below. I don't know how I sensed life. Suddenly light flashed upward from a place that had never known light and the stone blocking the entrance rolled away. Two angels stood next to me. I turned and saw Jesus' body wrapped in linen sitting up. The angels looked at me and I knew to remove the bandages. Slowly I unwrapped Jesus' head. He glowed in new triumphant love. He sat patient and humble. I quickly unwrapped his arms, his body, and his legs. The two angels smiled at my wonder.
I awoke before my grungy crucifix in the corner of my room. It was a beautiful day. So, I went for a walk among the people in sunshine.

Author's Comments:

When we look to Jesus, we might see the best we can be. We might see the solution to our problems. I wonder how much of Jesus we can see that's not already part of us. Do we see an "otherness" in Christ that makes us want to bow and worship him?

I knew someone who went to the Philippines as an independent missionary. He had no organization supporting him. I wasn't sure about his methods but I never doubted his heart. One day, he stumbled upon a YWAM mission after walking through the jungle for several days. He was hungry and asked the leader for something to eat. She didn't want to be tricked into giving food to a clever beggar and directly questioned him. In the end, she grudgingly gave him something. She had no idea of the story of this young man. He left his home in Vincent Ohio, used his own money to travel to the Philippines, where he lived in poverty while spreading the gospel in the Tagalog language in their markets and streets. She couldn't recognize a vision of Christ apart from the comfortable and familiar.

The Portuguese tried to evangelize Ethiopia in the middle of the 16th century despite Ethiopia receiving the gospel before Europe. Ethiopia even has Judaic traditions and worship dating back to Solomon. The Ethiopians worshiped different from the Portuguese and were a different race. The Portuguese didn't recognize Christianity not made in their image and tried to convert the Ethiopians by force. Fortunately, the Ethiopians repelled them. If not, their rich tradition would have been lost. As an aside, the book of Enoch was discovered in the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church after the Western world lost it. Here is a video of worship at an Ethiopian Orthodox Church. If their worship and liturgy is as consistent as their canon, this is what the Portuguese would have seen.