Welcome To Pergamos!

Posted by Michael A. La Framboise on Saturday, January 1, 2011 Under: Politics

     "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,
'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: ...I have a few things against you'
Revelation 2:12-14

Thomas Jefferson understood the value of a government which was limited from reaching into the religious realm, which is why he, in his own words, “refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion”, such as days of fasting or thanksgiving, though his presidential predecessors did this regularly.  Jefferson feared a government which controlled the Church; however, he did not imagine a Church which could be used subvertly to transform the government. He could not have pictured his country crippled by a Church which had in majority married itself to a political ideology and party, such as we have seen in our modern era! Welcome to Pergamos.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus warned the ancient church of Pergamos about their sinful compromises with secular society in both their doctrine and morality. This presents an important lesson to the contemporary American Church which has followed much the same path in our day.

Jesus spoke of Pergamos as a place where Satan was enthroned, and expressed His concerns over the church there which seemed to be defiling their spiritual relationship to Him as His bride, allowing their commitment to Him to be permeated by and weakened through their mixing and compromising with the secular society around them. Many Bible commentators point to the church of Pergamos as an example of spiritual compromise, which may also represent eras and denominations in Church history where God’s people united themselves to their contemporary social and political power structures.

Pergamos becomes a euphemism for a society where the Church has become more invested in its political power and influence in the culture than in its spiritual power and influence.
The devolution is a simple and subtle one wherein political leaders realize the great power which could be wielded if they could harness the influence of the Church for their own purposes. The Church is deceived with political rhetoric and campaign promises which seem to be morally just and nobly religious; but this is a mere, though clever, diversion to camouflage ulterior political goals.

The first to understand this was the Roman Emperor, Constantine. In the fourth century, he brought an end to government oppression of the Church, a noble cause indeed. Then he united the Church with the Roman state, thereby gaining influence over millions in his empire-- the formerly persecuted Christian majority.  Though he was the first, he was certainly not the last to usurp political power through the Church. In our day there has been a vast and terrible shift in American politics. Before the 1970’s, there was no apparent correlation between church attendance and political affiliation. Yet forty years later, the Church has become a major political arm of Neo-conservative politics, and the correlation between church attendance and Conservative political affiliation is overwhelming (National Journal, 10/18/2008).

It was the 1970’s which saw the rise of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, and in the 1980’s, Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition. These decades witnessed the rise of so-called Christian politics, and it was during this time that the Neo-conservatives saw an opportunity to merge a political movement with the Christian masses, and so the slow process of assimilation began; a process which has now begun to ferment and now intoxicate the Christian majority, which has become synonymous with the Right-wing conservative movement. Even the term conservative has become ambiguous. A conservative Christian thinks of himself as a conservative voter, though the two identities are separate in substance, they are now perfectly mixed and united into a Christo-political concoction. The very term Conservative iteslf has been altered so much, that Neo-conservative must be used to differentiate between todays Right-wing Conservative and yesterdays mainstream Conservative leaders, like Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Barry Goldwater.

It was a perfect storm of politics and religion: the sixties offered the turmoil of the Civil Rights movement, while the seventies brought forth the explosive controversy of Roe Vs Wade. In the aftermath of Democrat led desegregation the Republican party became the new home of white southerners who had long been loyal to the Democratic party; then Conservatives aligned themselves with the pro-life movement, and wove themselves a security blanket of religion using the most explosive political debate in the land. As long as they kept state’s rights and abortion at the forefront of any contested election they would more often than not secure a victory: Nixon, Nixon/Ford, Reagan, Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43, Bush 43. Until Barak Obama, there had only been 3 Democratic administrations to 8 Republican administrations; or to put it another way, there had been 12 years of Democratic presidents to 28 years of Republicans.

During this reign of power over the last forty years, the American middle-class has been decimated... and it has been no accident of fate, rather it has been a methodical erosion of policies and principles which has reduced the middle-class in both numbers and wealth. This erosion has been so severe that today many children of middle-class parents find themselves unable to fordge a life similar to their parents. In other words, many who have grown up as middle-class kids are falling out of the middle-class in adulthood.

My own grandparents struggled to raise a family as they engaged in church ministry, resorting to simple meals and hand-me-down clothes for their kids; yet Grandpa bought a house with his income alone as a bus driver for the Norwalk-La Mirada school district. He was able to make sure they had the necessities, and even a family vacation every once and a while. As my grandparent’s children came of age, each was able to earn a living wage and buy a house: four children, no exceptions. A generation, and a different country later, only 1 of my grandparent’s 12 grandchildren is able to do the same. Shout out to my hero, Jared Munson! Maybe we should follow his lead and all be Tea-totelling Libertarians!

In the 1970’s Neo-conservatives discovered their source of power: the Church. Over the following decades they have learned how to effectively harness this power at the polls, a practice recently perfected by Carl Rove. In the 1980’s Neo-conservatives began their assault. Having mixed their own core principles with the evil of corporate greed, they went on the offensive; and the Rich were about to get a whole lot richer!

Backed by the wishes of Wall Street, newly elected President Ronald Reagan rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and by the end of his term had cut the highest marginal tax-rate by half. Wall Street was buzzing! But what about all that lost revenue which funded schools and infrastructure? President Reagan  assured the nation that if the wealthy class in America were granted greater wealth, they would benevolently pass the benefits downward offering more jobs with greater benefits. President Reagan urged that this was only fair, and promised that this redistribution of wealth upwards would only trickle-down in greater measure. Of course, in hindsight we can look back and see that this non-sensical promise never materialized; rather the Rich beneficiaries sucked in more and more until today the top 1% of American households possess nearly 25% of American wealth!

Wages have stagnated for the middle-class, and common benefits, such as health and dental, paid sick days and pensions have virtually disappeared. Before Reagan it behooved corporations to pour their profits back into their companies in the form of... wait for it... living wages and family benefits. From the thirties to the seventies, the top marginal tax-rate varied under Democrat and Republican Presidents alike between 77-92%. The pre-Reagan top marginal tax-rates made it cost prohibitive to pay CEO’s and corporate presidents outrageous sums of money; and the tax code incentivised a more balanced distribution of American wealth, and treated an educated workforce as a treasure and a growing middle-class has a national strength. Before Reagan, Labor unions protected workers and for decades were seen as a powerful ally to the middle-class, as one out of five workers were part of a union (A fact which pressed non-unionized employers into competition with unionized employers, in effect pushing wages upwards.); after Reagan, who attacked the unions early in his tenure, they were severely weakened, not to mention villafied, and now only 1 out of ten workers is part of a union.

Before Reagan, the difference between CEO and low-level workers was 30. The average CEO of a major company made about 30 times more than his low-level employees. Today, the difference has been exponentially increased to 300. CEO’s now make over 300 times what their low-level employees make! Is this good for America? The proof is in the pudding, but many Christians will resist this notion because the contrary is seen has “Liberal”, rather than “Conservative”; though the reality is that this is a common sense tactic used in previous generations to bolster the middle-class, protecting people from the possibility of corporate exploitation. Welcome to Pergamos, a place where the Church has become an election tool in the hand of corporate greed.

The redistribution of wealth upward was only the beginning. Impediments to free-trade stood in the way of more money in the corporate coffers. What Reaganomics started would be continued by blue-dog Democrats like Bill Clinton. Our country has been involved in world trade since our founding, but for most of that time various policies were in place which prevented the exploitation of our workers. These days corporations can set up out-of-country factories and offices where they can hire non-Americans for a fraction of what would be required in this country, yet ship the goods and services back across the border without penalty or tariff. Once again, the wealth which is redistributed upwards fails to trickle-down upon the middle-class. American wages decrease, benefits disappear, and now jobs begin to vanish.

But never fear, Capitalism now expands to the banking realm offering debt to all, regardless of ability to pay! In 1999, The Glass-Stegal Act of 1932 was repealed in a bipartisan effort which now allowed banks to operate like casinos, taking on risks which inevitably brought the economy to its knees in October 2008. An Act intended to prevent another economic meltdown, like 1929’s Black Tuesday crash, was now in shreds on the floor of Congress. The Rich got massively richer, as the "Banksters" unethically, though legally, removed billions from the middle-class: money saved for retirement and other silly and superfluous leftovers of FDR’s New Deal. Welcome to Pergamos, where middle-class and newly lowered-class Christians continue to vote for the party which brought all these things upon us; and who continue to believe that though they vote against their own interests, they are yet voting the “right” or “conservative” or even "Christian" way.

Finally, the last nail is inserted into the coffin prepared for the middle-class-- that infamous class, which for decades during America's greatest age of prosperity (The 1940's-1970's, even through the 80’s and 90’s before Right-wing corporatists tactics could take full affect and stop the bleeding of riches.) only served to drain wealth from the highest and richest class. Welcome to Pergamos, where the Church which spent the 60’s and 70’s evangelizing, now spends its time organizing political rallies. Welcome to Pergamos, where the politicized Church is the single greatest threat to the United States of America as the middle-class once knew it.

Welcome to Pergamos: Home of the Politically-charged and Corporately-owned Church.
Don't forget to Vote!

Information taken from the following sources:

  • The Library of Congress. Jefferson’s Letter To The Danbury Baptists: The Draft and Recently Discovered Text. 
  • National Journal
  • The Gallup Organization
  • The Pew Research Center
  • Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia
  • Hartmann, Thom. Screwed: The Undeclared War Against The Middle-class. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2006.

In : Politics 

Tags: middle-class  reagan  reaganomics  taxes  taxation  jared munson  pergamos 
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