Saturday, 26 September 2015

Something Smells Around Here

Phone hacking, Libor rate fixing, PPI, FIFA, and now Diesel emissions with defeat devices which fool those carrying out environmental tests.  The latter seems to have embroiled Volkswagen in bad publicity and possible court action of an immense scale, but let us be honest (which is in contrast to aforementioned scandals) there will not be many of us that will be surprised if the emissions scandal spreads to something more industry wide!

What is it about big companies or industries that seem to encourage, on occasions, a corrupt, dishonest approach which can spread like a cancer throughout their structures?  Is it the pressure to compete and win through profits? Is it that large structures are much more difficult to police and regulate?  Is it that we live in a world which in many ways has lost its moral, ethical and spiritual compass?  Maybe it is all of those or maybe none.  However, I tend to think that in an age of relativism (particularly in the West) there can be a tendency to define my behaviour as good because I can spot someone who is worse than me.  Is there an element of "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Acton 1834–1902) about things.

I do feel that in so many ways now the West (and our own country included) struggles because it takes its course and direction from what it sees around it.  To chart one’s course by objects that move can be a very dangerous business.  Yet I feel this is what we do.  In fact one of the frightening things is that one cannot help but get the impressions that some individuals, organisations and indeed companies base their behaviour on whether they can get away with what the other lot did in their pursuit of survival, profit and dominance.

In contrast the Bible and the Christian faith presents a standard that finds its bearings centred on the God who is both loving and holy.  To seek to base our lives and behaviour on him is very different indeed to casting a glance at the next person just making sure we are a little better than them.

We should always be concerned about the sort of scandals mentioned above, but in relation to the emissions scandal, at this Harvest Thanksgiving time within the life of the Church, we should remember we are called to care for God’s earth.  We should then be willing to challenge those who put profit before people and who think that dishonesty is OK as long as you are not found out.

Amos was an Old Testament prophet in the Bible who stood against injustice in society and who saw around him corruption, greed and dishonesty.  It was contrary to the way that that God had laid down for people to live their lives and for society to function.  Amos 8 says,

Hear this, you who trample the needy
    and do away with the poor of the land,
saying, ‘When will the New Moon be over
    that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
    that we may market wheat?’–
skimping on the measure,
    boosting the price
    and cheating with dishonest scales,
buying the poor with silver
    and the needy for a pair of sandals,
    selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: ‘I will never forget anything they have done.

Being big, being powerful, being rich, is not an excuse to cheat people or society.  The scandal over Diesel emissions is clearly not the first international scandal, nor will it be the last, but within the Church we have a particular responsibility to make a stand against dishonest behaviour and trickery of others and I suggest within society we need to do the same.