It was good to be back in the saddle on Sunday. I’ll put the sermon on the website- I wish I could put the feeling in our sanctuary on the website, but there are some things that simply have to be experienced first hand.
I neglected to remind you that I’ll be doing a one hour poetry reading at the Talmadge Hill Community Church in New Canaan at 4 p.m. this Sunday, February 3. It’s part of their Religion and the Arts series. Take Exit 37 off the Merrit; turn right and take Talmadge Hill road on the right-about 1/4 of a mile from the Merrit, and the church is less than half a mile on the left.
During candle lighting on Sunday I was thinking of J. Clifford Baxter, the Enron executive who killed himself last week. Baxter was 43 and left his wife and two small children. His death is a tragedy in the strict sense of the word.
Baxter was engaged in a great moral struggle- his success led to his ruin. His life came to an unhappy but meaningful ending. It’s meaningful to us because it goes to the core of our nation’s economic system as well as the heart of the human drama.
Senator Dick Durbin, (D-IL) a member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, commenting on the Enron investigation, said, in part: “With Biblical certainty, the United States preaches the gospel of free markets and capitalism to the unconverted around the world. As proof of the truth of our message we can point to our own experience – a frontier nation which joined democratic government to a market economy and created the freest, most stable and prosperous nation in history.
“But the American story also includes a chapter where we came to realize that the rule of law and the guiding hand of government were critical to a just result in the world of business. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to acknowledge that the genius of capitalism could also be a triumph of greed without rule and regulation to save us from our baser instincts.”
Referring to the failure of a ‘flawed and fraudulent business concept’ he said, “When the corporate insiders at Enron realized the ship was sinking they grabbed the lifeboats and left the women and children, their workers, and investors to drown.”
Speaking of that deep moral sentiment which drove Baxter to suicide, Emerson said, “If a man dissemble, deceive, he deceives himself and goes out of acquaintance with his own being.”
In my Natural Selections collection there’s a piece from Sandburg about a father giving advice to a son which says, “Tell him too much money has killed men and left them dead years before burial: the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs has twisted good enough men sometimes into dry thwarted worms.”
While we work to improve laws to protect investors- and therefore our country- against the forces of greed, we continue to do the interior work of becoming awake and aware of the moral laws which are at the essence of the religious sentiment. Our collective life depends on the one; our individual lives depend on the other.
It would be good to see you this Sunday afternoon at Talmadge Hill- you’ll be home in time for the Super Bowl. And I look forward to seeing you again a week from Sunday when I’ll deliver the sermon I had originally planned for September 16: Jesus the Rabbi. Take care.