The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gecko Judgment

One thing you’ve got to say about Hollywood: It never misses a moment to capitalize on a current event -- even if that current event is the result of Americans paying the price of capitalism running amuck.

In September, we saw several large U.S.-based financial institutions fail, merge, and otherwise instill a lack of confidence. It wasn’t as if business journal prophets had not warned of these things to come, mostly pointing to sub-prime mortgage issues.

But they were like Old Testament prophets standing on the wall, shouting, “Woe! Woe! Woe!” Or, maybe it was “Whoah, Whoah, Whoah!” as in “Stop! Stop! Stop! You’re heading for a train wreck!”

But then, the train wreck came: Large financial institutions began to fall, and the wave rolled across the ocean, and moved around the world. Governments have now stepped in to help lay a little track, hoping to get the global economy back on track.

In the midst of all of this misery, Hollywood is moving forward on a sequel to the 1987 film, “Wall Street,” the 1987 film directed by Oliver Stone.

In that movie, Charlie Sheen plays an ambitious young stockbroker named Bud Fox. His idol is an unscrupulous corporate raider, played by Michael Douglas, whose character is given the unlikely name of Gordon Gekko.

Gekko is idolized by Bud Fox, whose father, Carl, is played by Martin Sheen. Carl is a maintenance worker at a small struggling airline, Bluestar. Bud gives Gekko some inside information on Bluestar that can make a stock trade profitable, while saving the company in the process. Gekko uses Bud to get more inside information, including concessions from the labor unions, and then decides to cannibalize the company -- selling off its assets and leaving the employees out of work.

The iconic line that Gekko offers in the film is this: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” (These days it's difficult to tell whether life imitates art, or whether art imitates life.)

It's beautifully ironic that the greedy bloodsucker in the film “Wall Street” is named “Gekko.” While spelled differently, a "gecko" is a lizard found in warm climates around the world. There are about 2,000 species worldwide, with some unique characeristics:
  • All but one of the species lacks eyelids.
  • As a defense mechanism, they expel a foul-smelling material and feces.
  • Some species change color to blend in with their environment.
Gecko is seems an appropriate mascot for the lizards of Wall Street.

"Greed," the Gecko says, "is good."

Chameleons that excrete foul-smelling substances.

I think Amos knew something about Geckos.

Amos was an 8th century layman prophet -- not one of those professional preachers -- from the southern kingdom of Judah. He was a sheep and fruit farmer of sorts who had the audacity to go into the northern kingdom of Israel and preach.

He starts out with a roar, proclaiming words of judgment against Israel's enemies for atrocities committed in war. You can just hear the crowds yelling, “Right on! Preach it brother! Don’t hold back! Let ’em have it with both barrels.”

But then, Amos turns to his own homeland, Judah, the southern kingdom, and proclaims God's judgment -- not because of war crimes, but because of idolatry and a failure to follow the Lord.

And he turns turns to Israel, the northern kingdom, citing crimes of violence -- not the violence of wars against nations, but violence against the poor:

"Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals — those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same maiden, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.'” (Amos 2:6-8)

Amos is taking aim at the Geckos of Jerusalem, for systematically ripping off the poor.

Are not the Geckos of Wall Street doing the same today?

I wonder how God will judge us?

What we see today is that Gecko CEOS have left homebuyers, many of whom were led astray through suspect loan instruments, out on the street. Their hope for living the American Dream blinded their eyes to the fact that they simply could not afford that dream, and seeking it would actually lead them into a nightmare.

The Geckos have taken the sandals and cloaks of the poor and middle class to some golden temple of an offshore bank account, sitting on island sands while they drink!

In the Old Testament, God set His people apart to be salt and light for the world, not vinegar and bitter herbs.

I believe God had a similar plan for this nation.

Somewhere along the way, I believe we have forgotten the missio dei -- the mission of God -- given to USAmerica, or maybe we never fully embraced that mission to begin with.

Maybe, like Columbus, who considered himself God’s light-bearer of the Gospel to the New World, the prospect of getting rich got in our way.

I wonder how God will judge us?

Maybe He already is ...

Almighty God, in our desire for comfort and security, we often trample over others as we dash for the train that we believe will carry us to the American dream.

As we run for that train, O Lord, slow us down so that we might see others who have likewise fallen along the way.

Lead us through your Holy Spirit to not be afraid to reach down and lift someone else up ... even if it causes us to miss the train.

For in that way, we will become salt and light to your world.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Grace and peace ...

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