Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The King You Have Chosen

During a conversation last night with another pastor who serves a congregation here in the Washington Metropolitan area, we found ourselves noting just everyone in DC is. Not everyone, mind you. There is plenty of poverty here. But when you step back for a second and look at the population in and around our nation's capital, you realize just how much money there is here.

That foundation of wealth just got a little bump upwards this week, as defense contracting giant Northrop Grumman committed to relocating it's headquarters to the Virginia suburbs of Washington. In fact, they're likely to locate themselves within walking distance of my home, right near my high school, in an office park where me and the missus...well...we used to...err..."hang out" in the empty parking lots there on occasion when we were dating. You know, talking about politics.


In the Forbes list of the wealthiest counties in the United States, for instance, six out of the top ten counties are here around the Beltway. That's a supermajority of American wealth, kids, the kind of majority that lets you ram any legislation you want through the hallowed [buttocks] of the Senate. Loudon, Fairfax, Howard, Fairfax City, Arlington, and Montgomery all have pretty stunning levels of wealth. How stunning? The median household income here in Fairfax is $106,000. Nearby Loudon County has us beat, with a median household income of $110,000. That's more than twice the national average.

Now, many of those households are two-income. Many fall below that level. It is worth noting that the folks who skew that median upwards are not federal workers, but rather the impressive array of industry lawyers and industry lobbyists and defense contractors. Civil servants aren't the folks living in the 10,000 square foot homes in Potomac and Loudon. Associate Vice Presidents of General Dynamics and Executive Counsels for Lockheed Martin are.

Honestly, though, the blame for this peculiar skewing of wealth to the power elites lies not with the increasingly fat cats here in Washington. This, my fellow Americans, is the government you want.

It's right there in the Bible, in 1 Samuel 8. We Americans have an obsession with defending ourselves, with being sure that we have the weapons and organization needed to protect our national interests. That's why military spending, which is the primary generator of inside-the-Beltway wealth, is entirely off the table as we consider ways to reduce our insane national debt. Only slightly crazy folks out on the margins like myself even think about cutting military spending.

That obsession should be familiar. It is the very same desire that spurred the demand of the Israelites for a king. We want that centralized power, because in that centralized power lies our ability to organize and plan and research the various ways to crush America's enemies under the boots of our shiny new orbital battle platform.

But, as with any king, our demand for that power has a cost:
This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive grows and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day. (1 Samuel 8:11-18)
Jerusalem and Washington. Saul and the Military Industrial Complex. Six of one, a half dozen of the other.

For a nation purportedly steeped in Judeo-Christian values, it's impressive how utterly clueless we are about this.

"Those who do not know the Bible are doomed to repeat it."