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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tom Delay and John D. Rockefeller: Self-Delusion Enabled by Religion

On January 10, 2011, former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX) was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering for using a political action committee to illegally send corporate donations to Texas House candidates in 2002. Prosecutors claim the money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House. That enabled the Republican majority to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004, strengthening DeLay's political power. In the face of this charge, DeLay simply repeated his longstanding claim that he did nothing wrong. "I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did," DeLay said in a 10-minute speech to the judge. This statement is not unlike those of John D. Rockefeller, when the monopolist of Standard Oil was accused in the late nineteenth century of restraint of trade. 

Ida Tarbell, Rockefeller's chief critic, believed the titan was under a sort of self-delusion. For example, Tarbell, whose father was an oil producer who resisted Rockefeller's grasp, pointed out that the titan's "Christ-like" efforts to "save" drowning refiners included drowning those who refused to come aboard Standard Oil. Did Noah kill any animals who refused to come on the ark? Rockefeller's application of religion to his monopolization is thus suspect in terms of his actions. It is possible that Delay suffered from a similar rationalization or state of denial denial.

Just as Rockefeller, who attended Church more than once a week through his 90s insisted that things are right between him and his God, Delay pointed to his faith in Jesus as in effect rendering the verdict nugatory in terms of what really matters. To be sure, Delay probably did view himself as innocent of criminal conduct. "This criminalization of politics is very dangerous" he charged, "It's dangerous to our system. Just because somebody disagrees with you they got to put you in jail, bankrupt you, destroy your family."  Antithetically, Gary Cobb, the lead prosecutor, averred that Delay had "put his principles, ideals and beliefs above the laws of Texas." Particularly when one's religious beliefs are invoked along with a criminal defense (i.e., that it was politics that was being criminalized), one should be on guard against the possibility of self-delusion. 

Both Rockefeller and Delay had immense power, and their respective views of the non-culpability bore on their use of power. The ends justifying the means allows for a slippery slope. Of course, in Delay's case one could simply look at the money exchanges and compare them to the law. According to The New York Times, "a jury determined that he conspired with two associates to use his Texas-based political action committee to send $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can't go directly to political campaigns." Yet as clear as this sounds, it is surprising how divergent Delay and Cobb are with respect to their interpretations.

If we take the verdict as correct, and rather cut and dry, it might be troubling that Delay not only denied any culpability after the verdict, but went on to invoke his salubrious condition in terms of his religious faith. Such an invocation can easily turn into a justification, with the result being that great wrongs, such as wars, can be done in the name of a religion of love. Does religion itself support or enable its role in hypocrisy, or are there tools such that Rockefeller's pastor could have stood up to him as though a mirror to reflect the pride and duplicity or delusion back upon the titan who even as a teenager dreamed of money?

Source:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41006570/ns/politics-more_politics/ 

For more on the intersection of Rockefeller's commercial and religious roles and what this may imply regarding the Reformation and Christianity itself with respect to profit-seeking and wealth, please see Godliness and Greed, available at: http://www.amazon.com/Godliness-Greed-Shifting-Christian-Thought/dp/0739139835/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1294957599&sr=8-1

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