Against the God of Capitalism: Habakkuk's Lament
A Sermon on Habakkuk 1:1-4 & 2:1-4 NRSV
Allendale United Methodist Church- St. Petersburg, FL
We live in a society which worships the God of a Capitalistic Theology: a faith of production and a doctrine of exploitation. We live in a society which tells us our world is scarce and our options are limited because supply and demand must be balanced in favor of the few. The money changers of today dwell in Wall Street Offices and Senate Floors. Our dollar bill idols live unencumbered and unfazed by the Wisdom, the holy wisdom, the Sophia of Scripture, because they are too out of contact with the common collective. For wisdom cries forth from the margins, because that is where the most resorful are forced to live. Scraping by and crying forth to God with tattered tears.
Gustavo Gutiérrez, the father of Liberation Theology writes that in the face of capitalism, “Poverty means death… It refers to the destruction of individua persons, peoples, cultures, and traditions.” That. That is the goal of a Theology of Capitalism: the destruction of personhood, the prolongment of pain, and the dehumanization of worth.
The God of Capitalism is not the God of Wisdom, the God of Grace, nor the God of Everlasting Love.
For The God of Capitalism views Progress as economic Growth.
But the God of Creation views Progress as the movement towards collective well being.
The God of Capitalism views the world in scarcity.
But the God of Creation views the world in utter abundance.
That God, our God, the God of Mercy has a preferential option for the poor and the oppressed. The God of Hope does not value us for our ability to produce wealth. Because Wealth is, as Eugene McCarraher a historian and professor of humanities writes, “simply the sum total of all goods and services we produce every year… there is no concern for whether or not those goods and services are good for us or the conditions in which they were procured or the ecological impact of the production or the modes of consumption.” Wealth has no concern for us spiritually or mentally or relationally. But Our God, the Divine Liberator, the Blessed Redeemer, and the Great Sustainer, are very concerned about how we relate to each other.
The God of Wisdom, calls us into an active participation in our collective liberation. This is because the Religion of Capitalism, the worship of Nationalism, will never end unless we demand it do so.
How do we begin?
It all starts with a guttural cry.
It starts with the sound of screaming and the act of voicing and the movement of marching. It starts, as scripture tells of the Prophet Habakkuk thousands of years ago, with anger and frustration turned towards a God who can withstand it.
You see we do not know much about this lamenting prophet. Almost no information is provided about his background. However, his name, Habakkuk, is not recognized as having Hebrew origins. Does this mean that Habakkuk was an outsider, a person from the outskirts of the institution of faith, perhaps an ignored and trivialized individual:Un-wealthy, un-resourced, and unvalued.
Habakkuk cries out to the Divine when all hope seems to have faded away. This is the last chance he will give to God. He cries, “How long, YHWH, am I to cry for help while you do not listen? How long will I cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear and you do not save?”.
Unlike other prophets, he is unconcerned with proclaiming a message to his followers... for all we know, he has none. No, this entire book of scripture is based around a singular supposed conversation between Divinity and Humanity. He is pissed. He is pissed about the state of the world and he is pissed because he is only ever told that, "Everything happens for a reason." He is pissed because he is only ever told that these attrocieteis, these injustices, are, "all in God’s plan." He is pissed because the privileged religious and political elite dealer that suffering is necessary and sourced from God.
In Habakuk 2:4, he screams, “The law loses its hold, and justice never shows itself. The corrupt triumph over those who are righteous, and justice is perverted once again.”
Is justice not perverted when the Governor of Florida has the power to commit what can only be described as Human Trafficking, shipping the marginalized to another state without knowledge or consent, as if they are a product to be delivered on time. The Migrants who were trafficked to Martha’s vineyard, were a sacrificial offering to the Governor's God of Capitalism. He promised work in exchange for personhood. He promised stability only if they submitted to the overreaching power of Divine injustice.
In Chapter 2, Habakkuk defiantly declares, “ I will stand on my watchtower, and take up my post on my battlements, watching to see what God will say to me, what answers God will make to my complaints.”
That is to say, he is not moving, he is not going anywhere until his cries are heard and his questions are answered. He is giving no more options to the powers that be. No longer is the answer of false promise and prosperity good enough.
And what does God say?
“If it is slow in coming, wait for it—for come it will, without fail:⁴ “Look—those whose hearts are corrupt will faint with exhaustion, while those who steadfastly uphold justice will live.” -Habakkuk 2:3-4
On the surface, this seems to be yet another example of the marginalized being told to wait in their pain without the satiation of reprieve. HOWEVER, God states goes on to declare that the corrupt will faint with exhaustion.
What makes those in power faint if they are sitting idol?
God says that change will come, but you must keep working, demanding, defying. If a law is unjust, it must be adapted. If a governor is corrupt, he must be replaced. If a denomination is causing pain to those it was formed to serve, it must be reinvented.
For the God of Creation speaks to Habakkuk and tells him, and all of us here today, to march on. Have Faith in yourself and have faith in the collective community. Have faith that together, you can support one another. Have faith, or in the original Hebrew, “emunah,” meaning steadfast integrity.
Y'all: It is only together that we can change the systems of harm and bring about an end to injustice within our communities and within our states and and within our world.
So stand firm on the watchtower, cry out to the God of Creation, and walk hand in hand with one another.
The Theology of Capitalism can be overturned. The Theology of Liberation and the Faith of Coexistence can rise in its place, bringing forth the everlasting peace... the overflowing love... and the unmistakable grace felt only in the Kin-dom of God.