I recall a conversation with someone about large homes. He is conservative, but couldn't understand why people continued to build these huge homes. "It is none of my business what they do with their money...." It was clear he disapproved, but didn't think he could do so with any standing. I wondered at the time, (but didn't say it) why isn't it our business? Why is conspicuous consumption something we can't criticize?
Take the recent retirement package of Lee Raymond, Exxon CEO:
"According to a recent proxy filing by the company, Raymond received $48.5 million in salary, bonuses and incentive payments last year; exercised more than $20 million in stock options in 2005; and in January received a lump-sum retirement payment of $98.5 million. The proxy said that after 43 years of service, Raymond had accumulated $183 million of stock holdings plus stock options worth a net of about $69 million at current share prices.
Evidently, even the Republican House Speaker is concerned about this, but how can he really do anything? Who in the conservative base really thinks there is something called "enough?" From talking to religious conservatives, I get the sense that they no longer even ask the question. One of my friends continues to tell me that while the Bible verses on homosexuality are clear, the numerous passages questioning wealth "don't really mean that." (Nor, of course, do the passages on loving enemies and turning cheeks, which leads us to idiots like Falwell talking about "blowing away terrorists in the name of the Lord.") Wealth is only a problem, he says, if it comes between the person and God. Never mind that the NT seems to imply that money does that all by itself, conservative Christians seem to have parsed it so that money is only a problem if you want to literally have sex with it.
If the church has no criticism of wealth, who will question conspicuous consumption in an age of poverty?