Sackcloth on Wall Street

Jimmy SwaggartReligion Dispatches posted a crazy little blog post of mine, “Repentance on Wall Street?” It came to mind after getting the chance to hear yet another rousing talk by Cornel West (along with Judith Butler, Jurgen Habermas, and Charles Taylor) at an SSRC event at Cooper Union. His words and encouragement, such as they are, sometimes feel like my greatest source of hope that thinking hard about religion can be a force for good in the world.

Imagine this: in the middle of the day, all at once, a sea of suits pours out onto the streets of Lower Manhattan. With them come as many somber faces, cast down, but bearing a glint of tranquility not often seen in that neighborhood. No press conference was scheduled, but reporters descend, and something like one materializes out of the crowd, centered around the chief executives of the top investment banks. They, we learn, arranged this together the night before in lieu of their usual cognac and cigars.

It has been a year now since the American people rescued the financial industry with gargantuan loans and benevolent takeovers. The Dow is on the upswing again, and some of the biggest banks have paid back what they borrowed. But the executives know that, even as their fortunes turn, employment nationwide continues to plummet. People all around the globe have fallen into poverty as a result of the crisis that their markets engineered.

Now is the time, they declare, for a change.

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