“Some day—the armies of bitterness will all be going the same way. And they’ll all walk together, and there’ll be a dead terror from it.”

Some conservative Christians have a blind spot regarding extreme wealth. Perhaps because liberals bash, lament, and outright confiscate prosperity so flagrantly it was inevitable that some sort of backlash would occur. In the Church this has taken the form of the prosperity Gospel which teaches that all prosperity and wealth in a persons life come from God (true), and further celebrates material prosperity as one of the goals of a Christian life. (untrue)
The violence in the middle east should serve as a sobering reminder that large disparities in wealth lead to death on a large scale. The instability is occurring for political, religious, and economic reasons, but the economic reasons are the most important. The Egyptians and Libyans who are revolting are not all that excited about a democratic form of government, and they are not spending their free time drafting a new constitution. As usual the American press is full of it. The typical Egyptian protester is not comparable to the gentleman landholders who founded the American republic. The typical Egyptian protester is just plain hungry and angry. If you watched a handful of rulers and their cronies live in luxury while your children cried for food you’d get angry too.

There is no easy solution to the mess in the middle east–revolutions are not likely to produce any sort of republic in any of the troubled nations. A better concern for Americans to focus on is the loss of their own republic to cartels, oligarchs, and big government. Conservatives in the US often protest big govt., but turn a blind eye to the ati-competitive practices of giant corporations. Part of the reason is a conservative narrative that involves lifting oneself up by the bootstraps; the self made man image. This idea that those who are extremely successful deserve every penny has become part of American folklore.
A more reasoned analysis of American history would acknowledge the importance of the Turner thesis. Frederick Jackson Turner asserted that the frontier was critical to the American republic. Turner was correct. America has not had the terrible legacy of class conflict that plagued Europe; free and abundant land was the reason. The United States before the civil war was a nation of farmers. There was never a huge disparity in wealth in the early US. Why should a person become a serf to a large landowner when there was land of his own to be claimed? The result was a large middle class of people who all had a common stake in their county and this created a stable republic–until now.

A republic is a fragile form of government that is seldom seen in history. The concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a few followed by bloody revolution is the standard path taken in much of human history. The American republic served the Church well for 150 years and hosted the great awakening. The collapse of the United States into tyranny is not inevitable, but it is made much more likely by the extreme concentration of wealth that is taking place. Churches must reject the prosperity gospel firmly. Christians should remember the Turner thesis when politicians call for eliminating taxes on dividends while slapping a15.3% payroll tax on wage earners. Remember the violence and bloodshed in Libya when you are told that the taxpayer must bail out AIG (again). and remember the words of John Steinbeck,

“But watch it, mister. There’s a premium goes with this pile of junk and the bay horses—so beautiful—a packet of bitterness to grow in your house and to flower, some day.  We could have saved you, but you cut us down, and soon you will be cut down and there’ll be none of us to save you.  And the tenant men came walking back, hands in their pockets, hats pulled down.  Some bought a pint and drank it fast to make the impact hard and stunning. But they didn’t laugh and they didn’t dance. They didn’t sing or pick the guitars. They walked  back to the farms, hands in pockets and heads down, shoes kicking the red dust up.

Maybe we can start again, in the new rich land—in California, where the fruit
grows. We’ll start over.

But you can’t start. Only a baby can start. You and me—why, we’re all that’s been.
The anger of a moment, the thousand pictures, that’s us. This land, this red land, is us;
and the flood years and the dust years and the drought years are us. We can’t start
again. The bitterness we sold to the junk man—he got it all right, but we have it still.
And when the owner men told us to go, that’s us; and when the tractor hit the house,
that’s us until we’re dead. To California or any place—every one a drum major leading
a parade of hurts, marching with our bitterness. And some day—the armies of
bitterness will all be going the same way. And they’ll all walk together, and there’ll be
a dead terror from it.

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