Conversation with Solomon

“The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for, not by labor agitators, but by the Christian men to whom God in his infinite wisdom has given control of the property interests of the country,” wrote George Baer of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company. In 1902. Along with Melville I’ve been thinking about old Ecclesiastes and his gloomy prognostications. The writer of this neglected book of the Bible claimed that nothing was new under the sun; what is has been before. I read the quote above in David DeKok’s Fire Underground (on which more later). I thought of Occupy Wall Street and the supposed great wisdom of the “Christian men” that God “himself” has appointed to towers of wealth for our benefit. As long as we keep our mouths shut and our hind-quarters out of Zuccotti Park. The data, Old Solomon, I must admit, are depressing. The staggering wealth of the top one percent is beyond unconscionable. Solomon? Are you still listening? After all, as one of the Lord’s chosen, Solomon was also a king. In his day, according to the book of Kings, silver was as common as the dust in the streets. Is that rain, or just drool from the towers of power?

Old Ecclesiastes said the more that things change, the more they stay the same. He also inspired the Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn.” As a society we have become reluctant to turn. Where did all that wealth go, Solomon? Did it not go to the temple and the palace? Seems there was a Religious Right even back then. As soon as Solomon died the common folk revolted. The chosen people split into two kingdoms that were never again reunited. Turn, turn, turn. The Christian men to whom God has given control have abandoned their posts. They’ve taken the cash and shared with their friends. Yes, America has kings. When the disparity is so great no other name applies.

“Cast your bread upon the waters,” Old Ecclesiastes says, “and it will come back to you in time of want.” I doubt that Solomon was ever unemployed. After working for “the Christian men” for over a decade, I was cast out on the waters, never to return. My stint of unemployment wavered in and out for six years. And I am one of the lucky ones. In that time I don’t recall feeling any wealth trickling down. I sure spent a lot getting the requisite degrees for a job that never materialized. So I sit down to read Ecclesiastes. Those who are addicted to wealth and power simply never took the words of the old sage to heart. We can excuse them, I suppose, since most clergy ignore him as well. When in need of some honesty, it is nice to know there’s a book in the Bible that is unafraid to utter the truth.

6 thoughts on “Conversation with Solomon

    • Right you are, Norm! Seeger was just before my time, but I should have done a little more homework on this! I hope the point makes sense, nonetheless.

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  1. I was so excited when I was a teen in the 90s and discovered that that song was based on those verses, because I thought the song was deep and amazing, and that the bible had verses that were cool enough to be in a secular (at the time I didn’t know the term) song, rather than a hymn or watered down ” Contemporary Christian” song. That is still my favorite book of the bible.
    I really think people have to walk a mile in another’s shoes to truly understand. I have been on welfare as a kid, gotten food and clothing from the food bank because my ex stepfather started smoking crack and left my mom with myself and his 3 children with no child support. She tried to work but minimum wage won’t support a family of five and pay the mortgage and bills, she was a stay at home mom for 10 years and had no work experience. So there is my welfare life experience. My husband’s family is well off and are staunch conservatives, anti welfare etc.. but they donate money left and right to pregnancy care centers( possible controversial subject but in their hearts they are helping Mommies and babies) they donate clothing and food to the food bank, and they have gone on countless mission trips to Cuba, India and Africa(again possible controversial as they are preaching while helping) but they are feeding the poor in other countries and here. They just would rather choose how and where their money is spent, I can respect that.

    So, I have lived both ways, a life that was impossible to eat without welfare and a life where money is not as much of an issue (these are my inlaws not us) and they are contributing as are their peers who are as well or if not more well off, Doctors, business owners and lawyers. I’m not saying they don’t indulge in luxury, but they are sharing.
    Are there people on both sides abusing the system, and power? Always. But I think people forget that we are family and friends and coexist. I TRY (doesn’t happen always) to ask myself, what if that was my Mom, Husband, kid, or sister. How would I react or feel if they were in the situation? That usually keeps me grounded. My husband got a text this morning, (paraphrased)…”If this___ happens a Democrat does this___, and a Republican would do this___…. At the end it said a Republican would find this funny and pass it on, a democrat would delete it, I passed it on…..” We both rolled our eyes. I just can’t figure out why it has to be us against them, black and white, this or that, and if you ask one side a question you are automatically the enemy. Life is gray. Well that sound bleak, how about, life is a rainbow!
    Thanks for letting me rant.
    PS do you have any old posts on baptism or know of any scholarly resources I can research the subject? My youngest is wanting to be baptized, and my family is super excited, I am as well but, they say it must be in public, and my oldest son is a bit shy, so I was wondering what the scholarly consensus was on that. They quoted the, “if you deny me in front of man I will deny you” verse. I think if the kid is shy it is between him and God, and the reason there were a bunch of people around when Jesus and everyone was being baptized back in the day was that they were waiting in line for their turn. Don’t worry, I won’t send the pitchforks you way, it more for my peace of mind, anyway, they will both probably be on display in the town square, just kidding. Thanks, Alice. J

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    • Thanks, Alice. We share more background than you might think.

      I haven’t written anything on baptism, but I should. Most of the material I’ve read on the subject is pretty much academic (not very accessible to the average reader). Probably the best place to start is in something called The Anchor Bible Dictionary: it is a six-volume set that many public libraries have. There is an online version as well, but you might have to pay for that. It has a good article on baptism. Another source, obviously Catholic, is New Advent. This is a website with articles written by priests and scholars. Naturally I don’t agree with everything I read there, but it is a very good starting point. If I run across anything else, I will post again.

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      • Thank you so much, I will make a trip to the library soon. I am fascinated by this actually, I learned that some denominations require you to be baptized again when you join them. I was baptized as a baby in the Lutheran church and again as a 20 year old in a Church of Christ in Olympia, WA.(I added location because it is quite different than the COCs in Texas) My experience there was You must be baptized to be saved… I didn’t chose the church because of denomination, but because I worked with the pastor at a grocery store.( it was a start up, lol). My mother in law said when she joined the Baptist church they made her get baptized. She had already been in the COC. Also what baffles me is this church membership thing, they want you to sign your life away, like the military…
        Again thank you, I can’t wait to research this and gain some perspective as I am a very questioning individual.
        *I apologize about my wordy-ness I have a hard time getting directly to the point.

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        • No apologies necessary, Alice. Baptism is an interesting phenomenon; some churches refuse to re-baptize because the “action” is supposed to be divine, not human. Others insist that you be baptized into a specific denomination. It does have roots in Judaism and likely even earlier religions. Happy hunting!

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