I like it when Philadelphia ends up being on national newspapers’ front pages. But when it’s our cable behemoth and its unethical activity that gets us there, well that’s another thing altogether. But still, I do like the attention.
The latest news from the cable giant is about its merger with Time Warner Cable. If the government approves this merger, Comcast will dominate 43 out of 50 largest metropolitan markets in the country.
Monopolies, or near monopolies, are dangerous not just because they might increase the price of products for consumers, but because with a communication giant like Comcast, content is also controlled. I don’t trust capitalists to deliver my news, in general, but I trust them even less when there is just one of them. Comcast’s towering over the cable industry is filled with sin: greed, idolatry, and corruption to make the list short.
Philadelphians, who feel the Comcast Empire’s shadow every time they see the Comcast Tower at 17th and Arch dwarf the surrounding highrises, are in for another problem when Comcast builds another tower that’s even taller. Of course the Planning Commission universally approved it—even though it doesn’t have enough bike parking.
Christians tend to remain dormant when these displays of imperial power erect themselves around us. At the very least, these displays are ones of power and dominance declaring to the peons that fuel the Empire, “There’s nothing you can do without us. You’ll buy our cable and you’ll see our power every time you look up.”
The scary thing is that Comcast’s power is a source of pride for many Philadelphians. A local developer posted on Facebook their enthusiasm and excitement that Philly was getting another skyscraper. Another friend thought that God might be blessing Comcast and prayed for its leaders to make God-fearing choices. Rooted in this thinking is that Comcast’s wealth might trickle down and affect the rest of us. Comcast’s success is our success—never was there a more Orwellian thought.
My instinct tells me that acquiring a company to make yourself a near monopoly and a erecting another, taller tower is not really about fearing God, as much as it about being God. The men that dominate these industries aren’t on their knees, they are putting the rest of us on our knees. The whole thing reminds me of Babel and I’m not sure God won’t curse us for our sins either. We reap what we sow, when Comcast sows its greed, it’ll reap its results.
Instead of being dormant, sometimes these corporations subvert Christians into supporting them and their imperial pursuits. Christians can be positions to be the greatest resister to the world’s ways, but when the world tricks them into doing their dirty work, they’ve neutralized the threat in the best possible way.
Polycarp, for example, refused to bend his knee to the Roman Empire. He refused to bend his knee to Caesar and didn’t deny Jesus. He was sentenced to death by fire, but he survived. He was then stabbed and his blood put the fire out.
The power of the Empire can easily crush small church plants like ours, and so I take Pauls’ advice in Romans 13, and try to honor our leaders so that I can silence our foolish detractors. At the same time, like Paul, for the sake of Jesus, I might get imprisoned by the Empire too. Christians have to be willing to do that too.
When the Roman Empire realized the growing influence of the illegal Christian movement, it converted. Christians then proudly fought in its wars for the sake of Jesus.
Comcast might be doing the same thing to the Christian capitalists that the U.S. has made. Some of our best believers just seem to continue to support the imperialistic, idolatrous behavior of our largest and most powerful corporations. Who knows? We might end up calling it prosperity and think Jesus is blessing us for our great lives.
I think Jesus has another way of doing it though. The symbol of our faith is an execution device. Jesus dies for us. It’s almost the opposite of prospering. He saves us from our sins. And he tells us that in His Kingdom, the last will be first and the first will be last.
Christians shouldn’t just be resisting the Empire, they should be creating an alternative Kingdom. Let’s go for that. Let’s kill our gods and try to live through the death of the true God.