'Their idols are silver and gold…'

I’ve been enjoying Raj Patel‘s new book, Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System. In the midst of discussing the power food corporations have over governments, he says the following:

When agribusiness gives money to politicians, it sometimes buys politicians themselves. ‘Dwayne Andreas just owns me,’ confessed Robert Strauss, a board member of Archer Daniels Midland, and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1985. ‘But I mean that in a nice way.’

For his part, Andreas thinks of political donations as tithing: ‘I consider politics to be just like the church,’ he confessed. It’s a helpful analogy. If the benign, silent and ultimate authority in the Church is the Almighty, what is His analogue in politics? The analogue would need to be something that can’t speak for itself, that breeds interpreters to speak and truck on its behalf and that, ultimately, commands absolute allegiance from all those concerned, to the extent that any criticism of the entity absolutely prohibits membership of the broader community of politics. Let us call it ‘the national interest’. The national interest has no self-evident form or substance, but it has its high priests and oracles, to whom a tithe can secure a more favourable dispensation. And as with the medieval grace of the Almighty, the national interest has tended to bestow itself on the rich, rather than the poor. (pp. 112-113)

Now obviously I don’t think God is like that; but it seems hard for me to deny that “national interest” is an idol, and a quite potent one in today’s political climate. Sad that some Christians don’t recognize this while secular thinkers see it clearly…