FOUR CS FOR THE CHRISTIAN. CHRIST, CHURCH, COUNTRY AND CORPORATION
Richard H. Bube
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Stanford, California 94305
From: JASA 37 (December 1985): 229-231
Christian men and women with a fundamental commitment to Jesus Christ find their everyday loyalties sought by three principal "bodies." Each body has its own legitimate area of claim, and each body can overstep the bounds of its legitimate area to make the living of a responsible Christian life difficult. When any of these three bodies seeks to replace the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the life of a Christian, it plays the role of anti-Christ: a force that is in antithetical conflict with the claims of Christ. Interactions with church and state have taken place for many years and are fairly well recognized and appreciated. The growing role of the modern corporation in shaping the lives of Christians is perhaps not so well realized. It is the purpose of this communication to heighten our awareness of the potential role of the modern corporation, and to suggest guidelines both for Christians in charge of corporations and Christians working for corporations to prevent the modern corporation from playing the role of the anti-Christ in our lives.The Body of Christ
What has often been called the "invisible church," the fellowship of all true believers in Jesus Christ constitutes the Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. Each Christian man and woman is incorporated into this living Body of Christ as a vital cell or organ in a physical body. When we in faith accept the grace of God offered in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we become baptized into His Body. After that our allegiance to brothers and sisters in the Body is at least as compelling as any other allegiances we may have, even those involving natural brothers and sisters. The Body of Christ lives under the Headship of Christ Himself, and is motivated by the love of God and our neighbor; it expresses its highest goal in the effort to live out a model life on earth of what it means to be a citizen of heaven, as part of the total effort of making disciples for Christ.The Church Organization
It is, of course, not possible to identify the Corpus Christi uniquely with particular Christian churches or ecclesiastical organizations (the "visible church" or Corpus ecclesiae). The Corpus ecclesiae has for its charter the carrying out of the work of Corpus Christi in the world, but consisting of human organizations as it does, it often falls short of that commission. Hence sources of conflict may indeed arise between the Corpus Christi, the authentic Body of Christ in its mystic unity, and the Corpus ecclesiae, the earthly structures in which the Corpus Christi is temporarily housed. It is sad but true that there are times when a Christian must choose between the claims of Corpus Christi and the counter-claims of Corpus ecclesitie, which invokes the name and Lordship of Christ to enforce its own authority. In particularly sad and tragic times the Corpus ecelesiae may so deny by its confession and/or its life the very heart of its relationship to Jesus Christ Himself, that it can become anti-Christ. Even-in less dramatic situations, the demands of the ecclesiastical organizations for the support and maintenance of their own earthly existence can hinder or make more difficult genuine devotion and service in the cause of Corpus Christi.
By the fact of their existence in the world as citizens of secular states, Christians also participate in a Corpus populi, one of many "Bodies" of the people. The particular Corpus populi to which a Christian is related by citizenship or residency has authentic claims upon the Christian such as fulfilling the responsibilities of good citizenship and recognizing the role that legitimate state functions can play in God's plan for human life in a sinful world. At least in an ideal construction, each Corpus populi should be motivated by a desire to preserve order and a love of justice, and expresses its goal in the effort to secure and defend social justice within itself and the rest of the world after the pattern set down by Christ Himself, But the claim of a State may greatly surpass this legitimate area, become the absolute claim of a totalitarian State, and express the role of anti-Christ.
It is not surprising that the history of nations records a continuing conflict between the Corpus ecclesiae and the Corpus populi. In times of proper functioning, the church organizations strive to protect and uphold the Christian under the pressure of non-Christian demands from the State. Perhaps there are also occasions when the State exercises its appropriate powers to protect and uphold the Christian against the pressure of non-Christian demands from church organizations. When the Corpus populi and the Corpus ecclesiae are seen as the framework within which to live out a subset of one's responsibilities as a member of Corpus Christi, then all is well. But when either seeks the ultimate allegiance of the Christian, not recognizing the ultimate sovereignty of Christ, totalitarian persecution and repression of Corpus Christi results.
A particular manifestation of this situation in the modern
world is the existence of the industrial corporation-particularly the large corporation, but not necessarily excluding the
small corporations. This industrial corporation (note that the
word is derived from corporare, to make into a body) can
appropriately be labeled Corpus Mammonae, the Body of
Material Wealth. It is motivated by the love of power and of
money, and its goal is the increase of profit. Unlike the
Corpus ecclesiae or the Corpus populi, which pose no
necessary or inevitable dilemma for the Christian as long as
they express themselves in terms of the ideals that they
themselves publicly espouse, the Corpus Mammonae is a
constant threat to the Christian, particularly when it is most
faithful to its own ideals. Although certainly corporations, as
well as any other domain of life, can be brought under the
Lordship of Christ by committed Christians involved in the
corporations, it is a continuing challenge for Christians
involved in corporation activity to resist falling under the
spell and domination of Corpus Mammonae ("No one can
serve God and Mammon;" "It will be hard for a rich man to
enter the Kingdom of Heaven."). Certainly it is one of the
most difficult and crucial undertakings that a Christian can
Some modern Corporations often seek to become all things to their workers: father, confessor, commitment guide, home, family-yes, even State and Church. Multinational corporations vary in size and power, but some challenge the power of any single State at least as effectively as do the church organizations. And, although the Corporation will condescendingly agree to observe the forms of religion, it will not tolerate any claims of the Corpus Christi that might lead to a restriction on profits. Allegiance to the Corporation must often take first place in all time commitments-over allegiance to church, family, or other social activities. The man or woman who is unwilling to sacrifice time with family or church fellowship in order to put in the 60 to 70 hours a week needed to allow the Corpus Mammonae to forge ahead to more products and bigger profits, is treated with the contempt "they deserve,"--certainly no less contempt than is showered on Christians in totalitarian nations when their Corpus Christi commitments begin to threaten their Corpus populi commitments.
Perhaps Christians are not really aware of the full dimension of the threat imposed by the Corpus Mammonae and for the necessity to develop, work out, and put into practice Christian alternatives. Because of the natural tendency to compartmentalize our lives into religious and non-religious segments, it is extremely easy to get caught up in the Corpus Mammonae syndrome without fully realizing it until some crucial crisis point is reached when the nature of the incompatibility suddenly becomes apparent. The consequences for the sensitive Christian, who is aware of the extent of the conflict involved, may well become catastrophic. Just as in some totalitarian nations, where Christians are usually squeezed into a tiny and politically ineffective minority, denied access to higher education and socially prestigious jobs, driven to seek careers and lifestyles on the borders of the society in which they live, so also under the growing impact of the unlimited Corpus Mammonae, Christians may again well be forced to "drop out" of the main streams of social activity-not because "dropping out" symbolizes their lack of desire to be involved in society (as characterized by the Flower Children of the 1960s), but because Corpus Mammonae will not allow them to "hang in" without exacting too high a price in violation of personal values associated with commitment to Corpus Christi.Guidelines for Christians
For those who are about to choose a life's work in a Christian framework, great care and sensitivity are required. If a particular corporation environment seems almost certain to threaten other human relationships and the fundamental lifestyle of care for others that should characterize the Christian life, it may well be that such an environment must be rejected even if it offers high promise of material wealth, power and influence. Any career pursuit followed for its own ends that is destructive of family and Christian fellowship relationships falls outside the permissible area for a Christian.
Finally, it should not be overlooked that indeed some Christians may be called to establish and work within corporations as the tangible expression of their commitment to Christ, their desire to order structures in a Christ-pleasing way, and their commitment to help others by providing opportunities for employment and sharing. Such Christians need to be upheld in prayer for their path is a long and treacherous one, and they would do well to be aware of the dangers and to count the costs regularly.