Buying influence that should never be sold

The examples are legion. From pharmaceutical companies showering MDs with gifts that influence what kind of prescriptions the MDs write, to financial firms that target their giving to key members of congressional oversight committees charged with making needed financial reforms, to—on the international front—tree thieves in China that bribe rangers who are supposed to guard the 1,000-year-old trees and their highly prized lumber. Variations on such influence peddling and purchasing are virtually endless. While some of them are plainly criminal, many of them are not. In the financial arena, the technically legal crimes continue. An army of lobbyists descended on congress. A slight sprinkling of them promoted reform. Twenty-five times as many defended banking interests. 

If this sparks disappointment or anger, take heart. There are solid reasons for hope. One vivid illustration comes from Christ Jesus’ ministry. While at times the master Christian was the very picture of gentleness and tenderness—a shepherd warmly caring for his innocent lambs—at other times the Master’s strength and authority, his intolerance of corruption, show through. One example in particular fits. The Gospel of Matthew reports: “Jesus went into the Temple-precincts and drove out all the buyers and sellers there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those who sold doves, crying—‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” But you have turned it into a thieves’ kitchen!’ ”

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December 12, 2011

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