A few weeks back I DVR’d a documentary on CNBC titled Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. The whole Enron scandal being a rather distant memory at this point, I thought it would at least offer some light entertainment. Turns out, when I watched it tonight, I found it more than entertaining; it was highly revelatory.
I don’t have enough authority of knowledge in these matters to make a strong, well-supported-with-charts-and-graphs case for the purpose of this blog. But I’ll just throw out my point: I’m very concerned our great country is one big, Enron. I’d like to think I’m wrong. I’d like to think we’re past our speed bumps and blue skies await. I pray for our prosperity and a return to our senses. But there are just so darn many red flags, I can’t reason otherwise.
Summed up, the Enron scandal was a case of smoke and mirrors. There was a grandiose appearance of wealth and prosperity, but hidden far beneath layers of accounting fraud, conspiracy among the elite, and marketing/PR propaganda was a business drowning in red ink. They had some amazing, creative, industry-changing ideas (none of which I really understood), but most of them didn’t end up actually being profitable. They worked in theory, but not in reality.
Year after year, Enron came up with new layers of smoke and new pieces of glass to cover their losses. They had to come up with next big thing to keep Wall St. happy with imaginary earnings. The hoax worked for a good, long while. As long as their stock price kept climbing, they were golden.
But the C-Suite leaders couldn’t sustain the illusion indefinitely. They were eventually exposed by a keen hedge-fund manager who dared to “Ask ‘Why?’” (Enron’s corporate mantra) of the company: “Why can’t you produce a balance sheet like all the other Fortune 500 companies?” The reason, of course, is because the real balance sheet would reveal quarterly losses rather than profits. And once Wall St. caught wind of the illusion and Enron’s stock started taking hits, the wheels started coming off.
Enron leadership, though, would have its employees and shareholders believe everything was fine—that they were “as strong as ever.” “Don’t sell our stock. Don’t reallocate your retirement. We’re coming back.” Of course, the sad truth is that they didn’t. And they damaged thousands of lives as a result.
Smoke and Mirrors
Beneath the smoke and mirrors of our country’s propaganda machines—the mainstream media, our government agencies, and our own delusional thinking that everything will just work itself out because it simply has to—is some serious, serious red ink. I understand that our economy is infinitely more complex than a single corporation, no matter how large. And it’s only a portion of our global economy. But to think this house of cards—even if it’s glued together by incredibly diverse industry—can endure much more is madness. The continual shaking of world crises (wars, natural disasters, financial crises, domestic and international political unrest, etc.) and the sheer weight of our debt and budget deficits are poised to topple us or crush us.
As long as the general public is kept fairly ignorant of the stark reality of our situation, the hoax may very well continue on for a time. People love hearing “Peace and Safety!” (1 Thes. 5:3) and that drum will be beaten all the louder. Sheer public will might keep things afloat for a while. But there’s also a groundswell of truth and reality emerging. People are manning up to the situation and readying themselves to see things as they are and make hard choices. And as that happens, I wouldn’t be surprised to witness and big, fat, Enron-like Pop! that will be the end of life-as-we’ve-wanted-it-to-be.
Sorry to be a voice of gloom and doom this fine, Memorial Day weekend. Let me wrap up by saying that things “getting bad” is a very relative idea, for it implies that things have been good. Don’t get me wrong—in many ways, things have been good. We’ve prospered. We’ve enjoyed relative peace. We’ve lived decent lives. But we’re also seeing appalling moral decline. Our freedoms are being pried away. The wealth and power of our country is being hoarded by fewer and fewer people—most of them with unrighteous motives. The church is drowsy, if not asleep.
So, the end of life-as-we’ve-wanted-it-to-be isn’t inherently bad. It will likely be hard, but it doesn’t have to be bad. I don’t think that it’s God best that we go through hard times in order to get our priorities straight. But it’s something He’s willing to see us through because He knows it’s better that we lose the whole world than to forfeit our souls (Matt. 16:26).
But personally, I’m full of hope of better days. God is on the move and He’s raising up righteous leaders who are going to champion the causes of the King in our post-American dream culture. People are going to dream of storing up treasure in heaven rather than constructing white-picket fences.
Wherever there’s massive transition, there’s massive opportunity. (As our president’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel says, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste!”) But rather than using a time of crisis to jam through a pride-filled, secular humanistic solution to our problems, the bride of Christ, full of the power of the Holy Spirit, will rise up and exhibit the kingdom of God in ways never before witnessed by the world.
For even as “darkness covers the earth, and deep darkness the people; the Lord will arise over [us], and His glory will be seen upon [us]. The Gentiles shall come to [our] light and kings to the brightness of [our] rising” (Is. 60:2-3)!
We will know Him in a whole new way. And we will make Him known.