Brian Moynihan and Empress Eudoxia

Brian Moynihan and Empress Eudoxia August 19, 2011

Where does Brian Moynihan go to church? And how is it that he still feels comfortable there?

Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, “plans to cut at least 3,500 jobs in the upcoming months, with the possibility that thousands of additional positions could also be eliminated.”

In a memo to the bank’s senior management obtained by The New York Times, Moynihan explained the betrayal and abandonment of 3,500 of his workers by saying, “We owe it to our customers and our shareholders to remain competitive, efficient and manage our expenses carefully.”

Moynihan, 51, raked in $1.9 million last year. That’s a lot — more than 40 times the median household income in this country — but it still makes him kind of a minor-leaguer when it comes to overpaid job-destroying CEOs. The guy who laid me off, for example, Gannett CEO Craig Dubow — who has eliminated thousands of jobs in his tenure atop the nation’s largest newspaper chain — took in $9.4 million last year. Moynihan is going to have to enrich himself even more and upend thousands more families if he wants to compete with guys like that.

But fortunately for Moynihan, if unfortunately for the rest of America, he’s not just competing by laying off thousands of the people who work for him. He’s also foreclosing on tens of thousands of his customers. Well, mostly his customers — Bank of America has also tried to foreclose on people who don’t owe them a dime, like Jason Grodensky of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who paid cash for his home and doesn’t have a mortgage with BofA or any other bank. That was an accident, the bank says, but thanks to years of shoddy management that have left BofA’s mortgage paperwork in disarray, such accidents are bound to keep happening.

But I’m not writing here today to question the morals or the business competence of people like Moynihan and Dubow. We can’t question the morality of men who don’t seem to have any. And their utter incompetence has been unquestionably demonstrated by their inability even to make payroll.

(CEOs shouldn’t be allowed to announce 3,500 layoffs with a single sentence. They should instead by required to write, “Because of my own failure as their manager, I will have to break faith with a member of our team by unilaterally weaseling out of our agreement with one of our employees.” And if they want to lay off 3,500 people, then they should be required to repeat that 3,500 times.)

My questioning here is reserved instead for the pastors or clergy of whatever churches or congregations these awful men attend.

It seems strange to assume that such men do attend worship services, as there’s nothing in their business conduct to indicate that is true. But businessmen love to “network,” and church membership can be nearly as important as country club membership for that. Appearances won’t just keep up themselves, you know. So it would be disheartening, but not surprising, to learn that people like Moynihan, or Dubow, or the Koch brothers, or the profiteering vampire squid of Goldman Sachs all attend regular worship services. Kind of like when we found out that the BTK killer was president of the Congregational Council at his local Lutheran church. Dismaying, but not really surprising.

The presence of such unrepentant, proud predators in one’s congregation rewrites the lectionary. It dictates the topic of every sermon indefinitely. This is not optional. This is the job, and it becomes the pastor’s duty to perform that job and to preach that sermon until either the necessary repentance is achieved in some Zaccheus-like moment of Jubilee or until either the preacher or the predator is forced to leave.

There’s no shortage of material for such sermons. “Today we will look at the story of the prophet Nathan …” “This morning our text is the story of Naboth’s vineyard …” “We turn today to the Magnificat … to the Beatitudes … to 1 Timothy … to 2 Corinthians … to 1 John … to James … to Amos … to Isaiah … to the second chapter of Acts … to the fourth chapter of Acts … to the fifth chapter of Acts … to the eighth chapter of Acts …”

Something’s bound to give long before you’ve exhausted all the possibilities.

That’s what happened back around 400 CE, when St. John Chrysostom was compelled to serve as the bishop of the cathedral in Constantinople. He was removed from the church by the Empress Eudoxia when she became convinced that his relentless sermons on greed, wealth, lavish living and the neglect and oppression of the poor were all directed at her personally.

They probably were. Eudoxia had John removed because she felt this was unfair. After all, she gave a great deal of money to the church. Without her the cathedral couldn’t have afforded to host those lavish banquets for imperial and ecclesiastical officials (John promptly cancelled those). And she gave generously to civic causes too. There was no way Constantinople could have afforded to erect that huge, pure silver statue of her across from the cathedral if she hadn’t paid for it herself.

American churches have more than their share of modern-day Eudoxias sitting in the pews, unrepentant and unperturbed. So where are the modern-day Chrysostoms to perturb them and call them to repentance?

Browse Our Archives