"When executives pay themselves like bandits, they often are bandits!" This comment was made by Christopher Davis, portfolio manager of the Davis Large Cap Value portfolios, to a group of financial advisers at a recent meeting I attended in New York City. His comments referred to the philosophy that investing in companies with good corporate ethics is, quite simply, good business.
After I returned home, reflecting on what I'd learned moved me to pray about the world economic situation. The phrase "soulless corporation" came to mind. This phrase usually denotes a large organization that doesn't care about the effects it may have on the lives of its employees, its customers, or anyone else who may be affected by corporate decisions.
The dictionary defines "soulless" as "without a soul; without greatness or nobleness of mind; mean; spiritless." Contrariwise, the definition of "soul" refers to "that part of man which enables him to think and reason and which renders him a subject of moral government" and "the moral and emotional part of man's nature."
Morality, nobleness, ethics – isn't the lack of these very qualities what seems to have caused the current economic crisis? If so, what is the cure for the soulless corporation and the toll it takes on society?
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, refers to Soul with a capital "S" as a synonym for God. Unlike the belief that each person has a soul that enters the body at birth and leaves the body at death, Mrs. Eddy wrote in the textbook of Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," that there is actually only one Soul, God. Each of us reflects Soul in very individual ways – somewhat as a multifaceted mirror might reflect one image from many different angles.
And so, perhaps a better solution than trying to get soul – morality, feelings, ethics – into corporations would be to think of these companies as inescapably within Soul, God. We have a choice of how we view corporate America, and our thoughts and prayers have an impact. The skeptic in us might say, "Wait a minute. Are you telling me that the thought of one person in a small North Carolina city can change a huge corporation?" Isn't this exactly what many Bible stories are about – one small David taking a stand against the Goliath of his day?
Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "destroy the foe, and leave the field to God...." (Science and Health, p. 419). As I pondered that statement, I realized that the foe is our own false views. And so, if changing the corporate climate of a multinational corporation seems daunting, we need to remember that our job is only to change our own thought. Once that happens, God will take care of the rest.
At one point in my former career as a music teacher, I found myself in a situation where I was spending more of my day teaching math classes than I was teaching music. I was very unhappy. Meanwhile, eighth-graders in my county had no music classes at all. I spent many hours praying about this situation. One morning, this Bible verse struck me: "The powers that be are ordained by God." The full verse from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans states, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom. 13:1).
I realized that God was more powerful than the local school board. I also recalled a passage from "Unity of Good" by Mrs. Eddy, in which she said that God "has mercy upon us, and guides every event of our careers" (pp. 3-4). I knew that God was guiding my career, and that it was a right idea for these children to have music as a part of their day. The next year I was assigned, along with the other music teachers in the county, to begin a music curriculum for eighth-graders. I was to teach only music all day. What a blessing to me and to the children in that county.
As we continue to pray about today's economy, we can correct our own thoughts about corporations and realize that the "powers that be" cannot be separated from Soul, God. Because God, Soul, is omnipresent and omnipotent, we can see that the only corporate climate is the climate of Soul. This climate includes morality, empathy, ethics, uprightness, equanimity, and nobility. It is possible to exchange our view of the soulless corporation to one that must be about our Father's business.