Bankers look to Jesus for cover

Love others as yourself is a holy endorsement greed, says Goldman exec. Where's the hellfire?

Published November 4, 2009 7:27PM (EST)

It has come to this: desperate bankers are appearing in churches in order to make the claim that Jesus would have had no problem with million-dollar bonuses and  subprime mortgage-backed securities.

OK -- maybe, that's a slight exaggeration. But what else is one to make of that news, reported by Bloomberg, that Barclays CEO John Varley told the "packed pews" of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on London's Trafalgar Square last night that "profit is not satanic."

The 53-year-old head of Britain's second-biggest bank said banks are the "backbone" of the economy. Rewarding high-performing bankers with more pay doesn't conflict with Christian values, he said. Varley was paid 1.08 million pounds ($1.77 million) and no bonus in 2008.

Varley's comments came just two weeks after Goldman Sachs International advisor Brian Griffiths told an audience at St Paul's Cathedral that "the injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest."

It is tempting to make some comments here about having the money-changers getting expelled from the temple, but that would be too easy. There's also that little problem about rich people encountering difficulties getting into heaven, but the Conservabible has already fixed that.

What the bankers are somehow missing, however, is that part of the gospel in which Jesus preaches: If we the taxpayer bail you out, saving your bank and your job, we also have a right to condemn you to eternal damnation when you get a big fat bonus, while we stand in line for our unemployment checks. Is that really so hard to understand?

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

MORE FROM Andrew Leonard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bank Bailouts Goldman Sachs How The World Works Wall Street