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Fossil Fuel Corporations & Mythical Beasts

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Human beings are myth-making creatures. These myths—deep stories, collective fictions—are reinforced through institutions and cultural rituals, acting as a social glue to help us make sense of the past, live collectively in the present, and guide us into the future.


Myths can bring both blessings and woes; they can also act as dark powers that seduce, demand allegiance, and bring destruction.


"Any large-scale human cooperation—whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city, or an archaic tribe—is rooted in common myths that exist only in people's collective imagination." - Yuval Harari


The nation-state, our monetary system, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are built and reinforced by myths, existing due to common stories we tell rather than physical reality or biological distinctions.


The crisis of climate breakdown needs to be understood as the result of some of these myths. In a previous blog post, I discussed 'exceptionalism,' and we could add the capitalist myth of 'endless growth.'


But let me make a different point here.


Fossil fuel corporations are mythical beasts with the power to bring actual destruction. They exist and wield their power because of corporate lawyers who act as shamans, using legal fiction to embody and grant rights (similar to a human) to that which does not actually exist.


The result of this is that it's difficult to dissolve a corporation or suggest that it prioritizes ethics over profit. The telos of this beast exists to maximize profits and it will not allow anything to stand in its way. Unrestrained capitalism applauds the efforts of the fossil fuel beast, working in collaboration to exploit the resources of this earth for profit.


The prophetic task of the church is to challenge this mythic beast. Our fight is not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities.


We #resistthebeast by speaking truth and through acts of civil disobedience. Through these acts, we appeal to the humans who live real lives within the collective fiction of the mythical beast. The beast may not listen, the beast may not repent, but human beings may reverse the collective fiction and see that the emperor is wearing no clothes; the power of the beast is an illusion.


We #resistthebeast through divestment. The mythical beasts receives money to make money. Check out the work of Operation Noah in leading churches in this act of resistance.


We must #resistthebeast by telling alternative stories, articulating fresh myths about who we are, our relationship with nature, and how we should live.


Perhaps this alternative ideological empire, this fresh myth, will  finds its roots in the ancient cruciform story of love, compassion and justice.


Draft- Swales 2023

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