A Nutty Disregard for Life

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 11: Stewart Parnell, owner and president of the Peanut Corporation of America, is sworn in before during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill February 11, 2009 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on recent salmonella outbreaks associated with peanut butter manufactured by the Peanut Corporation of America. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The verdict is in and Stewart Parnell, former chief executive of Peanut Corporation of America, has been found guilty.   Parnell has been sentenced to a 28-year prison term for knowingly selling peanut products contaminated with salmonella.  After eating some of the fouled food over 700 people became sick and at least 9 people died.

If you contrast Parnell to, George Washington Carver, the pioneer of peanuts, you see a stark contrast.  On one hand you have Carver who was a humble and brilliant man whose fame was closely connected to his peanut-related discoveries.  On the other hand is Parnell who was bankrupt of ethics, and his myopic goal for more wealth, robbed his customers of their health.

carverCarver found over 100 ways the peanut could be used for human consumption; however, this unassuming man only filed three patents on the products he’d developed. When asked why, Carver explained: “I never patent my products because, it would take so much time I would get nothing else done. But mainly I don’t want any discoveries to benefit specific favored persons. I think they should be available to all peoples.” Carter also said: “Someday I will have to leave this world. And when that day comes, I want to feel that my life has been of some service to my fellow man.”

I can’t help but think of Parnell within the context of The Lord of the Rings, and the unsightly character called Gollum.   This Hobbit had been warped by his overpowering desire to possess the ring.  In the end, this desire possessed him, and Gollum became symbolic of the corrupting influence of power without limits.Young_smeagol

When I think of Parnell and Carver, I’m reminded of a couple of statements by Paul:

  • “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me (2 Timothy 4:10).”
  • “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5).”

If Parnell had considered the biblical principles above, his life may have been more like Carvers’ and less like Gollums’.

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