Confronting the Corporate Expediter: Building the Religious Counterculture

So I’m at a dinner party chatting with the guy sitting next to me, and he asks me what I do for a living. I tell him all about ministry, and then I ask him what he does for a living.

“I’m an expediter,” he says.

“An expediter,” I say, “I’ve always been curious about this. What exactly is an expediter?”

When did it become socially acceptable to flaunt one's role in environmental destruction and social harm? The Expediter by Olivia Wise. Credit: Olivia Wise (

“I help companies do their business. I mostly handle violations.”

“What do you mean violations?”

“Well,” he explains, “I hate waiting in line. So I usually don’t get permits for stuff. My client just does their thing and if they get a violation for it, I’ll try to buy them more time or get it waived or whatever they need.”

“So,” I say, “It’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission?”

“It’s best to not get caught,” he says with a wink.

“Do you enjoy your job?” I ask.

“Yeah, it’s pretty good,” he says. “I get to do all kinds of violations—environmental, health, a broken elevator, what have you.”


I was appalled! I had always assumed that expediters actually make things more efficient and solve problems, not enable companies to avoid fixing broken elevators. I wanted to say to him, “So in other words, for a living you help broken things stay broken.” But I said nothing.

I think I was stunned into silence because he was so matter-of-fact, so unashamed about the whole thing. It was just what he does for a living. No different, in principle, from what I do for a living. Value neutral. This is business in our culture. It’s just playing the game. You hire this guy to grease the wheels and unsnag you from any snags your business encounters, whatever they may be. No matter that the polar ice caps are melting as I write this or that people are dying because of all the carcinogens in our environment. Keep the flow of goods and services moving expeditiously no matter what. If regulations are getting in your way, this guy can help you get around them. And he’ll do it cheerfully.


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(To return to the Fall 2014 Table of Contents, click here).

Ana Levy-Lyons is senior minister at First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, New York, currently writing a book on the Ten Commandments as a radical spiritual and political vision. Visit Twitter: @Ana_LevyLyons. Email:

Source Citation

Levy-Lyons, Ana. 2014. Confronting the Corporate Expediter: Building the Religious Counterculture. Tikkun 29(4): 13.

tags: Activism, Culture, Economy/Poverty/Wealth, Global Capitalism   
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