Archive for the 'Economy' Category

The great unhappiness of Fergusson, Mo. #Fergusson

August 25, 2014

Thee seems to be a recurrent cycle in the development of news stories. Version A, trumped by Version B, none-calling and personal attacks. scapegoating,  Version C, Version D, more name calling, best story wins, and the poor people catch hell. So it goes in Fergusson, Mo. For the moment, it is America’s unhappiest. town.

If one is a little bit Reformed, the cause is obvious. Yes, three is racism for sure and you can easily find economic inequality. There is a prideful part of humanity that requires not only victory but the destruction of those holding different positions. The hyper-Calvinists call this disorder of the soul “total depravity.” For us Anglicans, that kind of language is awfully strong. We prefer talking about “the fall.”

So what?

The Reformed (include properly schooled Anglicans) know that the Civil Rights Movement may have passed some laws and changed a few customs, but human nature remains the same. We continue to be the same judgmental, power-hungry, greedy, and diligent guardians of the privileges bestowed on the fortunate. Yes, there is racism, and to admit its existence, like a rotting corpse concealed in the basement, is to expose ourselves to accountability. It is to deny what we say about ourselves when the flags are unfurled. We would rather turn our eyes away from the lingering consequences of slavery than get our nominally Christian hands dirty fixing anything.

The “fixing” part is difficult because, as was the case in the Civil Rights Movement, there is only so much even an entire generation can accomplishment. Human nature is still a mess and that can only be addressed  by putting on the new man of conversion and Baptism into the Body of Christ. That means being open to the leading of the divine Spirit. Too easy? Not if one is actually led into a new set of behaviors that walk away from the old cycle of suspicion and wishing the destruction of those that look, act and think differently.

If this individual change (some of us call it “regeneration”) is insufficient, then the gospel is a lie and the atheists are right. Even though the good outcomes of following Jesus are not immediately visible, we take up the cross anyway. Friends, it is a cross – an instrument of our own pending executions. It is faith and the power of God’s grace that moves Christians to act like Christians anyway. It is forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and taking up the cross. That is completely opposite from the name-calling and personal destruction that is Fergusson.

The Christlike version of change takes time. It takes so much time that it is typical to think that one has failed. This notion of success is a something that runs deep in the culture. It is the same strain that looks upon the poor as failures. The dominant American idea is that those who have less deserve all the bad things that happen to the powerless. Christians know that we are tested and one’s attitude toward and treatment of the less fortunate is a measure of character and part of the criteria on which we will be judged. That is God’s grace delivered by the hands of men.

 

A cold night in Arkansas

February 21, 2014

Homeless folks lost a devoted friend in the early hours of Thursday as Dennis Beavers departed this mortal life. I only met him once or twice, but my wife Marie (who is a devoted advocate for the homeless) knew him better. Dennis was the kind of man who could be called out any hour of day or night to bring a pair of shoes to some stranger who also happened to be so unlucky as to be without a regular address. He was tireless in pursuit of an exhausting ministry.

Maire is a regular volunteer at the Arkansas Dream Center. She organizes the clothing good people donate for fellow human beings who have fallen through the so-called “social safety net,” Marie is part of what Little Rock politicians and business types sneeringly refer to as the “homeless community.” The unspoken implication is that, if are are in need, it’s your own damn fault.

It is an odd thing that those who so easily and bluntly criticize those without possessions or influence are, at the same time, incapable of self-criticism. “It is not my fault that some people are having a hard time. Maybe if they would clean up and get a job (like me!) things would go better for them.” Around these parts, we prefer to never look at the homeless and there is certainly no place for them anyplace worthwhile people might visit.

It was on one of those untypically bitter cold nights that I spent a little time down at the Arkansas Dream Center near downtown Little Rock. Around one-hundred people were able to enjoy a hot meal, take a shower, get some warm clothing, do some laundry, watch a movie and spend the night in a warm safe place. We take a lot for granted. We expect the closets to be full of perfectly fitting  clothes, the furnace pumping out warm air all the day and night. Did I mention the refrigerator? There is another nicety the homeless cannot even imagine. Some of the individuals so easily tossed aside are children. They should find jobs, I guess. Most of us would lose our minds by the second day of doing without, but things run smoothly where the poorest come together.

There was an elderly black man spending this particular night indoors. Well spoken and accustomed to work, he related the story of a recent eviction. It was a mistake, a miscalculation. Too many months behind on rent, and there will be consequences. This gentleman gave his age as 72 and recounted some of the small jobs recently held. Blame? This worn out man put it all on himself. It was a mistake. It was the kind of thing that, for most of my friends, would be quickly corrected by a few strokes of a pen or keystrokes on a computer. A little carelessness can be a death sentence if you are extremely poor, so be careful.

Imagine being in your early 70s, and still looking for little jobs to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head. The gentleman did not complain. Mistakes are made and those little errors have consequences. He should have planned better, no doubt. This fellow probably has another job by now and maybe even some sort of cheap set of rooms. Many of the homeless people have jobs, but struggle with medical bills and the needs of small children. Yes, they should have planned better. Not everyone is as intelligent or doggedly ambitious as the self-made individuals who run this world.

During the recent cold, a man froze to death under one of the bridges, but it is said that many of the homeless like living that way. Who could possibly deny such worldly understanding? Dennis Beavers, from an unworldly perspective, gave of the most precious things he possessed in service of a class of people generally considered to be despicable. He gave his own life energy and personal devotion, always seeing the divine image in every human being. To say that he will be missed would be a cruel and meaningless cliche.

Even though Dennis tried, no one person can do it all. He leaves so many gaps to be filled, but it may be that this need is his bequest to those who knew him well and those who admired his tenacity from a safer distance.

   May thy rest be this day in peace, and thy dwellingplace in the Paradise of God. (1928 BCP, 319)

From John Hunt’s blog: The Indigenous American Religion

June 27, 2013

Below is the link to an essay by John Hunt that I found to be both stimulating and challenging.

Part of the myth of contemporary American Christianity is that ours was always a Christian nation, and that strong Christian homes coupled with strong Christian congregations should have produced generation after generation of Christian young people. Thus when we find that increasingly large numbers of people are not recognizably Christian then we think it must be a failure of either home or church to raise Christian children into Christian adults.

This fails to understand what evangelists from before the American Revolution have seen clearly – that ours was never a converted nation. And because of this it greatly underestimates the countless ways in which a moralistic therapeutic deist society promulgates its faith, only one of which is through careless preaching and conformist Sunday School lessons.

 

The Indigenous American Religion.

Lazarus and the Rich Man: separated by a gulf that may never be crossed

June 3, 2013

Those who follow the traditional Eucharistic lectionary hear one of my favorite parables on the first Sunday after Trinity. Jesus is using a common perception of the afterlife in his depiction of the eternal fates of two very close but widely separated men. The next life, as understood by first century Jews, includes an enormous chasm between the blessed and the condemned. The bad people suffer in the flames of eternal torment. This is a parable and you cannot prove the existence of and ever-burning hell from this passage, but it would certainly seem that, if the commonly held idea was seriously wrong, Jesus would have corrected it.

Jesus had recently been taking some flack from the Pharisees because of his penetrating comments about the wealthy. Of course, Jesus is not set against rich folks because they are rich. It is the hardness of heart and the neglect of one’s neighbors that is so offensive. The parable begins with a beautiful serving of the finest melodious prose.

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. (Luke 16:19-21, ESV)

Scripture has a habit of withholding certain pieces of information, as is the case of Luke’s “rich man.” The suffering man is known by name. It is not laziness that brings poor Lazarus to the rich man’s gate to beg droppings from the continuous feasting. Too physically weak to bring himself to the gate, he is laid there. Perhaps it is friends or strangers who allow their lives to experience a few moments of inconvenience. Again, we have no idea. We know that the feeble man is covered with sores. He is a social outcast. These dogs who lick his wounded body are not your cute little house pets, but vicious roaming packs. The life of Lazarus is a daily ordeal of humiliation,fear and pain.
Read the rest of this entry »

School shooting points toward a widespread social disease

December 14, 2012

Yes, it is the guns, the name calling and the abuse of ordinary social contacts that have combined to create another indescribable school incident. The fact that it is a political impossibility to calmly discuss the over-abundance of firearms should be a cause for concern. I think it is fine for people to own guns to protect person and property. What reasonable person can not be amazed at the iron fist of the National Rifle Association that uses political power for no other reason than the enjoyment of that power. After all, we are not going to disarm Mississippi (or Arkansas, where I live!) any time soon. The “thing” for guns is part of our DNA.

It really stinks to take the same side as the NRA, but guns are not really the problem. The real motivating force is, however, disturbing and will be equally unacceptable to those who wield financial power. America is addicted to competition, harshness, intolerance, avoidance of real problems (homelessness, health care, drug addiction, racial discrimination). and moronic non-solutions to actual difficulties. We admire whoever has the quickest, meanest and most abusive answer. We deplore compassion as some sort of insipid show of weakness. This is a spiritual disease that is ravaging this country and Christianity has absolutely failed to present Jesus Christ as the solution to our problems, the perfect example of a godly life our Savior, and our coming king.
Read the rest of this entry »

Ayn Rand vs. Jesus « Mercy not Sacrifice

August 14, 2012

From Morgan Goyton’s blog.

Ayn Rand Institute senior fellow Onkar Ghate did something very bold last summer. He wrote an op-ed on the Fox News website contrasting the political philosophy of Ayn Rand and the teachings of Jesus Christ, saying that what America needs is Ayn Rand, not Jesus. You would think that such a statement would have caused a scandal among Christians in America like when John Lennon said the Beatles are “bigger than Jesus” in 1966. Yet I haven’t heard of any church youth groups making Atlas Shrugged bonfires as they did with their Beatles records back in the day.

Now it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone reading this that a Christian pastor would have a problem with Ghate’s statement. But I’m glad that Ghate came out and said it because the teachings of Christ and Ayn Rand are utterly incompatible, even though many politicians today need for their voting base to remain confused about this fact. I’ve been trying so hard to hold my tongue about politics, but I’m tired of Jesus getting pimped by people who don’t have any intention of following His teachings. Seriously, I don’t have any stake in the red side or the blue side. But I am going to go after any ideology that sullies Jesus’ name by throwing it around in support of ideas which contradict His teachings.

Ayn Rand vs. Jesus « Mercy not Sacrifice.

A reflection on life after Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day

August 2, 2012

One of the most troubling aspects of our fallen human state is the tendency for the failings of human nature to be amplified in larger groups. Peer pressure is not only for kids. Many of us tend to lose emotional balance and the capacity for self-criticism. That is why, despite my well documented support for Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A (scroll down for a number of earlier posts), I stayed away.

Let’s try to work this through. Is the fast food chain stating the correct position on same-gender marriage? Yes, no question about that. Should fellow Christians support a brother or sister who does the right thing? Absolutely. When we publicly emphasize Christian practice and belief, should our actions honor the name of Jesus Christ? That question should answer itself.
Read the rest of this entry »

Pat Lynch has a few kind words forChick-Fil-A

July 26, 2012

Oh, my goodness.

It is fortunate that I have a taste for those juicy and tasty chicken sandwiches because I will be appreciating Chick-Fil-A on August 1. There is such a thing as free speech and it used to count for something once upon a time in America. In fact, many people held to that old saying of the founders to the effect that, “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

This is all about Dan Cathy’s interview with a Baptist newspaper on his preference for the biblical understanding of marriage (you know, one-man, one-woman, forever). From the irrational screeching among his opponents, you would think he had called for hanging and disembowling his dear sweet old granny.
Read the rest of this entry »

Muppets’ Makers Sever Ties With (Supposedly) “Anti-Gay” Fast Food Chain #Chick-Fil-A

July 24, 2012

Here is the story, which includes useful links.

Last Friday, the company behind beloved shows such as “Fraggle Rock,” “Labyrinth,” and “The Muppets,” severed ties with Chick-Fil-A due to the fast food chain’s CEO’s opposition to same sex marriage.

Jim Henson Company And Chick-Fil-A: ‘Muppets’ Makers Sever Ties With Anti-Gay Fast Food Chain.

It’s not enough that we should scream at each other on radio talk shows, and post the most hurtful and stupid personal insults in the comment section (except, of course on GS). The deep division, and rotting dark chasm, of American “culture wars” is so prevalent that it hardly requires comment. Can we not see that we are destroying America? The creativity and intuitive leadership, the kind of traits that caused men to instinctively take control of seemingly hopeless situations on the beaches of Normandy and the far away Pacific islands while more regimented foes marched to their death in perfectly straight lines, also gave birth to resourceful people who knew how to make better products, and even produce positive social change, and now it is being submerged in a sea of political selfishness.
Read the rest of this entry »

Independence Day in the Prayer Book Tradition

July 3, 2012

The American 1928 Book of Common Prayer provides a Collect, Epistle and Gospel reading for Independence Day. This is in keeping with the prayerful observance of civil occasions in the Church of England. From this, we can safely suppose that the prayer book editors intended that God’s people might gather for Holy Communion to keep such an important event. This is no modern invention, nor did it arise from some perceived need to provide the proper “theatrics” in which one might plant a social message.(A search of the 1892 BCP Altar Service Book does not find a service for the Fourth, so this was likely  added in 1928.)

While the 1928 Prayer Book has numerous deficiencies, one may appreciate this section of liturgy since its editors are historically separated from the current political controversies. While considering the blessings of liberty announced on July 4, 1776, the editors selected an Old Testament passage as the Epistle reading. (The original biblical text came from the KJV, it is updated in more modern language here..)

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. (Deut 10:17-21 ESV)

 
Read the rest of this entry »