Exactly, my point
I have – in this election year – been writing a lot about economic and political issues, where they rub (w/ great friction) and are inherent in our orthopraxy (how we practically live out what we believe, or say we believe, about God and His Word…and how it directs us to be reflections of Him, embracing His mores, His values, His ethics, ethos and character. I firmly believe that we – especially in the West – and even more so in the USA, do this poorly… we live dichotomies in our lives and see no problem with it – whereas God says is it the very evidence of our (so-called) faith and theology. It [my writing] has incurred some robust and at times irate discussion from friends (at least in my mind). I do this to encourage that we actually MUST wrestle the issues at hand today and how we live out our orthopraxy. May we NOT defend an ideology, or pragmatic ethos that benefits and works for us – but wrestle the standard against His Word.
Today, I’m sharing a blog posted again in Red Letter Christians – but it is exactly my point in much of this conversation. I yet believe we MUST, as Christians, be THE prophetic voice into our society, including BOTH parties, for a different future that:
1. Includes all people – not just the disenfranchised, but those for whom the system at hand has worked.
2. Can reduce the deficit – something both parties have failed to do
3. Grow business at the domestic level where national health and welfare, where infrastructure and middle class growth and expansion occurs
4. NOT tax the $250K level more – where 80% of the small businesses operate as personal tax filers – BUT expect those who can give to the common good do so… When cuts are made that hurt the poor, they don’t eat, they don’t have health care, they don’t get to put a kid in college. When those who “can” give more do so, nothing about their lives changes. Trickle down, after 40 years, doesn’t work. The wealth elite and gap has only engorged it’s gap.
5. We can decrease military spending – especially at the mega-bucks level (this will incur huge lobbyist funded assault on capital hill), but doesn’t change or cost a lot of jobs – not like the broad cuts being suggested by some today. We don’t need 11 carrier battle groups… MAYBE seven. BUT if we cut 2-3, the savings would be billions.
6. We can cut subsidies to a lot of industries that do NOT need it. The big five oil companies made $137B in profit last year. They easily can do away with the subsidies. Those whom profit from this will fight this – but the savings for health care for the aged, vulnerable and poor is huge… and a healthy nation will move forward better.
7. STOP name calling and blaming. BOTH the DNC and the GOP created the nightmare where a huge chunk of production moved off shore, and banking fiascoes were allowed. The nation is better than when the president inherited a WORLD on the brink of depression, but NO, it’s not where it should or could be.
8. DEMAND that congress STOP fighting – stop working to make the “other” party fail. We can do that at the box in November… we don’t need a huge sided congress – but one that requires compromise and working together. WE can be the prophetic voice that demands this.
9. We can work on infrastructure… we suck at this.
10. We can leave Afghanistan… It’s simple – they become a harbor for terrorists again, we erase said harbors easily with the technology and people we have.
11. We can invest in education MORE.
12. We can empower the development of families, again. We’re not doing enough here. It IS the source for broken relationships (50% of single parent homes are in poverty, and 33% of these homes suffer from inadequate food availability – that’s vulnerable!), crime, drugs, immoral behaviors, etc, etc, etc.
13. We can do good things and not have over involved federal governments by empowering local and state governments who are broken and have the same need as the federal level, but are closer to the problems to solve them.
We can live and behave as a people with common goals – common hopes BUT it will not work, will not work, will not work if…
A. We are “me” oriented, which leads to selfishness and greed and a Darwin approach to life – it destroys community. Individualism MUST be balanced with the collective community spirit. We’re leaning too far to “me” in our values, economics and behaviors.
B. We embrace compromise – politically (I know this will not happen with the present lobby influence holding congress members captive for election $$$); economically (we MUST do our part, according to our ability… the top 1% will have to chip in more because it doesn’t hurt them the same and they can… us before me), socially (we simply fight too much… we don’t even think win-win – but winning and destroying the validity of the one who dares to think differently; values (we must face we live in a SECULAR PLURALISTIC nation and many values that are contrary to us will be brought to the table. We won’t like it, but it is part of democracy and freedom… you can’t have freedom if only views we agree with are validated… it will reduce, and have reduced, to fighting to beat the other. We will unravel and I argue are unraveling now.)
These issues are not mere politics or economics, but establishing Kingdom outposts as Ambassadors from the King, where we are sent to spread and influence a different world with the King’s values and interests. The King wants people to thrive, even in secular lost societies (read Isaiah 29). This isn’t about me, or us – it’s about the King and what He is calling us to do. For we are slaves of the King, servants of the King, sons and daughters of the King… We do His bidding – all other arguments are dismantled at this threshold.
So, enjoy this entry from Red Letter Christians:
The Danger of Mixing Wealth With America’s “Me” Mentality
by Ian Ebright Wednesday, September 5th, 2012
“I want everybody in America to be rich,” was the answer given by Mitt Romney during the GOP Presidential debates in 2011. This is the same line that Presidential candidate John McCain dropped on us in 2008. If you are unable to locate the geyser of cash, then you must not be using the Work Harder Treasure Map, or so we were told by Paul Ryan during his speech at last week’s GOP convention. These men are smart enough to know that wealth is not an ever-flowing fountain from which everyone can drink to their heart’s content, because in the most simplistic terms, currency, resources, and goods are finite. But this beloved tale isn’t concerned with the facts, and it’s not limited to the GOP.
America’s me-centric worldview is growing exponentially thanks to a blend of post-9/11 anxiety, economic uncertainty, the doldrums of post-modernity, and unbridled capitalism. As this continues, the mainstream mindset is starting to resemble those green alien squeeze toys in ‘Toy Story,’ caught staring upwards with a punch-drunk gaze, waiting for the arcade machine’s claw to pluck us out of the group, so that we might leave behind the mundane others as we’re whisked off to our own personal paradise. Our politics and religion become customized vehicles for legitimizing a preoccupation of the self, all at a great cost to ourselves and the community around us.
We experienced a national tragedy on July 20th when a gunman stormed a midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado, taking the lives of 12 people and injuring 58 others. This was the highest number of casualties in an American mass shooting ever, but you wouldn’t know that if you followed much of the chatter on social media. I made the mistake of browsing Facebook shortly after the event, which was filled with people trying to score cheap political points about gun rights, all while human beings had just died, were dying, and were severely injured. I get that horror like the Colorado theater incident gets people talking, and that emotions produce different reactions in different people, but it’s beginning to feel like we’ve reached a place where every event is just fodder for an individualist agenda, and compassion a distant second place to being (or feeling) correct.
This is an acidic worldview in which all tragedy, all misfortune, all poverty must be explainable as the result of personal or political failure somewhere along the way. Such an assumption is fueled by America’s favorite tag team idols: self reliance and personal responsibility. As an assumption it is both inaccurate and judgmental on a grand scale.
You’ve heard the account of the rich man leaving Jesus with a heavy heart after Christ told him to sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor? This answer, given by Christ, surprised the disciples. I love that even those who literally walked with Jesus didn’t find him to be predictable, which is a great reminder for followers of Christ today, that we might not limit our view of God to what is palatable. When the disciples asked Jesus who had any chance of entering God’s kingdom, Christ said “no chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.” -Matt. 10:27, The Message translation
Is wealth inherently bad? Of course not. Is a solid work ethic something to be frowned upon? No, but it’s also not automatically holy. Wealth and a work ethic can be blessings as well as traps.
What’s the point here, and why did Jesus order the rich man to release his fortune? I would argue that one of the reasons is not the wealth itself but what wealth or a related preoccupation can do to our spirit, mind, and heart, perhaps what had become of that rich man as a result of his fortune. There is a point at which self reliance becomes a crutch; a destination where we feel good about ourselves only when we’re gaining or have much in storage; a plateau where we spend our days working to defend or maintain what has become “rightfully ours;” a mindset from which we are made to look down on those who aren’t progressing as we define it.
This is one of the most efficient ways for a population to let go of compassion.
“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” -Frederick Buechner
Compassion is not just for the benefit of the hurting, it also creates in us a humbler approach in which we lend a hand or a prayer before we lend an opinion, where we continually remember that we don’t know everything, and let that adjustment cause us to to be caring instead of always and first fighting to be correct. Compassion is nourishment for an entire community, and I would argue a nourished community is more in line with God’s kingdom than a bunch of individuals struggling to capture the prize and growing in resentment towards the people they determine are always getting in the way.
Is sharing the kingdom of God on earth not your priority or desire? Okay. For the others who feel prompted to follow God and who pray to be glimpses of God’s goodness despite our own weakness, we must always remember that being filled requires that we also be emptied. If we insist on holding on to 1,000 things and 1,000 opinions, 1,000 goals and 1,000 convictions, and none of it is allowed to budge, then we have left very little room for God.