Tag Archives: economic rights

Where’s the Tether???!

Sometimes I think the morality of  our western culture, especially in the United States, resembles zero-gravity—everything not tied down is coming loose.   Some have called this a “zero-morality” culture, with no tethers to hold us back from the abyss of despair and meaninglessness.   We are adrift in this world like an astronaut without a tether in space.  A large share of our culture has lost the tether of the church  and God’s word  that in previous times has  guided us and we  now rely on ourselves to make decisions.     Those decisions, made on the basis of our self-interest,  leave us  in a stormy world without a mooring—a tether.   We seem to be spinning out of control with nothing to guide us.   

As we are left to our own devices, the Seven Deadly Sins appear to guide our decisions and actions.   Remember them?   Gluttony, Greed, Envy, Idleness, Lust, Anger and Pride These seem to be hallmarks of our culture in the U.S.

  1. GLUTTONY.  Gluttony means a lot more than just sneaking off too often to sample the 11 secret herbs and spices at KFC.   Gluttony, at base, is doing anything to excess.    It is an approach to life that knows no boundaries and honors no limits.   Gluttony turns our appetites into our rulers—that appetiite might be food—it might be power—it might be sex—it might be money—it even might be golf.    We see this in a culture of wanting more and more and more—-more clothes, more “totys”, more cars, larger houses, etc. etc.   More than we will ever need!
  2. GREED.    Closely related to gluttony, greed is what we used to call “avarice.”   It is not so much the love of possessions as it is the love of possessing.   As we exist in a money-driven culture where the bottom line is what is most important  and profits are more important than people—-Greed is at the bottom of much that is wrong with our culture.   We live in a culture that values money over people.   Money over right and wrong.   Always wanting more and more because we place value in our culture on what we own, not who we are.   Money is power-–money and power are “tighter than ticks together.”   In business, we see money as causing immorality, cheating, and lying to get ahead in business and in our lives.
  3. ENVY.  Envy is what happens when we constantly compare ourselves with others.    It is the basis of backbiting (tearing down someone else to build ourselves up), gossiping, bigotry, and vanity.   When envy rules our lives we are always feeling insecure and our insecurity is compensated for by making those we envy seem less and less so that we feel superior to them.
  4. IDLENESS.  Idleness is sluggishness of spirit that “believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and remains alive because there is nothing for which to die” as Dorothy Sayers once wrote.   The idle person expects everyone else to take care of  him or her and will not move a muscle to take care of themselves.   The old version is SLOTH.
  5. LUST.  Lust is the perversion of what is good into something that is evil, based on our selfishness.   At the base of Lust and driving it is selfishness and the ego.   Someone has said that an acronymn for EGO is “Edging God Out”.   Lust is extreme selfishness in action.
  6. ANGER.   W.C. Fields once said, “I am free of all prejudice, I hate everyone equally.”   Anger is the harboring of grievances that demand revenge and develop into hatred.   It is a seething rage that circulates through our bodies into our post-modern culture in ever increasing amounts.   It comes out in murder and rape but is also present in attacks on minority groups, the poor, the homeless.   Our culture is filled with anger and that is behind all the violence that occurs in it.   Read the newspapers and decide just how much anger there is in our world.   Pent-up anger comes out in deadly ways all the time—every day.
  7. PRIDE.    The last, but definitely not the least!   Someone has defined pride as “people getting drugged on the fumes of their own ego.”  I recently read an example of this in a person saying to another person “but enough about me!  let’s talk about you.  what do you think of me?”   Pride is when our own ego is in control of all that we say and do—-IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.”     There are all kinds of ways that pride emerges:   it may be a “need to-control” pride.   It may be a “self-centeredness that comes through low self-esteem.  Religious pride is the worst kind of pride.  I read somewhere the saying “Have you ever seen a prodigal come home to a Pharisee?”   Religious pride turns away the very people that God calls to.

WHAT IS THE ANSWER?    WHERE CAN WE TURN?   WHERE IS A TETHER THAT WE CAN GRAB ONTO AND HELP OUR CULTURE AND OUR OWN LIVES AVOID SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL?   I suggest the TETHER is  found in these words of Jesus:   “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.   This is the tether that we need to firmly grasp and that  needs to be thrown to a culture that is spinning out of control.   Love of God and of neighbor  is what we need to base our decisions on.   Try it!   Proclaim it!    

Watchdog or Lapdog?

Is the church a watchdog or a lapdog in relation to our culture?   There is a vast difference between the two.   A watchdog is “the conscience of the culture” that challenges  us when we stray from the core values of our culture.    A lapdog  merely goes along with the decisions the culture makes and as long as it is taken care of, petted and remains  comfortable in the lap of the culture  will do nothing to change anything.

Everytime I read the newspaper or watch TV News I am reminded of our culture’s problems.   To name a few major problems:  healthcare for the poor, lack of jobs and livable wages for the working poor, lack of ethics and basic honesty in politics and business, devaluing of human life.  Let me state a few examples:

  • In Kansas, our stade leaders have apparently opted not to extend the Medicaid program that is part of Obamacare and would be paid for by the federal government to over 150,000 persons in this state.   This is a program that will not cost the state and is backed by hospitals and medical associations statewide  as providing healthcare to a large number of people who presently can’t afford it and of creating a large number of jobs to boost the economy of Kansas.   The main reason given is a political one—-it’s part of Obamacare that Republicans are pledge to defeat one way or another.    The same is true of the problem of not creating insurance centers to help the poor get insurance.      Our infant morality rate in Kansas is one of the highest in the country due to lack of care for expectant mothers who are poor.   Human beings—men, women, children, are dying in our state through lack of medical and psychiatric care. Hundreds of children go to bed hungry every night.   I’ve seen this with my own eyes and heard it on the streets of Hutchinson, Ks. from homeless and needy people.

Where is the church of Jesus Christ speaking to this problem and reminding our leaders that the way we are going is not the way of Jesus who commanded us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”?  I hear only silence from the church!   Watchdog or lapdog for the culture?

  • The working poor are those who can only find jobs that pay minimum wage or less and are part-time so employers don’t have to pay for health insurance.   These workiing poor include many families where both mother and father work but are still unable to pay the rent and provide adequate food and medical care for their families and themselves.

Who speaks up for the working poor to those in power who want to abolish the Affordable Health Care Act, not extend Medicaid in Kansas,  and block any rise to the minimum wage that might give them a decent living they work so long and hard to provide for their families?   Who?  The church?   Again, I hear only silence!!   Is the church a watchdog or a lapdog?  

  • When those running for office attack each other viciously and tell lies about their opponent and spend millions spreading those lies in the media in order to win elective office and then do nothing to improve the common good while in office—who holds them accountable?

  Who exposes these lies and viciousness and holds those responsible for  them accountable for what they say?    Who speaks up and condemns theses lies and indecencies and holds ttheir perpetrators  accountable?  The church?   Silence again!!    Watchdog or lapdog? 

Our culture is an increasingly unhealthy one to live in for a growing number of poor people and increasing for what used to be the middle class.   From the personal level to the national level we have lost our moral compass—our conscience, our sense of right and wrong, good and evil.   We have forgotten our neighbors are children of God and that life is of value.

It is time for Christians to step forward and be the conscience of our nation!   We have remained silent too long and by our silence have allowed these things to happen and in some cases have even promoted them.   When we fail to challenge decisions from the personal to the national level with a word from God as revealed by Jesus the Christ we become a part of the problem—-lapdogs!   As long as we are comfortable ourselves we won’t get involved.    The problem with this is that it violates completely the Great Commandment that Jesus gives in  Matthew that summarizes the law and the prophets and the mission for his followers:   “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself!  

Richard Rohr says it well in his introduction to the Enneagram:   “When religion is the conscience of society instead of its lapdog, culture is also healthy.”   (p. xvii Enneagram)

Rich vs. Poor—Fist vs. Fist

Here is a meaningful quote about the rich/poor gap that exists in the U.S. and our world.   “The relationship of the poor to the rich today can be illustrated by two hands.   An outstretched hand is rising up seeking liberation (from poverty).   As the (outstretched) hand moves outward, it encounters another hand, made into the palm-forward sign to “halt”;  it (the palm-forward  sign) is a wall blockingg the movement of the outstretched hand.  The open hand moves against the wall, again and again, gradually becoming a fist pounding on the hand that refuses to yield.  Soon the second hand also clenches and hardens into a fist.   This is how we must characterize the world today, as the two fists pounding against each other.” (The Call to Conversion, p. 163)

 

Are Christians different?

Jesus challenged the political, economic and religious establishment of his time with his views and teachings that were radically different.  In my July 17 blog I told how the early followers of Jesus—the early church—were radically different in the way they lived, and how people who knew them observed how radically different their way of life was from the rest of society.

I left you with this question:  Can it be said about today’s Christians that we are different and stand out as Christians in the eyes of our society?

Jesus summed up all the law and the prophets and his own teaching about the way God wants us to live in these words we find in Matthew’s gospel in answer to the question “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?   Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’,  this is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:3-40)

We seldom think how radical that second commandment is—and Jesus places it on an equal basis with the first one!   As Jim Wallis puts it:  “We are asked to care for our neighbor’s as ourselves, and our neighbors children as our children.  This is an ethic that would (and could) transform the world.”   (On God’s Side, p. 6)

Wallis further points out this fundamental teaching flies in the face of the  “selfish personal and political ethics that put myself always before all others; my concerns first, my rights first, my freedoms first, my interest first, my tribe first, and even my country first—ahead of everybody else.   Self-concern is the personal and political ethic that dominates our world today, but the kingdom of God says that our neighbor’s concerns, rights, interests, freedoms, and well-being are as important as our own.

Our inability to live the way these two “great commandments” instruct us is why the question “are we perceived as Christians to be different today?” must be answered negatively.

Listen to what Wallis says of this:  “We live in one of the most self-centered cultures in history.  Our economic system is the social rationalization of personal selfishness.  Self-fulfillment and individual advancement have become our chief goals.   The leading question of the times is, “How can I be happy and satisfied?”

“Not surprisingly, our self-centered culture has produced a self-centered religion.  Preoccupation with self dominates the spirit of the age and shapes the character of religion.   ….The common question in evangelism today is, “What can Jesus do for me?”  In other words, the question is how Jesus can help us make it in the present order, not how we can respond to the new order.   Potential converts are told that Jesus can make them happier, more self-satisfied, better adjusted, and more prosperous.  Jesus quickly becomes the supreme product, attractively packaged and aggressively sold to a consuming public.  Complete with billboards, buttons, and bumper stickers, modern evangelistic campaigns advertise Jesus in a competitive market.  Even better than Coca-Cola, Jesus is ‘the Real Thing'”.

‘The gospel message has been molded to suit an increasingly narcissistic culture.  Conversion is proclaimed as the road to self-realization….the role of religion is presented as a way to help us uncover our human potential—our potential for personal, social, and business success that is.  Modern conversion brings Jesus into our lives rather than bringing us into his…..Conversion is just for ourselves, not for the world.  We ask how Jesus can fulfiill  our lives, not how we might serve his kingdom.”  (Call to Conversion, p. 22-23)

These are strong words?   I wish I could disagree with them, but I can’t—can you?   If so, do so!!

They are words that show a credibility gap between the way of Jesus and the way of our churches today.    We are not living “the way of Jesus”, we are living the “way of the world today.”

I hope to discuss in Part Three some of the results of the above indictment,  as we confront two central challenges we face today:  The increasingly lop-sided  division of our world into rich and poor and the fear of violence this raises.