Moral Resposibility, Bystander Effect, and Grace

A friend wrote in reply to my article Taxation is Stealing, Health Care, and Jesus' Teaching on Caesar:
Nice blog entry, though I am a bit uneasy with the second sentence in the following quote:

"Christians can disagree with the government and express our opinion. In a democracy, it is our Christian responsibility to do so."

This use of "responsibility" triggers my Niebuhr meter.
Is that a bad thing?  Here is the section in question that I have since changed due to my friends persuasive arguments.
Christians can disagree with the government and express our opinion.  In a democracy, it is our Christian responsibility to do so.  We only stop going along with the government when what they propose is in direct violation of Scripture.  This teaching excludes taxation because Jesus taught that we are to give to Caesar financially what Caesar demands.  If Caesar tells us not to love a person, we still love them.  If they tell us to only express certain beliefs, we still express what we feel is the truth.  But when it comes to taxation, we still give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. 
When writing that sentence, I did think that a cerebral person could have problems with my wording, so it says something good about you.

For starters, the Bible never addresses how we should behave as followers of Jesus in a democracy.  So this is more of a philosophical argument based upon the biblical principles of peace and justice. 

If two of us are in a room, making a decision together, and we decide to commit an unjust act, I would be guilty even if you were the only one that perpetrated the act.  If we are in a group of twenty people who decide on an unjust course of action yet we stand up, disagree, and try to prevent the others from the unjust act, we would be recused from responsibility?  Those who silently acceded the point to the ringleaders and did not stand up against them might not be as guilty as the ringleaders, but they would carry some guilt for not standing up to them?  The dilemma in this concept comes with the dilution that occurs in talking about a community, state, or nation.  In those cases, we are no longer are we talking about small groups where we naturally understand the distribution of guilt.  When we start talking about our responsibility as individuals or as a small community in a group of 300,000,000, we begin to feel less responsible for the decisions of that group.

It is an unfortunate result of the Bystander Effect.  More people involved in a situation causes each individual to feel less responsible for the actions of the group.  We see this in the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964 and the 2009 gang rape outside of a homecoming dance in Richmond, California.  People don't feel responsible when there are more people involved.  We have a tough enough time saying that we are sorry and taking responsibility for our own actions, let alone the actions of others that we could have stopped.  If we can easily pass sin off, we gladly do so.

History has shown that those who stand up for people's rights can change things.  People could have changed the circumstances for the better in either the case of the gang rape or the case of Kitty Genovese.  It only takes active, small groups to make a difference and divert the course from one of evil to one reflecting God's kingdom.  In our nation, we need more people to stand up for the convictions of peace and justice to reel in the fallen tendency that lures us toward selfishness, overconsumption, and individualism.   

If I do not speak out against the atrocities committed by my nation, then I am responsible for those atrocities.  It is my moral responsibility to speak and act in ways to try and bring about change.  You understand that I am speaking of only doing this in peaceful and non-violent ways; not in ways reflecting the Christian militia that began their trials this morning.  We change this world by prayer, truth, and love, but love means that we stand up for the oppressed, clothe the naked, help the homeless, and look out for other ways to reflect God's light in this world. 

Although I do not expect my nation to behave in a Christian manner, it is Christians who hold us back from the cliff of complete selfishness and moral destitution.  That might be arrogant to say.  Maybe it needs to be reevaluated.  But righteous people, maybe of all religious persuasions, are the people who stem the tide of depravity that inevitably leads to cultural destruction.

And in the end, I rely on salvation by grace because I am responsible for some terribly atrocious acts. 

I have never read Niebuhr, although The Responsibility of the Church for Society seems to be a good place to start.  I just googled his name and responsibility; however, I did not have time to read him before writing this and will not tomorrow as I have an insanely busy day.  But I look forward to.  Is there anything else I should read in regards to this?

Taxation is Stealing, Health Care, and Jesus' Teaching on Caesar

Passions seem to be raging on the issue of health care.  One particularly disturbing trend is the expression of the idea that if you support the current health care proposals, you cannot be a Christian.

This idea seems to be an offshoot of the the consistent Christian Libertarian view that taxation is stealing; a teaching that I have yet to see a good Scriptural argument for.  The philosophical arguments abound, but the Scripture seems to remain disturbingly silent.

Despite the teaching of Jesus that we should give to Caesar what is Caesar's, the opposite view, that taxation is stealing, continues to be expressed.  The taxation is stealing argument is supported in these articles: The Catholic Church's Confused Idea About Stealing and in What Belongs to Caesar?.   Both do not deal with Jesus' teaching of "Give unto Caesar."

If Caesar thinks that health care for all is a benefit to society, then that is what Caesar chooses.  If we think that Caesar is wrong on the issue of health care, that would just be one of the many things that Caesar is wrong on.  Even if we think that it is not a benefit to society, we are still told to pay our taxes.  The society in which Jesus lived and made the comment to "Give unto Caesar" was also corrupt and wrong on many issues.

Christians have the liberty to stand up and disagree with the government and express our opinion.  As followers of Jesus, we should refrain from going along with the government when what they propose is in direct violation of Scripture.  This teaching excludes taxation because Jesus taught that we are to give to Caesar financially what Caesar demands.  If Caesar tells us not to love a person, we still love them.  If they tell us to only express certain beliefs, we still express what we feel is the truth.  But when it comes to taxation, we still give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.

The money we give in taxation does not always benefit us nor does it always go to things that we support.  For instance, public school is provided by all for the benefit of society.  It doesn't help everyone directly, but it does create a better society by educating children whose parents do not want to educate them at home or cannot afford to send their children to a private school.  The end result is an educated society that should be able to function better.  We also see this with higher education, and like public school, not everyone directly benefits from the money spent.

As a homeschooling family, we do not receive any of the $9,598 annual expense that the local, state, and federal government pay to educate every child (Ohio average as of 2005-2006), nor do most families pay in taxes an equivalent amount to what they receive in schooling benefits.  Most people see a benefit to society and willingly pay our local school taxes.  Every expense of the government does not have to benefit me for it to be beneficial to all of society, nor does it even need to be something that I view as beneficial to society for it to be financially supported by me as a follower of Jesus.

We can disagree in good faith on the issue of health care, but let's refuse to participate in demonizing each other when we disagree on what the government should do.  Even those who think that taxation is stealing can still be Christians. 


Matthew 22

15Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.
17Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

 18But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, 20and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

 21"Caesar's," they replied.
      Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

 22When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

A Great Disconnect in Our Economy - Executive Pay and Laid Off Workers

It was reported on March 16 that the New York Times paid their CEO 4.9 million in 2009.  That's a good income although it might be low by executive standards in the present environment.  That story by itself is really no big news. 

On October 19 of last year, the New York Times announced plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs.  They claimed that enough people were not accepting buyouts and that the company would have to let workers go to save money.  These cutbacks would eliminate 100 jobs.  By my calculations, if they would pay their CEO a good income of $500,000, they would have been able to keep fifty-five $80,000/year jobs and not have incurred a single extra expense than they had already incurred. The article reported, "The newsroom already has lowered its budgets for freelancers and trimmed other expenses, and employees took a 5 percent pay cut for most of this year."  They definitely have one position that could take a pay cut and still have a great standard of living, but they chose to go after the little guys.

Each high earning CEO in a company that lays off workers is just taking from the workers to live his or her extraordinary lifestyle.  That should be a tough decision to justify in an ethical society, but it's pretty easy to justify in our society.  It saddens me.

Two Views on Baptism from the early Restoration Movement

Radical Ecumenicity: Pursuing Unity and Continuity after John Howard YoderI just ran across a quote in the great book that John Nugent edited, Radical Ecumenicity.  

Barton Stone said, "None of us are disposed to make our notions of baptism, however well founded, a bar of christian fellowship.  We acknowledge all to be brethren, who believe and obey the Saviour, and, who walking in the Spirit, bear his holy image; yet, in the meekness of Christ, we labor to convince such of their duty in submitting to every ordinance of the Lord." 

Moses Lard who preached in the 1860s expressed another view.  "I mean to say distinctly and emphaticaly that Martin Luther, if not immersed, was not a Christian...If a man can be a Christian without immersion, let the fact be shown; or if a man can or may commune without being a Chrsitian, let the fact be shown.  I deny both.  Immovably I stand here.  But I shall be told that this is Phariseeism, that is exclusivism.  Be it so;  if it be true...then am I so far the defendant of Phariseeism and exclusivism."

Learning to Live with One Another's Different Beliefs - My Reaction to the Texas School Board Conservatizing History and the Supreme Court Refusing to Hear a Case on Ave Maria

In our attempt to sterilize the educational setting from religion, we make education one step more irrelevant.  Our religious beliefs are part of our lives, and it is natural for people to disagree with one another on what they believe.  Instead of ignoring that we have different religious beliefs, what if we taught students to understand and love one another despite having religious beliefs that might conflict at times?  Acting like we do not have any religious beliefs and making us hide them will not help us learn to live peaceably with one another outside of the educational setting. 

Instead of boards like the one in Texas sanitizing history through the removal of historical figures they disagree with and inserting people that exalt their ideals, we should let the students delve into the controversial people.  We need to realize that both sides of the political spectrum are guilty in having books written to promote their agenda.  The conservatives in Texas are reacting against a history that ignored conservative teachings.  Ignoring historical figures and events that disagree with our worldview is not history; it's brainwashing.  What if we actually used education to encourage people to think rather than as a surgical object to brainwash students to our way of thinking? 

Too often history has degraded into the rote memorization of facts and dates and not an understanding of people, how they relate to the world, and how we can transform the world into a better place.  That's why history is boring for many people when it should be exciting.

We don't need a sterile environment to learn.  Just the opposite, we need an environment that will challenge our thinking and help us to learn to live successfully in the world around us.  We will each define success differently based upon our beliefs, but that is the beauty of humanity. 

All of these thoughts stemmed from an article that talked about Ave Maria being refused at a graduation ceremony: The Right Not To Be Offended: The Supreme Court And Religion.  The Supreme Court refused to hear a case in which a superintendent did not allow a woodwind ensemble to perform an instrumental version of Ave Maria.  The only people that won from that are people who don't want to expose their children to beauty.  That does not seem like a good victory at all.

The Divisions in the Stone-Campbell Movement

John Mark Hicks, author of Come to the Table: Revisioning the Lord's Supper and Down in the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God's Transforming Work, has a neat, albeit sad, post on his blog describing the divisions of the church community in Winchester, Kentucky.  It is one town that seems to highlight the divisions of the Stone-Campbell movement.

Division in the Stone-Campbell Movement: A Case Study 

Our fault in Haiti - President Clnton apologizes for Haiti

Apologies are rare on a national scale.  It seems like patriotism is often linked to never admitting that we are wrong.  So I find it refreshing that President Clinton stated an apology for his actions regarding Haiti and their food production.

In 1994, the Americans headed up a coup to place a reformed-leftist Aristide back into office.  Aristide had previously been removed in 1991 from office by a military coup covertly headed up by the Americans.  After Aristide was placed back into office in 1994, a deal was cut for Haiti to receive $700 million in foreign aid if they would open up their markets to multinational corporations.

William Blum, in his book Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, describes the deal.  The chapter, Haiti 1986-1994, can be found posted online.

Typical of such agreements for the Third World, it calls for a drastic reduction of state involvement in the economy and an enlarged role for the private sector through privatization of public services.  Haiti's international function will be to serve the transnational corporations by opening itself up further to foreign investment and commerce, with a bare minimum of tariffs or other import restrictions, and offering itself, primarily in the assembly industries, as a source of cheap export labor -- extremely cheap labor, little if any increase in the current 10 to 25 cents per hour wages, distressingly inadequate for keeping body and soul together and hunger at bay; a way of life promoted for years to investors by the US Agency for International Development and other US government agencies.
Prior to the United States intervention in Haiti through sponsoring coups, Haiti only imported 19% of its food.  It even produced enough rice to export.  A 50% tariff on imported food enabled Haiti to do this.  This tariff was reduced from 50% to 3% by Haiti's parliament as part of the package of foreign support.  From that point on, the farmers started to lose farms and Haiti's ability to produce its own food deteriorated to the point where they cannot sustain themselves today. (Source: With cheap food imports, Haiti can't feed itself.)

So now Haiti has a food crisis, a logical result of our manipulating foreign policy to open up nations for our corporations at the expense of those local populations.  Our government for the people has been bought and transferred into a government for the corporations, one in which we care about profit over compassion. 

"It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 10. "I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else." (Source: With Cheap Food Imports, Haiti Can't Feed Itself). 

I hope this apology is backed up by some foreign policy changes in Washington that will help Haiti rebuild a sustainable farming system.  They are capable of growing their own food.  Let's back off and allow them to do that.

Health Care, Tort Reform, a Flawed Option, and FDR's proposed 2nd Bill of Rights

What are all the solutions to help everyone provide for their own health care?  Why do some people deserve adequate health care and others don't?  Should we base it on their intelligence, work ethic, race, sexuality, good looks, or their ability to get a good job?  Is our current system a fair system to decide who receives adequate health care and who does not?

The only solution I have heard from the Republicans in this debate is Tort Reform.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Tort Reform would produce a savings of $54 billion in the next ten years.  That's a savings of $5.4 billion per year.  To put that in perspective, Americans spent $1.7 trillion dollars on health care in 2003.  I wish I could have found a newer number because health care has gone up since then.

So looking at how much we spend and how much savings Tort reform would save us, we would save .3% on health care.  I really doubt a .3% savings would help any uninsured person be able to afford health insurance.  It would just give those who are insured a .3% savings if the insurance companies decided to pass that savings on.  That would have made made my 2 hour, $15,000, false alarm visit to the emergency room because of chest pain cost only $14,955.  Not all that affordable to someone without coverage.  Tort Reform might be needed, but it does not seem to be a solution to the health care crisis we are in.  

If there was a solution for the health care crisis outside of the government getting involved, I would be for that. But I have not heard any solution proposed.  Please propose one if you have a solution.  I wish our system was one of seeking solutions rather than attacking one another for political gain.

Jim Wallis claims the current proposed health care bill is A Flawed Step Forward.  "So for these three reasons: insuring 30 million people more, including some important health-care system reforms, and the abysmal alternative to having no bill — Sojourners is supporting the passage of health-care reform."

FDR stated in what has been labeled as the Second Bill of Rights during his 1936 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention:

    In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

    Among these are:

    The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

    The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

    The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

    The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

    The right of every family to a decent home;

    The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

    The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

    The right to a good education.

The rebuttal is often that health care is not a right in the Constitution.  That is obvious and nobody is arguing that it is, although FDR did argue that it should become one.  Should it?  Should people have adequate health care?  And why in our current system do some have it and others do not?

Maybe universal health care is just a dream that Americans cannot figure out how to implement, but I think things can only improve if someone gets us dreaming.  And the current proposal doesn't seem to be the answer, but what is?  We're in need of an answer, and quickly!

A Harvard study concludes that 45,000 Americans die each year prematurely due to being uninsured.  That's 123 people a day.  That's a man sitting on a recliner after a hard day of work who can't afford to go see if his chest pain is a heart attack or a woman who can't afford to get the lump in her breast examined.  That's our moms and dads, brothers and sisters.  Americans.

A Reply to Sin Isn't the Problem with the World, Theology Is

George Elerick just wrote an article on the Huffington Post:  Sin isn't the Problem with the World, Theology Is.

One of the comments stated the following.  I foolishly replied.

"But what did the unicorns say about it? The dragons? What about the fairy queen?

It's 2010, we need to stop this magical thinking. It is embarrassing that any functioning adult would believe this. No matter what nonsense you use to back it up. It's childish."

Before you disregard it because it is from the Bible, what do you think about the biblical approach to sin? The author took one approach - that sin is not significant or that it is not striving to better one's self. The Bible takes another. That we are all sinners. Too often humans like us live with an air of superiority to those who have different views or actions than we have. For instance, you called Christians "childish" demeaning their intellect.

When we live either the author's view or the biblical view out in the way we view others, both lead us to loving all of humanity and not looking down on others. Those people who wrote the letters and books that are contained in the Bible nearly 2000 years ago had that one figured out. What if the Bible's view on this is right?

And most Christians also don't want anything to do with Pat Robertson's form of Christianity.

We are each sinful, but we are also wonderfully made in the image of God. We can either wallow in our sin or we can train ourselves to be a reflection of His perfected image.

What is a pastor? Are You considering ministry?

I've been given the opportunity to teach a career class this morning on what a Pastor does for his job.  I'm going to talk about the basic things like education, spiritual disciplines, and the untypical work week, but my heart comes back to two things.

Having worked in the paid full-time ministry, then outside the paid full-time ministry, and now back in the paid full-time ministry, I am so grateful for the people who have set me apart to do ministry.  What a privilege I have to study Scriptures, pray, write, plan service opportunities, and visit with people for a living.  Although I believe that every Christian has the opportunity to be a full-time minister in whatever career they are in, I find it liberating to have as my sole focus bringing about God's will in the community I live in.

But with liberation, comes responsibility.  Paul wrote,
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery...For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love...For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”  (Galatians 5:1,6, 13-14). 
It is a great honor and freedom to be set apart to do ministry full time, but it is also a freedom that we need to make sure we do not abuse.  All freedom should be used to become servants one to another.  Freedom becomes dangerous when it is morphed into meeting selfish needs.

The second thing that stands out to me is that because the people, in the church we serve or outside of it, who support us in our ministry have granted us this freedom, we have a tendency to try to please them and not focus on pleasing God.  Pleasing churchgoers and pleasing God seem like they would go hand in hand, but there is a slight difference that is more than just semantics.  Pleasing people might lead us to not challenging them and helping them grow because we don't want to rock the boat.  Pleasing God will lead us to doing the tough things even when they are unpopular.

I read a great fable on this over at another blog: The Nightingale and the Crow.  I could not find this on any other sites, so it might not be public domain like Aesop's Fables.  It's a touching fable that deals with a beautiful nightingale submitting herself to the judgment of pigs on whether a nightingale or a crow can sing better.  The moral of the story is to not let pigs judge you.  If we let anyone other than God judge us, then we are going to struggle in ministry because people are particularly cruel to ministers at times.  We would do well to remember who will always provide for us.

These are also good principles to live by in life outside of paid ministry.  We need to be grateful for what God has given us; we need to focus on ministry at every opportunity; and we need to please God when men are crying for the opposite.  No matter where we find ourselves in life, those are good teachings to be reminded of.

Books from Great Lakes Christian College (GLCC)

Here is a list of books from people who have taught at or are alumni of Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, MI.  If you know of any books that are not on this list, please let me know of them.

Genesis, Volume 2 (College Press NIV Commentary)Paul Kissling:
Genesis Volume 1 (The College Press Niv Commentary. Old Testament Series)
Genesis, Volume 2 (College Press NIV Commentary)
Reliable Characters in the Primary History: Profiles of Moses, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement)

John Nugent:
Radical Ecumenicity: Pursuing Unity and Continuity after John Howard Yoder

Lloyd Knowles:
Management Essentials for Christian MinistriesIn Pursuit of THE TRUE CHURCH

James Estep:
Christian Formation: Integrating Theology and Human Development
A Theology for Christian Education
C. E: The Heritage of Christian Education
Management Essentials for Christian Ministries

Walking the Tightrope of Faith Toward Love - Avoid the Pitfalls of Selfishness and Empty Religion - Finding Meaning in Life

We can stray to the right or to the left, but God has designed us to be on a path of faith.  It's like a balancing act on a tight rope; it's tough to do.  But unlike normal balancing acts, this one is filled with grace.  When you fall, you can bounce right back up onto the tight rope and continue where you left off.  If you teeter to the one side, you fall to short-term thinking seeking temporary pleasures; on the other side is seeking stability in religious traditions and rituals.  We're quick and often eager to point out sin in the form of living on short-term decisions, but the Bible does not ignore the stifling nature of empty religion. Galatians is a whole letter about the latter, which is just as dangerous as the former.

"Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Gal 3:3-6 (ESV).

The Galatians had a dangerous tendency to depend on religious rituals to make themselves feel right with God.  Paul wrote to remind them that it is not religious rituals that makes them right with God, but faith.
The Galatians were becoming strict adherents of a clear, Old Testament teaching, circumcision.  Abraham was the patriarch of the Israelites who was given the promise and told to circumcise himself and all of the males with him (Genesis 17:1-14).  The Old Testament was clear that those who were not circumcised were excluded from the promise (Genesis 17:14).

The fulfillment of that Old Testament covenant in Jesus changed things.  No longer was a religious ritual necessary to be right with God, it was now faith: Not just an intellectual faith that causes one to participate in religious rituals or abstain from short-term actions but a faith that spurs us on toward loving those around us.  Abstaining from selfish actions is painful because they produce short-term pleasure.  Refraining from relying on religious rituals is difficult because the ritual provides comfort and stability.  But love is where it's at.  Love is how we move further on the tight rope toward who God designed us to be, not refusing to be selfish or adhering to rituals.

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery...For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love...For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”  (Galatians 5:1,6, 13-14). 

There was nothing wrong with circumcision; it was the sign of the covenant between God and His people.  The problem came when His people lost focus of the larger purpose of that covenant, and in so doing they really lost the meaningfulness of their relationship with God.  God blessed them so that they would become a blessing to the world (Genesis 12:1-3).  That is where the meaningful life is found.  It isn't found in us worrying about ourselves but in giving away ourselves to others through faith in love.

We're not called to be hermits.  We can enjoy the pleasures of life that God has blessed us with and we can find joy and encouragement in religious rituals, but when they keep us from moving forward in love, they become sin and prevent us from the life God has intended for us to live.

My Simple Shoes - A Fair Trade Solution to Walking Around

My quest to find Fair Trade shoes led me to Simple Shoes.  I found their Ethical Supply Chain Guidelines to be encouraging.  How I wish all manufacturers were this way.  I figure the only say I have in this is to vote by my dollars, and I finally decided to do that.  (Although I have not been able to find a Fair Trade baseball glove).  I'm willing to pay a little more for the peace of mind that the workers of the product I am using were treated fairly and that the product itself is made as environmentally-friendly as possible.

But I'm a good American and do not want to walk around with uncomfortable shoes just because they are good for the world.  So what's the verdict?

Wonderful!  I purchased the Men's Loaf - Off Road, and these shoes are like wearing slippers around all day long.  One week doesn't tell me how good they will hold up, but they feel promising.
Tread new ground in the Loaf--Off Road Hemp casual by Simple Shoes. Woven hemp fabric upper in a casual slip-on loafer style with a round toe. Moc inspired toe seaming and contouring raised turned seaming add laid-back textural detail. Dual elastic side gores and a padded collar create a comfortable fit. Soft bamboo lining and removable cushioning latex pedbed. Flexible midsole and durable recycled car tire and natural crepe rubber outsole. 1/2 inch heel.   
Here are my shopping pointers.  Don't buy them at Simple Shoes' website.  Head on over to and buy them. offers free shipping, helps out this site if you use my link, and has them for a cheaper price.  And until the end of April they are offering a 15% off sale.

A Review of Netflix and Watch Instantly - A Good Alternative to Cable or Satellite


The Whispering Sirens of Dish and DirectTV have been luring me to subscribe.  We only get the broadcast channels out here in the midst of farm fields where I live, but I hate the idea of having to pay so much for satellite when I would only watch around five of the channels and wouldn't watch them all that much (see my post "A La Carte Satellite - Give it to me").  For me, the expense I would pay never seemed to meet the perceived value I would receive.  Then we were able to move out of the stone age and get DSL out here in the boonies.  Like a light from heaven, the options opened up.  I was finally able to watch streaming video over the internet.  Video on the internet, amazing!  YouTube was interesting for a few days.  Then the boredom set in.

Then I checked out Netflix.  I could try it free for 14 days.  If it wasn't what I was looking for, I could just cancel.  But it was what we were looking for, especially with the Watch Instantly option.  What that means is that we can stream them instantly from the internet to our television.  Not all the movies are available to watch instantly, but many are.  For those that aren't we can check out movies from Netflix the old snail mail way.

Roku HD PlayerFirst, I tested out whether I would like Netflix on my computer.  We decided that we would like it. Then, I attempted to hook up my tv-out GeForce 8400 GS only to finally come to the conclusion that this Vista compatible card is not completely compatible with Vista.  Go figure.  The forums were saying that, but I figured I could figure it out.  I couldn't.

But thankfully, there is another solution: The Roku HD Player.  It comes in at $99.99, but it allows me to play the streaming video directly to my television.  We had to decide we liked Netflix before making the decision to buy the Roku Player, but it has been nothing but beauty since then.  Roku also allows me to play my Pandora radio stations, rent movies from Amazon if they are not available on Netflix Watch Instantly, watch other internet shows, and subscribe to MLB baseball if I was so inclined.  The potential for a la carte channel choice is finally here, although we have to wait for the channels to participate.

You will not need a Roku if you have an already compatible device on your television or a compatible television.  The most likely compatible devices that you would already own are an X-Box 360 or a PS3.  They will be coming out with a Wii adapter soon.  But for me, we only have a PS2 and Nintendo DS, so that easy compatibility wasn't an option and the added expense was not worth it to get one.

Besides the terrible experience of beginning to watch Year One the other night, Netflix has been great.  I am a documentary guy, and they have a great selection.  The kid's have a good selection of shows to choose.  They have seasons of t.v. shows that I can watch.  All for $8.99/month.  And it can be canceled at any time.

Feel free to use these ad links if you subscribe because they do generously pay the site for everyone that signs up through them.  But I am not trying to huckster you and sell something I don't use; I watch Netflix most of the time I watch my television.  

Prison, Sin, Freedom in Jesus, and Returning to Our Sin

“The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:22 (ESV)

In a 2007 study, 48% of released Michigan prisoners return to prison within four years.  What is it about the prison life that is so appealing?  Is it the health care, not working, or the three square meals.  Whatever it is, something is wrong when people feel that it is better to be in prison than to live in freedom.

Spiritually, we often do the same thing.  Jesus frees us from our sins, yet we have a tendency to come back and wallow in the mud time after time.  New Christians experience liberation and are some of the most inspiring people to be around.  They have a no-holds barred approach to Christian.  They taste the newly found freedom in Jesus and want nothing better than to live the meaningful life that freedom enables them to live.

Each destructive habit, lazy distraction, or selfish indulgence, all of which are sin, have a gilded allure.  They appear to be what we want, but inside they are just junk and empty of any lasting fulfillment.  The sins we find ourselves struggling with usually gives us a temporary high in the short-term; that is sin's gilded allure, but no amount of pursuing the wrong thing will help us be who God knows is best for us to be in the long-term.

The recent collapse of the banking system is an example of looking at the short-term over the long-term.  The executives, and the boards that made compensation decisions, valued thinking short over thinking long.  Best-selling author of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machinewas interviewed on 60 Minutes last Sunday.  He stated:
"The incentives for people on Wall Street got so screwed up, that the people who worked there became blinded to their own long term interests. And because the short term interests were so overpowering. And so they behaved in ways that were antithetical to their own long term interests."
When Jesus came and died on the cross to save us of our sins, he did it so that we can be free to pursue the meaningful and eternal life that starts in knowing God (John 3:16, John 17:3).  We do have a better hope for the future, but focusing solely on that is missing the redemption in the now.

He's freed us, but we need to be careful to not fall into the trap that many comfortable Christians fall into.  After the initial rush of finding a freedom that is unimaginable, we find our way back to our old familiar pig pen and begin to wallow in the mud and crap once again.  We find the allure of our aged vomit.  Those short-term pleasures of the meaningless life have a gilded allure, but they will not satisfy no matter how often we indulge in them.  Long-term satisfaction comes from surrendering our life to Jesus and living in the freedom he provides.

The Dance of Politics and Religion - Social Justice is a Codeword

Politics and religion are oftentimes inherently connected.  Where would we be without religious people standing up for Civil Rights or Abolition?  But then it can go terribly wrong as in the Inquisition, Prohibition, or other modern examples.

My point on Glenn Beck has been misunderstood.  I have no problem with religion and politics dancing together.  This blog is an example of that.  Beck is a personally religious political commentator who just made a jump into the realm of theological debate without doing his homework. He appears to not grasp the concept of social justice when he attacks all social justice proponents together as if every religious individual who works for equality in their community is a Commie or Nazi. Politically, that view is also baffling because Nazis and Commies are extreme polar opposites and were historical enemies. Christians can believe in social justice and find themselves anywhere on the political spectrum. Unless I missed the memo, it is not a codeword for being a "Commie." Although a "good" Commie should believe in social justice. 

Good people can stand up for social justice and disagree on whether the government should be involved at all in restoring creation to its intended place.  Restoring creation and bringing God's will into the here and now is also a subject that some theologically disagree on, but that's another subject for another day.

Beck is concerned about minimal government.  He, like many political people before him, is trying to use religion to achieve his purpose.  If he could get the churches on his side in this debate, then he has a better chance of seeing his will brought about.  The problem is that the churches should never play the puppet to the powerful political puppeteers.  Historically, that has typically ended badly for the church.

If we expect religion to influence politics, then we should, in turn, anticipate politics to try and influence religion.  But we need to remain strong to our convictions and never allow ourselves to compromise our beliefs or witness because it is politically expedient to do so.  We have a mission in God's kingdom that is not directly tied to any one earthly kingdom. 

At the heart of Beck's comments, it's not a rant against social justice, although he might think it is.  It's not a rant against helping people.  It's a rant against the government being involved in that process.  Beck could still be a proponent of social justice and hold a view of limited or no government.  He would just need to make sure that he was living his life as a proponent for social justice in his personal interaction with all aspects of society.  Buying fair trade goods, standing up for the oppressed, living without overconsuming, helping those you see in need are all aspects of social justice that do not involve the government.  It's not a codeword for Commies of Nazis; social justice is a codeword for love.

More Thoughts on Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and Leaving Churches

The great debate over whether Glenn Beck was right to say what he said when he told churchgoers to leave their church if they teach social justice rages on.  Obviously, Beck has the right to say whatever he wants.  This seems to be what you get when a political commentator starts to dictate religion  I responded to it the other day in Jim Wallis answers Glenn Beck.  I think Beck just misunderstands social justice.  He actually said, "There is a very good chance that people don't know what it (social justice) is.  That's why you have to educate yourself."  He could use a good dose of the education he speaks of when it comes to understanding the churches stance on social justice.

Here is Beck's controversial statement:

“I.’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”
Here it is in context: Audio clip. defines social justice: "A general definition of social justice is hard to arrive at and even harder to implement. In essence, social justice is concerned with equal justice, not just in the courts, but in all aspects of society. This concept demands that people have equal rights and opportunities; everyone, from the poorest person on the margins of society to the wealthiest deserves an even playing field."

The problem is that Beck was not talking about the purely secular view of social justice.  You can be a firm teacher of social justice and be a libertarian.  To confirm that nearly ludicrous statement, I ran across a site that was all about libertarians who were proponents of social justice.  It's not about political orientation in church circles; it's about living out Jesus' radical teaching to love the poor.  That would compare to the definition provided above, but it goes much deeper than that in a religious sense.

Beck would be welcome to have a discussion on whether we should be proponents of social justice as followers of Jesus.  What would Jesus do to help the oppressed, downtrodden, unemployed, or disabled? Personally, the church I pastor teaches and tries to live social justice, a social justice that should love the unlovable and help the unworthy.

The Catholic church is one of the biggest promoters of social justice.  Beck even mentions priests in his statement. Whether Beck meant it or not, his statement was a direct attack on Catholics and their rich history of social justice. So when Beck tries to link this great theological concept to Nazis and Communists, he does a disservice to the theological concept and those who try to live it out.

When we started the Kid's Clothes Closet at our church to help clothe people in need, that was a practical expression of our theological belief in social justice. Same thing when we provide school supplies or help in any other way. Social justice is us living out Jesus' teachings to love the poor.

We can have a healthy dialogue ab
out whether that should be done at all in government. But telling people to leave churches that teach the concept that he apparently misunderstands was unwise. I really don't like Glenn Beck telling people who go to the church I minister with to leave it.

We Are In The End Times - Or So They Would Have Me Believe

Jesus says the end times will be marked by wars, rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes. One of my favorite preachers has this to say on the subject. It’s a little lengthy, but I thought it’s appropriate to share here. And if you can guess who the speaker is before the end, I will give you a Bucky Beaver Badge of Greatness next time I see you.

“I do not wish to force any one to believe as I do; neither will I permit anyone to deny me the right to believe that the last day is near at hand. These words and signs of Christ compel me to believe that such is the case. For the history of the centuries that have passed since the birth of Christ nowhere reveals conditions like those of the present. There has never been such building and planting in the world. There has never been such gluttonous and varied eating and drinking as now. Wearing apparel has reached its limit in costliness. Who has ever heard of such commerce as now encircles the earth? There have arisen all kinds of art and sculpture, embroidery and engraving, the like of which has not been seen during the whole Christian era.

In addition men are so delving into the mysteries of things that today a boy of twenty knows more than twenty doctors formerly knew. There is such a knowledge of languages and all manner of wisdom that it must be confessed, the world has reached such great heights in the things that pertain to the body, or as Christ calls them, ‘cares of life’, eating, drinking, building, planting, buying, selling, marrying and giving in marriage, that every one must see and say either ruin or a change must come. It is hard to see how a change can come. Day after day dawns and the same conditions remain. There was never such keenness, understanding, and judgment among Christians in bodily and temporal things as now-I forbear to speak of the new inventions, printing, firearms, and other implements of war.”

He goes on to talk about the spiritual depravity of the world he lived in. If it wasn’t for the “new inventions of the printing press and firearms, I would think that Martin Luther, who preached that in 1522, was talking about modern times.

Too often, we get hung up on the end times rather than focus on God during events that appear like those that Jesus taught would signs of the coming end times. Those signs have filled the ages since Christ, and in every age people thought their age to be the last. That doesn’t mean that ours won’t be, but it does seem to point out that we need to not focus on the end times but upon the God who brings about the signs. The signs are just that – signs. They are pointing to God, not the end. God is always at work in us, trying to mold us into who he intends us to be. The earthquakes, the wars, all of the great catastrophes of mankind should be seen as opportunities, some of them devastating and saddening, for us to focus more on him.

Jim Wallis Responds to Glenn Beck

Jim Wallis is probably the most prominent Christian proponent of social justice and has made a rebuttal to Glenn Beck's statement for Christians to leave churches that teach social justice.

Good people can disagree on what social justice should look like, but we can all agree that Jesus tells us to love our enemies, our neighbors, and our brothers and sisters.  Pretty much, that would mean that we need to love everyone.  But when it comes to what form of government our society should have, we can, as brothers and sisters in Christ, disagree widely.  You can be a Christian and be a libertarian and you can be a Christian and be a socialist.  Jesus did not prescribe a political party; he inspires us to love.

Biblical Social Justice and Glenn Beck

Wallis concluded that people should quit listening to Glenn Beck for his statements.  That seems to be a misstep in what Wallis is all about.  If there was any reason to quit listening to Beck, that would be with the way he presents his information, instigates a culture of fear, demonizes the other side, and does not add to a constructive dialog that will lead to a common ground.  This stance on churches and social justice is just one example of that.  But in the end, we should dialog and interact with those we disagree with.  If I could be friends with Glenn Beck, I would. 

This culture of isolation where we surround ourselves with only people we agree with will ultimately lead to us not understanding one another.  When that happens, we, as humans, have this unfortunate tendency to vilify the opposing side and treat them in an inhuman manner.  This is easily stopped by becoming friends with those we disagree with.  

I really hope Beck's comments backfire.  I hope that we examine ourselves and our privilege to love others.   I would love see an awakening in churches to promote social justice.

The title of their two new books reveal their two different approaches.

I've written further on this: More Thoughts on Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and Leaving Churches

Glenn Beck against Churches that Preach Social Justice

Glenn Beck Urges Listeners to Leave Churches That Preach Social Justice

I have nothing to say at the moment.

Discerning Changeable Culutral Traditions from Unwavering Scriptural Teachings - Hymns Once Again

I'm happy to be part of the Churches of Christ/Christian Churches.  Our origin, like many of the great church movements, centered around getting back to Scripture.  Where would we be if great people of faith like John Wesley, Martin Luther, and the people in our own movement like Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone did not emphasize being faithful to Scripture and relevant to the culture over adhering to the traditions of the church.  

Yet all of these movements became ensnared by traditions once the God-inspired reformers left.  Each man-made tradition eventually quenched the Spirit and caused the church to falter until another reformer came along and once again threw away all tradition to present the Gospel in a culturally relevant way.  The honest truth is that the great reformers used culturally relevant ways to communicate the Good News.  Those who came after those reformers often confused the call to get back to the Bible with the culturally relevant methods the reformers used.  They would cling to the methods rather than the Spirit that inspired those methods.  We, as ambassadors of the Good News, need to be great students of the Bible, sensitive to the Spirit, and discern the difference between cultural traditions that can change and teachings of Scripture that are unwavering.

One of the more obvious and easier to point out traditions in the current church are hymns.  There is no biblical mandate about singing songs, some of which were rewritten bar songs, that were written in the 1800s or early 1900s.  These were not written during the time of Christ and they are not the hymns referred to in Ephesians 5:18b-19.  "Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart" Eph 5:18-19 (ESV).

The words of many of the hymns are beautiful, inspiring, and are worth singing, but a church is not right or wrong with God because they sing hymns.  Some modern songs have just as great words, and I'm sadly sure there will be people arguing to sing them in fifty years. If a church could be more relevant to the culture around them by using a music style that is the language of the people, then they should do that whether that music style is their personal preference or not.  Because when it comes down to it, we should be willing to discard any tradition that is not based on Scripture if it will help us be more effective ambassadors of God's kingdom.  Clinging to traditions that we like at the cost of alienating those outside of the church is exactly what all of the great reformers rebelled against.

Martin Luther was a great reformer because he fought for the language of the Bible and the gathering of believers to be in the language of the people.  He considered it folly that the church attempted to instruct the masses in a language that they did not understand.  There was nothing productive that would come from people participating in the empty ritual of listening to a message they could not understand and connect with.

The same is true with the style of music.  An outdated style can be as great of a "language barrier" as a foreign language.  If the church is not using a style that can be found on the non-Christian radio dial, then what cultural barrier do we expect a seeker to crash through before connecting with God through music.  I remember being a seeker in a worship service and being touched by God during the culturally relevant worship service, music that really is no longer culturally relevant.  I would be wrong to say that those songs that touched my heart should be the ones we use today because they should still be able to touch hearts just the same.  The purpose of worship in church is to instruct and bring people into the presence of God.  Those missions are hampered if the music is not culturally relevant.

We are not in the kingdom of God to please ourselves.  It is all about God, bringing about his will, and bringing people to Him.  If there is any obstacle to the Gospel, let it not be some tradition that we enjoy.  Let us make sure that it is Jesus' radical demands on people's lives and never allow any tradition to get between that message of Jesus and the seeker.  The traditions we personally enjoy should be quickly and lovingly tossed aside when necessary for the greater good of the kingdom.

The Federal Reserve, Elizabeth Warren, and the Demise of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency was originally proposed as an agency to promote consumer protection in contracts with banks.  In a coup of financial proportions, the banks and Federal Reserve have turned this idea into one to maintain their power.  Elizabeth Warren's proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency has just been placed under the authority of the Federal Reserve rather than stand as its own independent authority.  The status quo will remain while we get to finance a new bureaucracy.  

The misleading language used by the banks was one of the key elements that Elizabeth Warren wanted the Consumer Financial Protection Agency to regulate.  She wanted contracts between banks and consumers to be written in clear, understandable language.  In an article that Warren wrote in the summer of 2007 entitled "Unsafe at Any Rate," Warren described the misleading language used by banks.
How did financial products get so dangerous? Part of the problem is that disclosure has become a way to obfuscate rather than to inform. According to the Wall Street Journal, in the early 1980s, the typical credit card contract was a page long; by the early 2000s, that contract had grown to more than 30 pages of incomprehensible text. The additional terms were not designed to make life easier for the customer. Rather, they were designed in large part to add unexpected–and unreadable–terms that favor the card companies. Mortgage-loan documents, payday-loan papers, car-loan terms, and other lending products are often equally incomprehensible. And this is not the subjective claim of the consumer advocacy movement. In a recent memo aimed at bank executives, the vice president of the business consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton observed that most bank products are "too complex for the average consumer to understand.
She began her article by saying:
It is impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting the family out on the street–and the mortgage won’t even carry a disclosure of that fact to the homeowner. Similarly, it’s impossible to change the price on a toaster once it has been purchased. But long after the papers have been signed, it is possible to triple the price of the credit used to finance the purchase of that appliance, even if the customer meets all the credit terms, in full and on time. Why are consumers safe when they purchase tangible consumer products with cash, but when they sign up for routine financial products like mortgages and credit cards they are left at the mercy of their creditors? 
The Wall Street Journal quoted Warren in regards to the confusion of the legal terms in contracts with banks:
"In some ways reform is less complicated than it's portrayed," Ms. Warren said adding that Congressional leaders will use a Byzantine reform structure as cover. "If it's really complex then 'I get to be the expert.' If it's really complex 'we'll decided this behind closed doors.' If it's really complex 'yes, it appeared that everyone in power walked away with the money but that's not what happened.' And so, complexity is a way to give political cover for voting with banks instead of with families"...."We haven't really rehabilitated our banks."
The decision to place the Consumer Financial Protection Agency within the Federal Reserve is a great victory for the status quo.  Hopefully, the House of Representatives can do something to stop this.  Barney Frank, on the left, and Ron Paul, on the right, are both leery of the Federal Reserve.  It's that happy, bought off middle that is all for policies like this.   

Ron Paul has been trying to audit the Federal Reserve for years.  It seems that the House of Representatives is the only branch of government that listens to the American people at the moment. 

One last quote from Ron Paul.
Since its inception, the Federal Reserve has always operated in the shadows, without sufficient scrutiny or oversight of its operations. While the conventional excuse is that this is intended to reduce the Fed’s susceptibility to political pressures, the reality is that the Fed acts as a foil for the government. Whenever you question the Fed about the strength of the dollar, they will refer you to the Treasury, and vice versa. The Federal Reserve has, on the one hand, many of the privileges of government agencies, while retaining benefits of private organizations, such as being insulated from Freedom of Information Act requests.

Theological Theme Project - Learning about God from Hollywood

This is just the meager beginning of a project, and I would love your help. I want to compile a list of movies and the themes for discussion that we can have on them to help us spiritually grow.  I wanting to start a theological movie discussion group at Riverside Christian Church where we will watch a movie and then discuss it while hanging out afterward.  Please post in the comments and tell me of the most thought-provoking movies that have helped you grow closer to God or have spurred you to contemplate something spiritual. 

Apollo 13 - Does God really take care of is?  This movie played a big role in me surrendering my life to God.

Big Kahuna - How does the world view Christianity? How can we be more loving?

Bruce Almighty - recommended. haven't seen.

Chocolat – Rated PG-13 for mild sexual content that we will skip. Why do people feel that the church isn’t loving?

Contact – Rated PG. How do we relate to the world? Is there a God?

Cocoon - How do we experience life to the fullest? Having more prosperity only leads to exaggerating our faults? 

Cool Hand Luke – Not rated due to it being released in 1967. How do we respond when we feel that God isn’t communicating with us?

Dancer in the Dark – Rated R for violence. What does it takes to truly make a sacrifice? If you’re in question about allowing your child to see this movie, feel free to see it beforehand or talk to me. It is a very traumatic movie that will help all of us see what true sacrifice is.

Dead Poets Society – Rated PG. How can we make our lives extraordinary?

Field of Dreams – How far will we go when God calls us to something?

Gattaca – Rated PG-13 for mild nudity that we will skip. How do we discriminate? What are the consequences of playing with God’s design for the world? 

K-Pax – Rated PG-13 for Violence and slight language. What would an outsider see as our flaws?

Mr. Holland’s Opus – Rated PG. How do we deal with our dreams being squashed by events around us? 

Radio Flyer - recommended. haven't seen.

Secondhand Lions - Haven't seen it yet. Suggested that it would work.

Shawshank Redemption - Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. Where do we find hope?

Signs - Rated PG-13 for frightening moments. Christians seem to have a lot of coincidences. Is God watching out for us?

Truman Show – Rated PG. How do we view God?

Unbreakable – Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes. How can we be a hero in our world?

With Honors - recommended. haven't seen.

A Light in the Darkness, TPing in the Dark

The writer of Psalm 119 declared, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”  (Psalm 119:105).

What a great illustration.  A lamp to my feet and a light unto my path, but I don't know many of us who walk around with a lamp any more to show the way.  It might not be as poetic but if the author of Psalm 119 was writing today, he would have said, “Your word is a flashlight that shows me the path to go on when it is dark.”

Do we let his word show us the way through the darkness?

When I was in junior high, we would often go out and toilet paper people’s houses.  It was not a nice thing to do (although really, people appreciated being toilet papered as long as it was in good fun and not vindictive, which it always was for us – it showed we cared in a weird way).  Anyway, part of TPing people’s houses was dressing up in dark clothes and running across town.  Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever ran in the dark without a light.   The roots in the ground will trip you.  And that is pretty dangerous.  I fell a few times from roots.  You’ve got to be real careful in the dark.  The most dangerous obstacle when running around town in the middle of the night is clotheslines.  One time, I ran into a clothesline at top speed in the dark.  It knocked me down and made a mark on my forehead that lasted a few weeks .  Clothesline in the dark can be deadly.

Being out in the darkness and trying to get around makes you realize that light really does help out a lot.  Life in the spiritual dark can be just as deadly.  God’s word will help us navigate through this life by helping us develop our relationship with Him, a relationship through which He will transform us into the person he knows we should be so that we can live life to the fullest.

Responses to Campolo's Article on "Making Matters Worse in Haiti"

The comments in response to the post on Tony Campolo's article Making Matters Worse in Haiti were great.  You readers are a smart bunch.  So I thought that I would give them a better spotlight rather than just have them hidden in the comments.

From Tim Smith:

Well a couple things cross my mind. He makes some good points on the effectiveness of the money. And if it were a trip to build something a year ago he would have a point in regards to Haiti.

In the case of a natural disaster, including in our very own country, even if every person in the affected area were involved there is still more work to be done than can be in a reasonable amount of time.

I also strongly believe if you are going on a trip just to build something and head back, the point of the mission is lost. It is supposed to be a gesture of love and a chance to share the gospel, even if only in action do to language barriers.

If what Tony says is spot on, Haiti would not have been in the spot they were before the quake. There is a flip side to the sending just money. Many people are willing to stroke a check and forget about it, but giving your time takes a deeper commitment. Should we go build something while they watch? No, we should be working with them to build something and to teach them things they can use to grow as a nation and spiritually.

I think his tie to welfare is counter productive. In fact I think his conclusion is closer to what we have done with welfare than the point he argues against. If we just send money it is sending the welfare check to the lady cashing it and buy smokes or worse, we have all seen it. Where as if we love them, and show them and give them ideas to better themselves all while sharing the message of Jesus Christ, then we might truly improve their lives far beyond the life of the building we used to make the point.

Bottom line if we were going somewhere to build a building that wasn't just ravaged by a natural disaster I would say we at least need to think of a different reason to go. But if Louisiana needed outside effort to recover from natural disaster, you can be assured Haiti needs physical help, not just money. Thats where I think Tony misses the point, his article is spot on . . . the day before the earthquake.

From Shannon Caroland:

I don't buy much of this argument at all. I've heard in many forms hundreds of times.

But incarnation is a better strategy than check sending almost every time.

Being there has meaning. Connections are built that brochures and slideshows can never accomplish. (You should ask someone like Craig Gates why he surrenders so much of his time to "babysitting" unskilled American teens. Believe me, he has thought that through).

Construction is kind of a lazy answer as to how to best help. That literacy thing sounds really neat.

But these trips should not be seen as an end in themselves. They are means to an end. The end is a bigger sense of the Kingdom in the mind and heart, so that this new perspective bares fruit.

Here's a better solution: When my brother-in-law takes college students to the Philippines, he has each student commit to be a financial partner to that ministry. They pledge $50 a month for life. Now this connection is baring fruit

Now the money coming in to the mission is from a friend they have met. (Wouldn't money from unknown U.S. churches have the same welfare-like effect Campolo fears these trips have?)

From Greg Wack (the Wackerino):

Thanks for the good blog, Regan. Tony Campolo really hits the nail every time. When I think back to when I went to Haiti. Our group of about 12 adults finished building a church while the parishioners watched in poverty. We couldn't even share food because it would instigate a food riot. If we had sent all the money that was spent on our trip to a group that would hire Haitians to do the work, we would have done so much more for them. As it was several Haitian women walked at least a mile, several times a day, with large buckets full of water on their heads so that we had water for the cement we made. They worked every bit as hard as we did, didn't get paid a cent, and were probably a hundred times more grateful for what we did than we could fathom. Thanks for putting good stuff out here for us to think about.

Unity, Anger, Democrats, Republicans, Atheist, Believers, and Name Calling

Well, something has hit the fan.  Mr. Anonymous just posted:
I think any sort of reasonable thought disappeared from you a long time ago. CHICKENSH*T! This is my last reply.
If name calling is part of this "reasonable" dialogue that you speak of, then I still participate in it at times although I am not happy that I do.

Once we revert to anger and name calling, the ability to work together or come to some agreement has been thrown out the door.  The scary American culture that is developing around us is one in which both sides call each other names and refuse to share in productive conversation.  People get their news from news agencies, blogs, or forums who tell them what they want to hear and ignore the other side because they have been branded idiots for disagreeing.  I notice that both liberal news sites like the Huffington Post and conservative sites like Drudge do not even run stories that would make their side look bad.  This culture of isolating ourselves from other views will lead to no good.

We begin to demonize the other side and act like they are a bunch of imbeciles not even worthy of being treated as fellow humans created, like us, in the image of God.  This then allows us to treat them like animals.  It's as if both sides have arrived at perfect thinking and refuse to even consider something that might be different than what they already think.  If we do not consider thoughts other than the ones we currently hold, then we will never improve. This spiral of isolation and demonization that is engulfing America needs to stop because if we refuse to talk with people that we disagree with, then the inevitable outcome will be conflict. 

I just ran across a great article that deals with this subject of demonizing one another although in the context of religion.

Rational Theists and Rational Atheists of the World, Unite!

Here are some of the best excerpts:
Existence is a great, awesome, wondrous mystery.  In the face of this mystery, Atheists remain as stunned and speechless, as flabbergasted and inarticulate as Theists. From within the confines, within the perspective of our universe, solving this mystery is probably not even possible. All we can do is reach for answers, always seemingly just beyond our grasp.  And the Atheistic answers to this mystery are no more rational than the religious ones. Is it any more rational to assert that existence arose out of nothing or that existence has always existed than to assert that a divine intelligence -- outside of time and space -- created it? Science, in the end, cannot disprove the Theistic conjecture nor prove one of the Atheistic ones. We ought not therefore conclude that it is by definition irrational to confront this mystery and cast one's lot with Theism. Theism and Atheism are equally reasonable beliefs.

Perhaps religion is irrational. But so is hope. And given the very mystery of existence, I and many other seemingly rational individuals embrace -- and struggle with -- both religion and hope.
We need to work with and communicate with those we disagree with.  If not, then we will slowly wind up associating only with ourselves or allow the one exalted individual of the group to tell us what to think.  Either we have to conform to the group to be accepted by them so they will not cast us out into loneliness as one of the different people or we will not associate with anyone that disagrees with us.  In the end, we are hurting ourselves by not allowing our thoughts to be stretched.  It's almost like there is a disease going around our society in which anger and refusal to dialogue is creeping in more and more.  And it saddens me even more when I see this behavior in the church.  Lord, help us.

Mr. Anonymous, you're welcome back any time but please try to curb the name calling.  It really does not help.

Tony Campolo on Making Matters Worse in Haiti

Making Matters Worse in Haiti

What an amazing piece.  Here are some of the best excerpts.  As I am in the midst of planning a mission trip this year, it does make me wonder what to do.  I've always felt that short-term missions was more for the people going.  For instance, on a mission trip I went to in college, we spent around $14,000 to get our group down there and back.  Would that money have been better used for the kingdom if we had just sent a check and had them build their own church?

"Does it ever occur to those leaders who take bright, enthusiastic American young people to Haiti to build hundreds and hundreds of church buildings and schools that Haitians are capable of building them? Do they even consider how many jobs they take away from Haitians because of their well-intentioned construction enterprises? Does it occur to them that when Haitians see an American youth group put up a cinder block school building in just ten days that this could contribute to a sense of inferiority as these Americans do in ten days what seems to Haitians like a miracle?"
"Altruistic Americans have done to the Haitians what an out-of-control welfare system has done to so many poor people here in the United States. It has made them into people who are socially and psychologically dependent on others to solve their problems and who have lost confidence in their own capabilities."