Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Who Should Carry the Load??? (Solving our Fiscal Crisis)

Let me begin with a very basic statement: No matter how much truth there is in the arguments and information regarding the need for unions and the "common man" to give back and give up benefits that have been part of their life contract and no matter how dire the situation may be, until BOTH the politicians and especially the bankers and investors (and by bankers I mean all those I call "white collar gamblers") who got us in this mess are held accountable and give back and give up what they have taken, our country is going to be at a standstill and it's all going to crash.

Three examples of the point I'm talking about:

 The Price of Inequality: Interview with Joseph E. Stiglitz
 The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia by Matt Taibbi
 Wall Street Isn't Winning -- It's Cheating

Conclusion: If you can get the "big boys" - translated the 1% - to own up to their responsibilities and take responsibility (in spiritual terms of reconciliation, we call this restitution) for their role in all this mess, then the large percentage of us in the 99% who are resistant to wrapping all of these financial issues up in a bag and hauling them up the mountain of fiscal responsibility by ourselves would willingly share our responsibility and hauls our part.

Seems like this clip from The Mission: Redemption might have some application to this discussion. DiNero is paying penance for his sins. Finally, those he sinned against cut the bag from his back as an act of forgiveness. Here is my application of this scene to our dialogue:

The people who are NOT responsible for the mess we're in are being asked to drag the bag of fiscal responsibility up the waterfall ONLY there is no one waiting at the top to relieve the load.  Imagine this if you can . . . What if the bankers and politicians who got us here were to literally place the bag of fiscal responsibility on their backs and carry us out of this mess? Such an act of penance and responsibility would free all of us!!!

But alas, these things only happen in movies and fairy tales so we will continue to ask those with no penance to pay to carry the load and we will remain polarized and most likely at some time in the future . . . crash our economy and country.

The Three "R's" are the bedrock of Christian Community Development - Relocation, Reconciliation, and Redistribution. I wonder what might happen if they were applied to our economic circumstances???

Hoping against all hope,


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


1992 . . . I can honestly say I was at the lowest point I had ever been in my entire life. I can't say I sat at my computer because we didn't have one. I guess you could say I was the opposite of those people who I saw lined up at the Apple store the other day, 24 hours before the iPad2 went on sale. I sat in the corner of our kitchen asking myself this question, "What do I know?"l My answer was threefold . . . 1. I know there is a God 2. I know God loves me 3. I know my family (wife & children) love me.

That was the sum total of the foundations in my life. Where was the fulfillment of the promise?

1987 . . . I had been asked to move to Chicago and start a new church in the Lincoln Park area. What did I know about starting a new church and what did I know about Chicago? NOTHING!!! I sat in a chair late at night with my Bible and a Diet Coke (my way of praying and seeking God) and somehow ended up in Exodus 2 & 3. There are many things I could write here but I'll keep it to one piece. I'm reading along and I come to Exodus 3.12.
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have
brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Between 1987 and now, I/we (our family) have experienced many things. If you read this blog long enough, you will get a picture of those experiences. What I can tell you is this . . . there have been many mountains but no so many that you worship on (if you know what I mean).

2011 . . . I go to church at LaSalle this past Sunday and Laura Truax, our pastor proceeds to preach on this whole burning bush passage and suddenly, I am reading Exodus 3.12 again. I am again reminded of sitting in that chair drinking my Diet Coke back in 1987. I am really challenge by Laura's/God's words about the burning bush. I take notes in my iPhone and send Laura an email of the silent commitment I made sitting there in the pew.

It's now 3 days later. Count 'em . . . Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday . . . and I go to my men's group, a networking group of guys doing ministry in the city. We meet every month. We are using the new Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals to guide us in our sharing time. Guess what the passage of scripture was? Yeah . . . you guessed it! Exodus 3.

Back in 1987, I was somehow led by the Spirit of God to believe this. I had to take a step of faith and move to Chicago. I didn't know ANYTHING! Let me say that again. I didn't have a clue! (Although I thought and talked like I did at times.) I was convicted in 1987 of this truth and today, Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - 23 1/2 years later - I experienced the FIRST fulfillment of this truth:
We are called to step out into the unknown, a complete step of faith in God, and the promise is this: You will
experience the fulfillment of the calling when you have done it. Let me say it another way . . . God say, "Go climb
that mountain." I say, "God, how do I know it is you telling me to climb that mountain?" God says, "Because, if
you go climb it, you'll know it was me who told you when you're standing on top of the mountain."

Today, I stood on the mountain. Today, I looked back over 23 years and knew that yes, God called me and I obeyed. I looked down on the past 23 years and said to myself, "It is good." It's been a long climb and that's OK. And . . . there is another mountain to climb and I hear God's call. I can tell you this, at 53 years of age, I look forward to getting to the top of this mountain, looking down and then looking up to the next mountain . . .

I like Exodus!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Governor Walker and the Church

A friend had posted his critique of Governor Walker and the recent happenings in Wisconsin (which by the way, I believe our children's grandchildren will be reading about in their history books in a hundred years). I proceeded to read not only his post but the comments left by others. One person stated . . . "I fully support Gov. Walker....I do not think it is the gov't job to take care of the poor. Those that are truly in need are the responsibility of the church... I think the bible is very clear about that, and clearly teaches principles that if one abides by could help one avoid poverty... In my opinion it is a combination of personal responsibility and church responsibility...

It was one of those mornings and I couldn't just walk away so I commented . . .

I couldn't agree more with you . . . especially about the role of the church - everyone who calls Christ Lord. We, the church, are responsible for the poor. William Temple said it quite eloquently over a hundred years ago. "The church is the only society that exists for the benefit of it's nonmembers." And therein lies the problem . . . the church does not believe this. If we did, are actions would be drastically different. So because the church does not believe they are responsible for the poor, like our "founder" taught, the state has been forced to step in and try and fill the gap vacated by the church.

What is it that keeps the church from being the church? Could it be we are too busy investing in ourselves and our temples made with hands? The caring people in the public sector therefore have no choice but to attempt filling in for the church. And that is impossible. NO ONE CAN FILL THE VOID WHEN THE CHURCH VACATES IT'S CALLING AND RESPONSIBILITY. Isn't it ironic how so many Evangelical Christians stand with Gov. Walker and yet are also the same people investing their tithes & offerings and time to perpetuate their "cathedrals" and social club services that only serve themselves. If the church has vacated it's responsibility and the state is now saying, "No more," exactly who is going to stand with the poor and those who serve the under-resourced of our world?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

For All the "Whipping Boys" Out There, a.k.a TEACHERS

If you are looking for affirmation and pats on the back, then thank your lucky stars you are not a teacher today. Why pray tell? Because teachers are now the whipping boy for all of society's ills. And how appropriate when you understand the history of the Whipping Boy.

Whipping Boy was an established position at the English court during the Tudor and Stuart monarchies of the 15th and 16th centuries. A young boy was assigned to the King's son and whenever the young prince would misbehave or fall behind in his schooling, the Whipping Boy would be flogged and beaten. Everyone believed (yeah it was a God thing) that you couldn't punish the young prince for his failings, so let's punish someone else - the Whipping Boy.

Amazing how teachers have become the whipping boy today, and more so than ever in these first few months of 2011. If there is a problem in society . . . it's those dang teachers! Our children are not learning and we're falling behind in math and science . . . Fire the teachers! Young people are violent, disrespectful, and lazy . . . It's the fault of all those lousy teachers! The economy is falling apart and there is no money . . . All because of the benefits (pensions) those teachers get and those high salaries they make for 9 months of work and only 6 hours per day when they are working! (And if you believe this, you have never lived with or hung out with a TEACHER.) Can we say, "Whipping Boy?"

Another amazing correlation between the Whipping Boy of old and our situation today is this whole monarchy thing. The fact that you couldn't / can't punish the monarchy for their failings so let's assign a whipping boy to take the fall, be the scapegoat. Is there a better description of today? Who is the monarchy today you ask? All the untouchables - bankers, wall street brokers, politicians, the list goes on - who driven by their unadulterated greed have taken our country and our world to the brink of collapse because of their choices and actions, or lack there of. But let there be no repercussions for these fine, upstanding leaders of society. Call in the Whipping Boy!!!

What I can't figure out is why Jon Stewart seems to be the lone voice crying out in the wilderness of this malarkey. Why are we allowing ourselves to be snookered by the ridiculous commentary being presented in the public arena? Check out this video and tell me they are not feeding us _________________ (you fill in the word).

Isn't it time we begin to stand up and tell the media and politicians that we have pulled back the curtain, we see the games being played, the lies being told, and we're tired of it. We're tired of Whipping Boys! I'm reminded of Howard Beale in "Network" and, well . . . let's let him say it again.

Anybody else tired of Whipping Boys?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Balanced Life

I just uploaded a video to my blog . . . you'll find it in the Video section. It's entitled "Balance" by Lauenstein, 1989. When I first saw this video around 1993-94, it was one of those moments when you just sigh and breathe a great big YES! Only it's a quiet YES! like when you take a deep breath and let the weight of the world off your chest and shoulders.

You see, for years I hadn't understood why I was so resistant to the commonly accepted teaching of "The Balanced Life". Practically every teacher and preacher I ever heard would at some point in time lift up this Holy Grail that we should all be seeking and they would call it "The Balanced Life".

The more this resistance grew within me, the more the word balance became like fingers on a chalkboard screeching across the slate board of my mind and my heart. This word balance, by definition just didn't measure up with what I saw in the life of Christ. And a commitment to living a balanced life sure didn't create an environment that enabled "iron to sharpen iron" (just one example of non-balance). I actually began to see balance as a negative, passive quality. Something to be rejected, not sought after and embraced. Was Jesus a balanced person? Did Jesus live a balanced life? Did his teachings move people to balance and balanced living?

During the time I was asking these questions and many more, a friend introduced me to this Balance video. Here's the Lenten challenge for the day - watch the video and see what you think about balance after watching it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Responding to a Challenge

If you spend any time at all looking at this blog, you will see that I haven't written anything since 2009, written anything on this blog that is. But I received this email from my daughter who said that for Lent she was starting a blog and she referenced how in our family we treat these holy times of the church calendar kind of different. Let me explain . . . (If you stick around, you'll notice that I really like these 3 little dots . . .)

My wife tends to add things at Lent instead of giving things up. This year for instance, she has decided to read non-fiction books during Lent. You guessed it, she is a fiction reader. She even claims that she can read more than one non-fiction book in 40 days. (Smile) One year for Advent, I decided to give something up. You know, apply the Lent principle to Advent. So I gave up pop/soda/coke for Advent. I wanted to do something that actually made me long for the end of Advent and if you know how much I love my Diet Coke, you understand the longing.

So I got to thinking about Niki's decision to start a blog for Lent and I felt the challenge to do the same thing. Not to compete with my daughter but because I have become pretty lazy with my writing . . . OK, I've become pretty lazy. And as you are picking up, Lent can be a time when we add a discipline and that's just what I'm going to do - I'm going to be like Niki (kind of like "I'm wanna be like Mike") and write for Lent. And who knows, by taking up this challenge, I might just keep writing.

Speaking of challenges, I faced another one today. I don't like uncomfortableness in relationships and I especially don't like to deal with uncomfortableness. I can be an avoider But today was different. I don't know why. Maybe because I have been praying about this particular relationship for a few weeks. Whatever the reason, this morning I decided to quit avoiding and dive into the uncomfortable pool that was filled with misunderstandings, assumptions, and criss-crossed communication.

After several minutes of tense dialogue, I said to this person, "I don't know why we are not connecting but there seems to be this barrier between us and I don't want it to be there." We proceeded to talk for over an hour and begin in very small steps to identify our different styles of communication, our different ways of doing things and slowly I began to sense that the barrier, the wall, was coming down.

Now it would be really easy to rebuild that wall but I am choosing to face this challenge as well and continue tearing down that barrier, that dividing wall of hostility that is so easy to build. I am going to slow down, not rush to judgement, give the benefit of the doubt, be both a deliver of grace and a seeker of grace and I believe . . . develop a new and lasting friendship.

Writing. Reading non-fiction. Facing a relational challenge. What else is Lent going to hold for us this year?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'm Warning You, Don't Read This!

The following are excerpts from a book I'm reading entitled "The Life You Save".

In the Christian Tradition, helping the poor is a requirement for salvation. Jesus told the rich man, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor." To make sure his message wasn’t missed, he went on to say that is is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He praised the Good Samaritan who went out of his way to help a stranger. He urged those who give feasts to invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. When he spoke of the last judgment, he said that God will save those who have fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, and clothed the naked. It is how we act toward “the least of these brothers of mine”: that will determine, Jesus says, whether we inherit the kingdom of God or go into the eternal fire. He places far more emphasis on charity for the poor than on anything else.

Not surprisingly, early and medieval Christians took these teachings very seriously. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, proposed that those with a surplus should share with the needy: “Your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality.” The members of the early Christian community Jerusalem, according to the account given in the Acts of the Apostles, sold all their possessions and divided them according to need. The Franciscans, the order of monks founded by Francis of Assisi, took a vow of poverty and renounced all private property. Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval scholar whose ideas became the semi-official philosophy of the Roman Catholic church, wrote that whatever we have in “superabundance”—that is, above and beyond what will reasonably satisfy our own needs and those of our family, for the present and the foreseeable future—“is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance.” In support of this view, he quoted Ambrose, one of the four original “Great Doctors” or teachers of the Church. He also cited the Decretum Gratiani, a twelfth-century compilation of canon law that contains the powerful statement, “The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry: the clothing you shut away, to the naked: and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless.”

Note that “owed” and belongs.” For these Christians, sharing our surplus wealth with the poor is not a matter of charity, but of our duty and their rights.

Today, some Christians are seeking a renewed focus on the message of the gospels. Jim Wallis, founder and editor of the Christian magazine Sojourners, likes to point out that the Bible contains more than three thousand references to alleviating poverty—enough reason, he thinks, for making this a central moral issue of Christians.

I write this book with two linked but significantly different goals. The first is to challenge you to think about our obligations to those trapped in extreme poverty. The part of the book that lays out this challenge will deliberately present a very demanding—some might even say impossible—standard of ethical behavior. I’ll suggest that it may not be possible to consider ourselves to be living a morally good life unless we give a great deal more than most of us would think it realistic to expect human beings to give. This may sound absurd, and yet the argument for it is remarkably simple. It goes back to that bottle of water, to the money we spend on things that aren’t really necessary. If it is so easy to help those in real need through no fault of their own, and yet we fail to do so, aren’t we doing something wrong? At a minimum, I hope this book will persuade you that there is something deeply askew with our widely accepted views about what it is to live a good life.

The second goal of this book is to convince you to choose to give more of your income to help the poor. . . I should say up front that I believe you should be giving more than 5 percent, and that I hope you’ll ultimately move in that direction.

Many people get great pleasure from dressing stylishly, eating well, and listening to music on a good stereo system. I’m all for pleasure—the more the better, other things being equal. . . . But my argument does imply that it is wrong to spend money on those things when we could instead be using the money to save people’s lives and prevent great suffering. The problem is that we are living in the midst of an emergency in which 27,000 children die from avoidable causes every day. That’s more than one thousand every hour. And millions of women are living with repairable fistulas, and millions of people are blind who could see again. We can do something about these things. That crucial fact ought to affect the choices we make. To buy good stereo equipment in order to further my worthwhile goal, or life-enhancing experience, of listening to music is to place more value on these enhancements to my life than on whether others live or die. Can it be ethical to live that way? Doesn’t it make a mockery of any claim to believe in the equal value of human life?

OK . . . it’s me, Dave, writing now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you and tell you not to read this.

I have been haunted by Peter Singer's words in this book for the past two weeks. I will confess that I do not really want to hear them with my heart. I want to keep what I am reading bouncing around in my mind because as long as these words do not move into my heart, it is not necessary for me to choose. Choose? Yes choose. This man is calling me to act on the areas of Jesus' teachings and the life-style choices of the early church that I would just as soon ignore and I must admit, have done a pretty good job of ignoring for more than three decades.

And another thing . . . Why should I listen and give any consideration to such a blatant, clear-cut, no excuses, take-no-prisoners challenge from this man who has been described as “The Most Dangerous Man on Earth” AND whose views on poverty and how we can eradicate global poverty have been called stupid. Aren't the Christians who describe and accuse Peter Singer of these things correct? After all, he is an atheist!

To be continued . . .