I just came across this article in The American Conservative by Mike Lofgren. It is entitled Revolt of the Rich and it looks at the history of super-rich Americans and their politics today and throughout history. There are even some interesting theological perspectives about American Christianity. It is well written and well worth the read. Feel free to stop back by and offer some thoughts.
As a follow-up to my last post I’m not sure I was clear enough in distinguishing matters of Christian faith and practice from matters of law in a pluralistic society with massively politicized media.
If I want the freedom to worship and practice my faith I need to extend that right to others. Within my faith community, I should be able to conduct and express myself fully according to conscience, banding together with others of similar belief. I don’t believe the government should tell me what I have to believe or who has to be able to work for that faith community. For any community I would belong to, the Bible as interpreted by my tradition would be the guide to faith and practice. That should be okay, no matter how much someone else disagrees with the validity of that conviction.
If I’m to enjoy this right, I should extend it to others. So I can’t get excited about laws which have as their goal limiting others’ ability to practice their convictions.
But there are, of course, boundaries to this. If my conviction is that all people should have blue hair or that all people with blue hair must be imprisoned by the government, I won’t get my way. Likewise, if I support murder or theft as legitimate acts, my conscience will find me in handcuffs. Everybody isn’t free to do whatever, even in a free land.
But the same-sex marriage issue pushes us to the outer boundaries of conscience and law. People at my end are concerned about liberal moral views becoming so controlling that a preacher can’t call anything sin anymore without being censored or arrested. People at the other end are concerned about states banning whole ways of life, thus criminalizing segments of society full of well-meaning people. The concerns may be more similar than we realize.
Then there’s the issue of the foundations of relations between the sexes in a society. Some of us worry that if all definitions of family and gender become blurred society will eventually crumble. Others imagine a values-free utopia emerging once certain laws are passed.
And then there are candidates and incumbents. Ugh.
I think the president did a bad thing for all of us. Who cares what his personal views are on this issue, especially if they’re “evolving”? Now we’re polarizing around what our personal convictions are. And we’re confusing that with our stance on public laws for the land. Each end sprinting to their corner and appealing to their base. And I’m left thinking we have a pair of flip-flippers to choose from. It’s tacky to share your “personal views” in calculated political statements as you sit in office. Then you can test the wind and follow up with “aw, shucks too bad I can’t support a law…”, or “and that’s why I’m strongly supporting this legislation…” after the polls come in. Weak.
I think the U.S. people want a real choice. I’m not sure we’ve got one.
For me, faith convictions are guided by Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Public life convictions are guided by the democratic republic’s laws, hopefully still valuing the Bible. I’m concerned about eroding gender boundaries. Kids are very confused. I see marriage as instituted by God and handed down from the most ancient of times as between a man and woman. The preservation and continuation of the human race are somehow connected to it. I don’t know what the result will be if same-sex marriage is seen as equal to heterosexual marriage.
On the other hand, banning people on the basis of adult lifestyle seems equally scary. What if my group is next?
So I’m more in favor of laws which affirm marriage as between a man and a woman, etc…, than I am of laws which seek to ban non-victimizing sexual behavior. There is a mood in our country that is annoyed with claims that anything important is at stake with same-sex marriage as the civil law of the land. I challenge that mood. To me, civil unions seem to provide for this desire for freedom while preserving marriage as heterosexual.
But I’m not a political expert. I don’t play one on TV. I do know the Bible, and I’m aware of the nuanced translation and interpretations of passages which claim to overturn my views. But I don’t buy them in the end. I think it’s important to be specific and careful, but reducing Lev 18:22 to only pagan worship scenarios misses the point. Any behavior which mimics such ceremonies would be wrong. Otherwise it would simply say pagan rituals, not be so descriptive of the act. So for believers my convictions are clear. For U.S. society, by all that I can see, we need to keep important boundaries in place. I submit we must find a way to preserve freedom and avoid persecution while protecting the ancient foundations of society. So there is my view, imperfect as it may be.
Our state (Indiana) is embroiled in a hot debate over Right-to-Work. Republicans are pushing through legislation that will weaken unions and theoretically help non-union workers and create more jobs. But I think both sides are missing the big point.
I’ve been shocked by some recent articles describing manufacturing supply-chain scenarios for major tech companies like my beloved Apple, Inc. It sure seems like its going to require huge coordinated commitments from the U.S. government, big businesses, and educational institutions to bring any serious job growth to our future.
I’m disappointed that companies like Apple have decided beforehand that U.S. workers won’t embrace change and so have gone whole-hog for an Asian-dominant vision of manufacturing. No doubt it helped propel Apple quickly to the top. By boldly embracing the Chinese vision, the iPhone prototypes received a glass screen just 6 weeks before launch in 2007, changing the tech world for the short-term future. But according to recent reports from Bloomberg, workers live in barracks and are sometimes summoned from deep sleep to be on the floor in 45min for 12hour shifts making very low wages. Some companies employ a quarter of a million employees in such conditions. That’s how there’s always a new iPhone or Android device each year. Companies get exactly what they want exactly when they want it.
If this is the price of speed in innovation, is it worth it? I don’t think RTW laws will undo this trend, unless the goal is reproducing that scenario here. But neither will out of control unions which simply centralize their own power. Leaders will have to produce a more comprehensive model with input from all the players to accomplish any lasting changes. Do any of them have the courage and will to do it? Surely recent Asian natural disasters have shown us the vulnerability of the model. Hard drives will not be cheap again for quite a while. And it’s hard to find a new Honda to purchase, for example. (Japan and Taiwan are a lot different than China, however.)
And will U.S. consumers support a transition? Would it cause inflation? And whose projections can be trusted? What role could unions play in any transition? I for one am going to be more conscious of these issues as I consider future purchases. I’ll also be listening to what politicians have to say of substance on these matters. Could it become an act of patriotism to get a carefully designed and government subsidized associates degree related to mid-level product engineering (rather than a four year professional degree) and voluntarily work really hard? If enough Americans signed up would enough companies build factories here over a two-year period while an army of people get the necessary training? Maybe then RTW could make a difference. Until something on this scale is attached I’m skeptical and concerned about workers. In the past, only war efforts have achieved this kind of coordinated effort.
More importantly I’ll be praying for myself and my nation. Only God can bring about the changes in us required for such a resurgence. And it will have to be combined with a deep repentence and reverence for God and the value of human life. The era of laws and resolutions making a huge difference is passing. Coordinated innovation on a national scale fueled by spiritual transformation could bring a new day. Apart from it, we’ll slide into mediocrity. We can’t be great apart from God.
The Church can stand strong regardless of the outcome. But I pray we keep shining light in the darkness. The gospel can bring meaning and hope despite circumstances. And I hope Christians lead the way (even older generations) to a bold future in this country.
As we watch congress play a game of chicken with our economy, let us pray… The Republicans are passing a plan the Senate Democrats won’t approve so they can blame the crisis on the President. The Democrats are clinging to over-extended programs which appeal to their constituents, so they can accuse Republicans of stealing from the poor to support the rich. All the while, both parties claim the other is playing politics.
We elected them to work politics. To consider all options, follow all leads, then make tough choices that will help all Americans. It won’t do any good to save programs that bankrupt us. It won’t do any good to slash services that feed the economy. It definitely won’t help anyone to default on our debts. No one deal can solve the problems. A series of hard choices lie ahead for everyone. Politics doesn’t have to be a game of appearances. It can be the hard work of serving and leading our nation. Having serious conversations which engage all parties in finding real solutions. Compromising on non-essentials will be necessary to succeed.
I pray the political games will end and the real work of politics will begin before it’s too late.
Follow the above link to a fascinating article on the endlessly interesting saga of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It’s good journalism because it carefully reveals thousands of years of history while explaining current tensions. To me this sifting project would be in my top 5 ultimate field trips. I’m especially interested in the 7th century figurines, the Herodian floor tiles, the inscriptions from Jeremiah’s period and the coins. These are all from decisive moments in the development of Judaism’s full understanding of God, which formed the foundation for the New Testament.
It’s more difficult than ever to claim that Solomon’s Temple isn’t under the Dome of the Rock. In a perfect world, modern excavation techniques could unearth treasures, while leaving existing structures and peace agreements undisturbed.
How amazing would it be to be able to take an elevator down to stand where King David stood, or raise arms toward heaven where Solomon did on Temple dedication day? But alas it would likely unleash such turmoil the price would be too high. Totally confirms in me that religion is not the world’s problem. The problem is the will to power, using religion as a front. Politically-minded men have too often ascended to religious leadership. This is a bad combination. Makes me think of the movie, Kingdom of Heaven… And so the creation groans, along with us, for the fullness of salvation to be revealed… How long, O, Lord?
It’s easy to judge from an armchair, but where are the growing edges of our own faith journey? John the Baptizer said, “I must become less, that he [Christ] become greater still.” In this Lenten season we’re reminded that we can’t always get what we want. And sometimes that’s for the best. Jesus emptied himself of all but love on the way to the cross. Are there artifacts we need to let go of? Do we need help from friends to sift through decades of “stuff”, to find the real treasures? Is the landscape of our journey defined by altars of worship or bloody battlefields of selfishness? Almost a month remains before Easter. What’s beneath your Temple Mount? What story is told from the artifacts of your journey?