Archive for May, 2012

Capitalism and the Abrahamic Promise

In the twelfth Chapter of Genesis  God instructs Abram to leave his country and his family to go to a new land that God was going to show him and in that land God was going to bless him and make him a great nation, so that he could be a blessing, not just a blessing to some, but that all the families/nations of the earth were to be blessed in him.

There is an important principle shown in this passage, that I first heard expounded upon many years ago from Lincoln Murdoch in the context of American Christians with our great blessings taking or using those blessing to bless others. I was reminded of this again recently when Terry Schenzel was speaking about the unique characteristics and abilities that each of us have been given by God and developed through education and experience. Our abilities, blessings, gifts, talents, etc. are not really ultimately for us, they are for those around us.

While it is true that our gifts are ultimately for others, it is also true that each of us have desires and dreams that we want to pursue. We want to be successful, we want to provide for ourselves and our families, we want to create. We are made in the image and likeness of God and He is creator God and we want to emulate Him. We want to accomplish something and we want to be significant. Those are good drives and desires and they should be nurtured and encouraged, but they only remain pure when they are balanced with the realization that our gifts are ultimately for others and we will never truly find fulfillment in pursuing our dreams until we see them blessing others.

That brings me to the purpose of this article. I think that the capitalist model is somewhat under attack in the United States and in the church in particular. It is almost as if we are ashamed of the blessings that have accrued to us and I would like to push back against that tide a bit.

In this country, our society is set up so that individuals can pursue their own dreams, whether they be writing, farming, building or any number of varied pursuits, limited only by our imaginations. That is to say that we are capitalists in thought and in occupation and in recreation. Capitalism is typically restricted to defining an economic system and is “characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.” I would like a more inclusive and less obscure way of defining capitalism such as, individuals (or collections of freely associated individuals) using their skills, abilities and talents to pursue their dreams so as to provide for themselves and their families free from the control or confiscation of others.

Capitalism often has a negative connotation because our understanding is that if people are free to pursue their ambitions, they will do anything to succeed, they will let their ambition turn to greed which is certainly a temptation. We are humans and unless we understand the way we were created, we will think that any blessing that comes our way in any form, is ultimately for us. We will not understand that our highest achievement is to use our blessings to bless others. Without that understanding our blessings become a stagnant and smelly pool instead of a fresh rushing stream. 

I do not want to get into a long discussion of the pros and cons of government intervention in private activities since the point of this blog is to have a discussion of how we should use our skills, talents, blessings, etc to bless others. I will however say that there is no real good way for governments (that does not mean there is no way to increase the likelihood that people will do right) to check the downside of people being free to do what they want with their own possessions. Governments do have to be instituted among men in order to bring order and stability to societies but governments are composed of individuals with just as much propensity to do wrong as anyone else. It is therefore a bit naive to think those individuals in government will be any less likely to go bad than individuals pursuing their dreams could. Optimally when a government is formed it will truly represent the people who establish it and the power used to restrict or constrain individual action would be minimal.

Leaving that discussion for another time and place, my purpose in this piece is not to argue that American capitalism is God’s means of blessing the world or to somehow argue that America is in any way the equal in God’s eyes to Abram (Abraham), but to argue for a society that allows the free pursuit of our hopes, dreams, ideas and creative juices. We have an appetite for success, for achievement and we want a society that facilitates and encourages that, not for those who will selfishly accumulate for themselves, but for those who understand the promise to Abram, that we are blessed to be a blessing.

I think these are ideas that the church can and really should embrace. We do not need, indeed, we should not be embarrassed by the blessings that we have received individually and as a country. That would be false humility. Our task is to recognize blessing from God and then use that blessing to bless others. In other words, since we have learned to fish, let’s teach others. The best blessing is teaching people to do for themselves, not creating a class of people who are dependent on others.

Now it is true that the church can grow under any circumstances, see China or North Korea. God is not handcuffed waiting for free market capitalist republics to emerge, He can use any system to accomplish His purposes. That does not give us the excuse however to be passive or fatalistic. We can and should work for systems that best provide blessings to all. We are charged to bring the Kingdom of God into every area of life, so God can and will use people who understand the promise to Abram. God will use those who do not eschew the blessings of freedom and capitalism. God will use them to bring the Kingdom of God to a poor and needy world in unusual and unexpected ways.

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You Say You Want A Revolution?

John Lennon and Paul McCarthy had an interesting lyrical answer to the push for revolution in the 60’s which I have excerpted below. The full lyrics can be seen by clicking the link.

You say you want a revolution
….We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
….You say you got a real solution
….You ask me for a contribution
….But when you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
….You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow….

You could maybe say that their objection was more practical than ideological, but that is not the point. The advice given in the song was and is good advice, especially in the “Occupy Wall Street” times we are living in. I wonder sometimes, are the sixties revolutions coming back? Or worse? Keep reading and you tell me.

At this point I should issue my “paranoid conspiracy theory” alert. Since the 2008 elections I have said more than once to my wife (half jokingly) that I feared that the 2008 elections could be our last Presidential election (for reasons I won’t explain for fear of loosing all of you). She never wanted to hear my pessimism, and frankly, I was and am hoping and praying that we will not come to that, although my concerns and fears have only heightened in the three and one-half years that have passed since those elections, by watching world events unfold.

I know those thoughts border on tin foil hat thinking, so imagine my surprise and chagrin when I a friend of mine, Tom Hughes, recently posted a piece from the Canada Free Press. According to this article, my fears may not be all that unfounded. The article quotes a source inside the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as saying,

“The Obama administration and many of the un-elected ‘czars,’ either directly or indirectly, are engaged in covert activities with the occupy movement, various labor protests, and other subversive activities inside the U.S. Using untracked campaign funds, they are paying people to infiltrate the various movements to cause physical destruction of property and disrupt commerce. That began last year, but has increased ten-fold already this year,”

“Obama is using some high-profile people as pawns to foment the revolution. I heard several times through very credible sources that [Louis] Farrakhan is on the CIA payroll. Other have been named as well, but I’m not prepared to identify them yet. Farrakhan is to coordinate the Blacks and the Muslims to prepare for riots this summer, using any means necessary.”

“Mentioned at the meeting Saturday were methods to use pawns to simulate the rioting in the Arab Spring countries, but to the benefit of this administration. A controlled chaos thing.” They envision rioting starting in the urban areas first, such as New York and other major cities, followed by a disruption of business and commerce. This will allow the DHS to mobilize their various teams into the streets of America without objection of the people.” 

“They want to restrict travel, if not through high energy prices, then by checkpoints and curfews mandated by rioting and unrest. They understand we are the most well-armed nation in the world, yet they are aware of our vulnerabilities and intend to fully exploit them.” The whole purpose is to keep Obama in office for another term, no matter how unpopular he is, as he is not finished changing our country from a Constitutional Republic. This is the run-up to the 2012 elections, or perhaps causing enough chaos to delay them – indefinitely.”

I will let you judge if the source is real or credible or if any of this is believable. I just think it is interesting that  this aligns fairly closely to the type of things that happen when freely elected nations morph into centrally controlled bureaucracies (Tyrannies).  We are conditioned in America to think that those types of things happen in places like Cuba or Venezuela or Germany (in the past) but can not happen here. I typically think that. We have a rich history of freedom and liberty and we are not easily subdued and so what happens there does not have to happen here – but could it?   

The easy answer is “of course it could”, but eternal vigilance is the guardian of freedom so it does not have to happen. Actually we should take some comfort in the fact that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has largely fizzled in its May 1 resurrection from last falls protests. None-the-less I would like to issue a two-part challenge to everyone who knows God and His Son Jesus.

1. God rules the nations, He is alive, He does hear and is moved by the prayers of His children. I urge you to make your prayers known to Him and then humble yourself before Him and pray and seek His face and as He shows you, turn from sin, so that He will hear and forgive us and heal the land, and hold back the hand of the revolutionaries. 

2. We are the true revolutionaries, lets use the weapons of our warfare as we are reminded in Ephesians 6:10-17

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against  flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

These are not times to remain on the sidelines.

Can We Pass a Law Saying the Oceans are Full of Fresh Water? Can We Pass a Law Saying Two Men Can be Married to Each Other?

I have previously written about the issue of homosexuality from my perspective as a Christian regarding that behavior, so instead of rehashing whether the behavior is right or wrong from a Biblical perspective, I thought I would look at it from a different, maybe logical point of view.

I suppose the title of this piece might give an indication of my thinking, but before I get to that, I thought a look at the history of marriage would be helpful. It is not surprising to note that in all societies in all times marriage has been recognized in one form or another, but the common denominator has been an almost exclusive recognition that marriage was between a man and a woman. Sometimes the marriages were arranged, sometimes there were exchange marriages where two clans would come together and exchange young people in arranged marriages,  sometimes group marriage, sometimes polygamy, sometimes marriage was restricted to within the family or clan, sometimes marriage was chosen by the partners themselves based on mutual attraction, but once again almost exclusively the union was of men and women in order to order society and to raise children. Marriages have only recently been redefined in some Western (Christian) countries as between members of the same sex. Kind of weird that.

Societies always regulate human relations in order to organize and perpetuate the culture. It is in the interest of society to regulate relations among themselves and they do so, not for the interests of the individuals but for the perpetuation and benefits of society as a whole. If that is the case then is there a reason that some relations are encouraged and others are not?

Well, my wife has written on her blog about the benefits to society of married families, so I refer you to her space. Suffice it to say, there is a very strong interest in society regulating interpersonal behaviour to preserve, perpetuate and prosper their culture.

That gets me to the part about  passing laws. It is laughable to me that we would think that we could pass a law to change the intrinsic nature of a thing. If we passed a law stating that the oceans were filled with fresh water, would it make it so, would we be able to drink it safely? Ridiculous question, of course, but for some reason we think we can pass a law to say that two men or two women can constitute a marriage. We can pass the law, but that does not make it so.

This reminds me of a passage in Psalms 2:

The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.”

So, I reckon God is still in His heaven and is looking at us trying to break His “chains”  and throw off His “shackles” and just laughing at our inept attempts to change the very nature of human relations by passing laws. From His point of view it is pathetically funny, unfortunately, we may have to live through the effects of misguided and ignorant law. It would be similar to passing a law that the  seas were filled with fresh water and then trying to use that water to drink and irrigate our gardens and crops. We would all surely die.

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