Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ten Common Sense Approaches to Overcoming the Federal Deficit

Quit letting the deadbeats drain the system of my tax money!

Corporate Welfare will bleed us dry if we don’t cut them off!

Obama Care is a dangerous waste of tax money!

They had better never touch my Medicare or Social Security Benefits!

We have to cut the military because it is killing our economy!

Big Government takes my precious tax dollar and wastes it in needless ways!

The welfare state is just another expression of socialism and should be abolished!

Charitable Tax Deductions drain our economy


There is something wrong with every one of these statements and many others just like them. They all make the dangerous assumption that any specific cut, any single program, any particular ideology on government spending or involvement in our common life will solve all our national financial ills. Furthermore, most of these statements become more than just suggestions. Rather, they stand for arrogant all-or-nothing approaches to resolving our nation’s fiscal worries.

And … none of them will really work!

The fact of the matter is simple. Christians, we have a sacred (Biblical) obligation to care for everyone in our society. As Americans, we also have a civic duty to uphold the common good that supports everyone in our culture. Unfortunately, much of what passes for political and economic solutions to our national economic problems are really only self-serving, one-sided, short-lived, and presumptively judgmental actions that will only exacerbate the nation’s economic woes and potentially drive us to economic collapse.

There is no escaping a tragic reality. Our economy is broken--seriously broken!

There are a few becoming exceptionally wealthy on stocks and trades, as well as boom industries. The vast majority of Americans are barely scraping along. A tragically high number of Americans live frighteningly below the poverty line.  The system cannot maintain such inequality forever.

The Government is one of the most inefficient spenders of money. There is countless waste and bloated spending throughout all sectors of the United States Government. The idea that some are justifiable and some inexcusable generally falls to the distinction of personal preference, partisan posturing,  or is postulated as the primary points of political platforms. Yet, the fact remains, if the federal debt is not contained, the economy will crash, period. The question remains, how do we do it?

Sequester, for all the political wrangling it contains, will accomplish nothing of any long-term benefit. It may save a few dollars here and there, and may actually promote an increase in spending in other arenas. This means the long-term benefit will be negligible. It was, and remains, a clever political distraction with no real substance.

So … what are Christians to do?

Rather than the commonly touted fixes, perhaps it is time the Christians and Americans who really care about the economic future of this nation really must stop shouting each other down and start working toward genuine, legitimate, and common-sense solutions.

Below are ten. They are not a final word, nor are they any presumption of a definitive solution. Yet they stand, as they are, as viable means of beginning down a road with a genuinely positive and effective outcome.

1. Understand that just because you personally do not use a government program or feel you receive any benefit from it, does not automatically make that government program wrong or wasteful.

2. Short-term solutions create long-term problems. It is vital that the nation look at the broad and long-term consequences of economic policy decisions rather than their immediate impact.

3. The dichotomy between “Big Government” and “Small Government” is false and needs to be abandoned completely. The fact is, government spending, incentives, and benefits are completely woven through the entire fabric of our society. Simply shrinking or expanding the government (or any sector of the government) will have a mix of positive and negative consequences that must be carefully calculated.

4. No government program is perfect. Likewise, there is no government program that has absolutely no positive value. Rather than an arbitrary all-or-nothing approach to what should be kept and what should be cut, a thorough understanding of a program’s strengths and weaknesses needs to be considered.

5. Health Care is a major issue and neither adopting nor abolishing Obama Care will significantly change anything until the fundamental structures of how health care is billed, funded, and compensated are changed.

6. Democrats and Republicans must understand that we need each other—neither party can solve the national economic crisis alone. Yet, by refusing to work together, we are actually securing our mutual self-destruction. To that end, we also need to remember that we are all Americans—you know, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Along with working together across partisan lines, we need to drop the distractive and prejudicial labels that confound our conversations and polarize our people. Just because someone does not share the same economic outlook as you, does not automatically make that person a Socialist, Fascist, Marxist, Nazi, Communist, or whatever negative and condescending labels are used.

7. Balance is essential. Left unchecked and unregulated, market capitalism will concentrate too much wealth into the hands of too few and create even worse inequity than we presently know. When government becomes too restrictive and regulatory, it strangles the economy unnecessarily. Either extreme will crash the economy and must be avoided.

8. Dependence on federal money and benefits or allowances is ubiquitous in our nation and cannot be simply minimized, overlooked, or eradicated.  Corporate welfare, federal subsidies, food stamps, non-profit tax benefits, federal aid, health care spending, tax deductions, as well as government salaries, pensions, purchases, and reimbursements, all feed into and take from the economy in many ways—some positive and some negative—and therefore must be carefully evaluated for benefit as well as cost.

9. The human factor is critical. No person deserves to be reduced to merely an economic value, factor, benefit, or determinant. When human life is reduced to its capacity to either give to or drain from the economy, the common good is not served and the human spirit is disgraced for us all.

10. The church needs to become economically wise—true wisdom and not the presumptive propaganda that passes for wisdom in most media news outlets. This involves biblical knowledge of understanding God’s Biblical calls for economic justice, equality, and protections, as well as understanding relevant economic realities, theories, abuses, and practices. As an economically wise church, we must work together to choose and make the necessary sacrifices that are essential for the common good. In addition, we can stand in solidarity to speak for and defend those who much need a voice in the economy so that the ‘least of these’ are never left out in the cold. Finally, we can stand in solidarity with one another in helping everyone make the transition from a broken economy to a healthy one so that, as a nation and global economic driver, we can be the positive change and meaningful financial example that honors God in all things.

Pollyannaish? Perhaps.

But then again, so is every other one-sided, judgmental, and short-term solution floating around out there. The only difference is that this approach at least tries to recognize the complexity and diversity of our economic system rather than propose immediate results from short-sighted solutions.

These ten points alone will not fix anything, but if everyone in positions of influence—even just influence in the privacy of our own homes and through the power of faithful prayer—begin honest, respectful, and meaningful conversations around these critical points, the Unite States will pull out of this economic nightmare with our unity, or dignity, and our national pride intact. If we don’t … Well let’s all just hope we can learn now, rather than be forced to pick up the pieces later.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

After the Bombing in Boston

            Once again the nation is in shock as senseless violence has exploded into our lives. There is no downplaying the emotional impact of random violence in our world. Anger and fear quickly rule the day as suspicions arise, inflammatory—and frequently outright as well as deliberately false—information quickly spreads through various media. Our nation is hurting. Yet, as Christians, a little perspective is a good thing!
            The first thing we need to remember is that terrorism is deliberately and intentionally intended to create terror. The more afraid we get, the more effective this evil becomes. In Christ we can choose to refuse to be terrorized.
            As tragic and horrific as this event was, consider the carnage in terms of automobile accidents. Using statistics from the US Census Bureau, over 100 people die and over 7,000 are injured every day in the United States because of automobiles. Yet, we are generally not afraid to get behind the wheel of a car and take that chance every day.
            The contrast of our daily automobile carnage compared to the comparatively few shattered lives in Boston illustrates a fundamental tool of terrorism. The threat is exaggerated to the point of creating a false sense of eminent danger and subsequent fear. This is why terrorists choose high-profile events such as the Boston Marathon and depend so heavily on viral media sources such as the internet. It plays right into their sadistic game.
            Tragically, they do not require much help in generating the doubt, fear, and outrage they desire. Immediately following a catastrophic event such as the most recent bombing, individuals with paranoid fears and individuals with a pathologically warped sense of humor quickly create, post, and distribute false information causing people to jump to irrational—and often increasingly frightening over reactions.
            As Christians, our first response to such a diabolical assault on our national consciousness is to pray. More than just an antidote to fear and rage, prayer is unequaled at calming our spirits and refocusing our minds on what really matters. What this nation really needs now is more prayer!
            Our prayers need to be honest with God. We are hurting. We are angry. We are disgusted. We are afraid. Prayerfully giving those negative emotions over to God is the beginning point in healing prayer.
            We need to pray for those whose lives have been shattered. This obviously includes the ones who have suffered loss and injury as well as the ones who bore witness to the carnage and rendered aide to those in need. Yet, this prayer also needs to extend to the people who, for whatever unexplainable reason, have felt the need to unleash such despicable violence. Whatever hatred motivated the attack must not be the cause for more hatred or the cycle of violence and inhumanity will only continue!
            Prayer is also needed for the rampant scourge of paranoia and irrational conjecture that is permeating much of the media—especially the social media. Spreading gossip and unsubstantiated rumors on the internet is sinful—no matter how reliable they may seem or how much we may want to believe in their validity. Pointing fingers, seeking out wild conspiracy plots, or touting evil political intrigue makes for wonderful novels, but only hurts innocent people when applied in a disaster such as this.
            It is time that we, as Christians, really call ourselves to prayer. Real, humble, honest, and heart-felt prayer. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prayer of Hope and Peace after Boston Bombings

Dearest God

When senseless violence, hatred, and the promulgation of fear crash innocent lives, we collectively cry out in our shared humanity, “Why God, Why!?”

In the aftermath of yet another confusingly violent and disgustingly purposeless torrent of inhumanity and evil, help us to stay focused, O God.

Help us, as a people to resist the evil temptation that wishes to return evil with more evil.

Help us to seek your Justice rather than the temporary course of mere revenge.

Help us to reach out in prayer to all those affected—from the lives disrupted by the bombings to the lives so distorted in fear and hatred that they would choose to cause such evil to be unleashed on innocent lives.

Help us, O God, to rise above the anger and hurt of such senseless violence and remember our shared humanity that, seeking the peace that passes all understanding, we may live in your love rather than our very legitimate fear, hatred, and disgust.

Help us, we pray, to be laborers for your peace this day and be the presence of your Son to all who cry out in anguish because of such unspeakable evil.

God, you have said that perfect love casts out all fear, so today, let us live out of that love and be the people you have called and created us to be that fear may succumb to your loving grace and peace.

In Jesus’ Name


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Same Sex Marriage: Vital Topic & Dangerous Distraction

In America Today the most basic and fundamental foundation of our Nation’s soul is in jeopardy. Worse yet, the current debates are more concerned with distraction than correction. I am talking about the American family.

As the Supreme Court heard arguments last week regarding Same Sex Marriage, powerful voices lined up on opposing sides of this understandably controversial question—and for good reason. There is a lot at stake. Equality, Justice, Fairness, Religious Freedom, Biblical Values, and fundamental understandings of this most basic institution of human relationships all hang in the balance. Yet, for all the theatrics and passionate perspectives, the debate is frighteningly dangerous for what it is not doing.  

The Same Sex Marriage debate is not really addressing the fundamental demise of the America family. Consider some of these realities.

  • The national Divorce rate continues to increase
  • Sexual intimacy is increasingly recreational rather than covenantal
  • Fidelity in sexual relationships is often the exception, not the rule
  • Increasing numbers of children are born into single-parent families
  • Gender or Relational inequality within intimate household relationships promotes abuse, exploitation, and unjustifiable human indignity
  • Domestic Violence and child abuse destroys lives, innocence, and security at alarming rates
  • Household members live in states of virtual warfare amongst themselves within the walls of their homes
  • Media portrayals and the misguided hero-worship of sexist, abusive, sarcastic, or unfaithful romantic partners creates a world of tacit acceptance of flagrant, dehumanizing behaviors or attitudes
  • Families spend very little (if any) time together as a family or in shared activities such as meals, games, prayer, or recreation
  • Addiction to drugs, alcohol, pornography, casino gambling, state lotteries, and materialism divert precious financial resources away from family needs and create hostile, contentious, and unsustainable relationships within the family
  • Individuals (particularly women and children) are subjected to degrading and dehumanizing behaviors throughout the culture
  • Preditory lending, explotitiave credit, and excessive economic injustice in the market economy divert vital resources away from most American families
  • Media portrayals of  people create dangerously deceptive and destructive images that erode self-confidence and undermine one's genuineness in the world
  • Unaffordable (or unobtainable) health care creates an unbearable financial strain on families

These are some of the real issues destroying families in the United States today. They are realities that affect same-sex families as well as heterosexual families. They cut across gender, racial, economic, geographic, religious, or educational lines. They affect all segments of modern society and universally threaten to undermine the most vital component of human life.

In time, the Supreme Court will rule. Some will like the outcome, some will not. Regardless of how anyone feels about Same Sex Marriage, amid the passionate posturing and prophetic proclamations that will permeate the debate, let us not forget the central reality. A broken household carries its own destruction regardless of who makes up the partnership at the head of that household. No matter how Marriage is ultimately defined, no definition will make any difference until we work together to strengthen the covenantal relationships that anchor the American household.