Ben Witherington had a very interesting post Saturday called Literal Renderings of Texts of Contention-- 1 Tim. 2.8-15. Be sure to scroll through the comments. Execellent stuff!
Ben Witherington had a very interesting post Saturday called Literal Renderings of Texts of Contention-- 1 Tim. 2.8-15. Be sure to scroll through the comments. Execellent stuff!
Give Wal-Mart credit for filling market void (free subscription required) is an opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution by civil rights icon and former ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young. He has just recently agreed to head up an organization supportive of Wal-Mart called Working Families for Wal-Mart.
I've watched the attacks, and I think the critics have it wrong. Now is the time for those who care about the poor to step up, speak out and join this national discussion.
Those who have committed their lives to helping the poor believe that if more companies followed Wal-Mart's lead, and provided opportunity and savings to those who need it most, more Americans who are battling poverty would be able to ascend the rungs of the ladder that leads to the American dream.
Civil rights icon tapped to defend Wal-Mart is an interesting story about civil rights icon and former ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young becoming chairman of Working Families for Wal-Mart, a group of people " 'who understand and appreciate Wal-Mart's positive impact on the working families of America,' according to its Web site."
The Business of Giving is an interesting article in the Economist about the present state of philanthropy. Here are some excerpts:
Over the years, many wealthy Americans have broadly followed the blueprint laid out by Andrew Carnegie in his 1889 essay, “Wealth”. The steel tycoon believed that growing inequality was the inescapable price of the wealth-creation that made social progress possible. To prevent this inequality undoing the “ties of brotherhood” that “bind together the rich and poor in harmonious relationship”, he argued that the wealthy had a duty to devote their fortunes to philanthropy. Not to do so was the worst sort of personal failure: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.”
But the problem lies far deeper. “Foundation scandals tend to be about pay and perks, but the real scandal is how much money is pissed away on activities that have no impact. Billions are wasted on ineffective philanthropy,” says Michael Porter, a management guru at the Harvard Business School. “Philanthropy is decades behind business in applying rigorous thinking to the use of money.” Mr Porter believes that the world of giving can be transformed by learning from the world of business. Many of the leaders of the new generation of philanthropists agree with him, so “there is a big opportunity over the next 20 years to figure out how to make philanthropy effective.”
The new philanthropists are not just into spending money. According to Greg Dees of Duke University, today's philanthropy is best defined as “mobilising and deploying private resources, including money, time, social capital and expertise, to improve the world in which we live.”
The Moses Complex is a great article in TCS Daily written by Arnold King.
One of the most basic narratives in Judaism is the Exodus, in which Moses leads the oppressed Hebrew slaves out of the land of Egypt. The Exodus is a movie that is constantly being remade, and not just by Cecil B. DeMille. It is the basis of Marxism and of what I call folk Marxism, both of which were embraced by many Jews.
Karl Marx's political economy was an oppressor/oppression story between capitalists and workers. Jews found that story particularly captivating. To this day, I believe that most Jews are "folk Marxists," who believe that the natural result of free markets is worker oppression, and that only heavy government intervention mitigates this outcome.
And I would add that his also applies to the wide majority of mainline Protestant soical policy wonks as well.
The oppressor/oppressed narrative is not 100 percent wrong. But it is far from 100 percent right. There are times when the well-being of some people is higher than that of others, but it is not the case that the well-off are oppressors and the poorly-off are oppressed. It can also be true that the well-off are more skillful, more hard-working, more logical, more frugal, and/or more self-disciplined. Sometimes, it is less useful to describe people as oppressed than it is to tell them that their behavior needs to change if they want to be better off.
Not every misfortune that occurs in society is a replay of Pharaoh's enslavement of the Jews. The Exodus narrative can always be tried on, but it does not often fit properly. Usually, problems are more complex and systemic than a simple oppressor/oppressed narrative can describe. Sometimes, the best solution is to increase, rather than to diminish, personal responsibility. Often, government programs can exacerbate problems, with no built-in correction mechanism.
Even a casual glimpse at current headlines leaves little doubt that the Intelligent Design debate has become yet another battleground in the culture wars, with culturally-aggressive fundamentalists and equally-militant secularists well represented among the contending parties. Beneath the surface-level politics, however, there are substantial scientific and philosophical issues at play that ought to be of interest to any thinking Christian. It is the purpose of this essay to highlight some of these more substantive issues, lest they disappear beneath the waves of partisan politics.
Part I – Learning from the Past
Chapter 4 – The Mainline Protestant Tradition in the Twentieth Century: Positive Lessons and Cautionary Tales.
By Max L. Stackhouse and Raymond R. Roberts. Stackhouse is the Rimmer and Ruth de Vries Professor of Reformed Theology and Public Life at Princeton Theological Seminary and director of the Kuyper Center for Public Theology. Roberts is an author and pastor.
The authors start their discussion of public policy in mainline Protestantism during the Twentieth Century by noting the cultural upheaval at the beginning of the period. There was rapid economic change, increased immigration and increased urbanization. Reform movements were addressing slums, corporate business practices and crime. A split began to emerge within the Protestant ranks. Evangelists like Dwight Moody and Billy Sunday held revivals to achieve individual conversions and thereby save society. Many mainline Protestants participated in these movements as well, but there was a growing sense that personal conversion was not enough. Systemic issues needed to be addressed.
Led by thinkers like Washington Gladden, Richard T. Ely, Walter Rauschenbusch and Shailer Matthews, mainline Protestants began to throw there energies into efforts to “Christianize the social order.” They created para-ecclesial organizations like the YMCA and YWCA, settlement houses and mission societies. The strategy eventually became what is referred to as the “Social Gospel.”
The Federal Council of Churches was formed in 1908 consisting of the American Baptist Churches, the Disciples of Christ, the Episcopal Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Churches in America, the Congregational Christian Churches who joined with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to become the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church, along with several African-American denominations. This group generally became synonymous with mainline Protestantism. Their first public policy statement, which addressed the need for a number of social and economic reforms, was called the “Social Creed.”
The authors point out that the mainline Denominations were generally optimistic about their efforts to make the Twentieth Century the “Christian Century” up until at least the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The authors write,
This movement had its triumphs, but many in the leadership of mainline Protestantism, those in the seminaries and those in the church bureaucracies, became more and more alienated from American society and sometimes even contemptuous of piety and patriotism of most church members. The “New Left” movements against the Vietnam War, with which many mainline clergy identified, alienated many politically; the common view of these same clergy that capitalism was the source of selfishness and poverty while socialism had the message of community and sharing alienated many economically; and the development of “situation ethics” and “contextualism” in morality alienated many culturally. (79)
Stackhouse and Roberts go on to note that the mainline Denominations have declined in membership by about one third over the last third of the century. Meanwhile, evangelical churches have been growing.
The authors then turn their attention to the cultural engagement by the mainline Protestants as the seek to determine what can be learned from the mainline experience. The following headings are those of the authors.
A Century of Engagement
Stackhouse and Roberts point out that cultural engagement in the early Twentieth century was the continuation of a tradition extending back to the Puritans. However, in the Twentieth Century, mainline Protestants began to believe that those denominations that would later become known as the fundamentalists and evangelicals too narrowly defined the church in terms of personal conversion and personal piety. As the mainliners pursued their agenda of greater cultural engagement they increasingly become exposed to international issues and there was a growing integration of activity and thought with other fellowships on a global scale. With this in mind the authors turn to four topics for analysis.
The early Twentieth Century economic engagement by mainliners was influenced by the thinking in Max Weber’s highly influential “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” The basic thesis was that the Reformation heritage had instilled values of disciplined investment, industry, and thrift in its adherents. Therefore, capitalism was a by-product of Reformation Christianity. (I might add that this thesis is rejected by scholars today.) The mainliners believed that industrialization was the best way to a prosperous economy but they wanted to soften the raw edges.
As things progressed toward the middle third of the century, the thinking of scholars like Rienhold Niebuhr and “Christian Realism” began to have influence. Joined by theologians like Paul Tillich and Karl Barth on both sides of the Atlantic, this school of thought held that selective use of Marxist analysis could yield important critiques of capitalism. Nevertheless, they were aware that much of socialism,
…was driven by utopian illusions, a false anthropology, and a militant contempt for profound religion and its social meanings. … Still, they conveyed a suspicion of capitalism to their students, even if it was capitalism constrained by growing bodies of law and by democratic policies that gave unions and government power to check the abuses of a free market, and that provided a safety net for widows, orphans, the ill, the elderly, and handicapped citizenry. (83)
The civil rights movements and the “War on Poverty” refocused much of the mainline agenda in the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, liberation theology, which embraced a more explicit Marxist analysis, became the perspective adopted by developing and poor nations. Many seminaries and bureaucracies in mainline Protestant denominations embraced this theology to the point that the authors claim it became the “unofficial orthodoxy in the activist wings.” Liberation theology was widely rejected by the rank and file in the mainline denominations and the radical commitment to this view only served to alienate and isolate denominational leaders from their members. There were many in scholarly fields who also opposed the exploitation of poor but believed that democratic capitalism was still the appropriate response. The authors suggest that these folks were "pilloried" by colleagues and mainline leaders.
Some began to turn to “Secularization Theory” which taught that modernization, urbanization, and technological development inevitably led to secularization, a theory widely disputed by scholars today. Nevertheless, this thinking continued to hold considerable sway among seminarians and church leaders, further alienating them form people in their pews.
The Reagan-Thatcher elections changed and reversed much of the ideology of past economic thinking. Countries around the world are now struggling to throw off statist governments and become free market democracies. As globalization spreads, there is a widening gap between the richest and the poorest but there is also a rapidly expanding middle class across the globe. Mainline traditions find themselves wrestling with how to responsibly shape capitalism in a global society.
Stackhouse and Roberts note that at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, mainliners were focused on domestic issues and largely isolationist. They feared that involvement in international politics would corrupt politics in the United States. The “Christian Realists” began to emerge in the middle third of the century emphasizing human sinfulness and the tendency toward corruption. They tended to defend democracy as they challenged fascism and communism.
The Federal Council of Churches issued a statement in 1942 called “The Six Pillars of Peace” that outlined a post World War II strategy for peace. However, the advent of nuclear weaponry challenged conventional thinking and “just war” thinking re-emerged as the dominant paradigm for thinking about these issues. Just war theory contained the ideal of not targeting noncombatants. As time went by, applying just war theory in a nuclear age seemed problematic and most mainline denominations adopted a de facto pacifist position.
As noted in the section about economics, there was decided shift to Marxist critique in the 1960s and 1970s. The nature of political engagement changed.
“Many defined political engagement less as building coalitions to advance policies called for by clear theological principles, and more as using the techniques of the protest demonstration to oppose policies or practices in operation.” (88)
Also underway in the later decades of the Twentieth Century was a deconstruction of America as a Christian nation. Stackhouse and Roberts conclude this section by noting:
“Many have given up efforts at Christianizing society by means of overtly advocating biblically and theologically based principles in public life, in favor of intentional “inclusivity” and “diversity” couched in liberal political terms. This has left many mainline Protestants searching for new ways to faithfully engage a pluralistic and fallen society.” (89)
III. Family and Cultural Institutions
Stackhouse and Roberts write that mainline Protestants carried forward Victorian era ideas of family well into the Twentieth Century. With the rapid change in technology and the advent of World War II, many opportunities opened up to women that had not previously been available. There was tremendous change happening within the family and many mainline leaders were reluctant about "imposing their values" in a time of redefinition. In keeping with the trend to look to science and experts for guidance, mainliners “…offered pastoral care ministry that tended to be strong on 'therapeutic' care and weak on normative guidance about the conduct of life.” (90)
With radical changes in values in the 1960s, a virtually secular view of marriage as a private temporary contract took hold replacing the classic sacramental and covenantal views. Feminist theologies emerged that criticized traditional forms of marriage as patriarchal. Support for gay rights led many denominational leaders to “…mute their support for traditional heterosexual marriage.” (91) The authors note that to date mainline denominations have made little concerted effort to address the dissolution of the family.
Stackhouse and Roberts go on to note a couple of other trends that emerged. Starting in the 1960s, the mainline Protestants largely abandoned the radio and television airwaves to fundamentalists and evangelicals. Particularly confounding to the authors was the abandonment of higher education, divesting themselves of institutions that had been founded to train future leaders for church and society. The authors suggest that in there preoccupation to address economic and political realms, mainliners lost sight of the importance of the institutions of civil society including the growing influence of the corporation.
IV. Sources of Authority
Stackhouse and Roberts use the “quadrilateral” idea of authority (i.e., our authority for faith and life is based on Scripture, tradition, reason and experience) in their analysis of soruces of authority. This is usually associated with Methodism but the authors believe it is reflective of most of Twentieth Century Christianity. The conflict has been over the emphases.
Natural and social sciences were embraced by mainliners to the point that the authors describe the social sciences as the hand maidens of the Social Gospel. Reason and science would help purge Christianity of pre-modern superstition. Evangelicals tended to distrust science, human reason and higher criticism, resorting to either anti-intellectualism or rationalist apologetics to keep the Bible as the center of authority. The authors note that the impact of the influential Karl Barth tended to be skepticism toward “natural reason” and toward reliance on experience, leading to an array of responses from nondisclosure of what influenced one's ethics to a postmodern rejection of correspondence between words and the world. They also note that, “Toward the end of the century, liberation and feminist voices claimed that the experience of oppression conveys authoritative knowledge.” (97) This led to a tendency to rely on experience alone to judge other sources of knowledge. In recent years, there has been much debate and conversation about the mainline and evangelical sources of authority and attempts are being made to reconcile authority issues.
1. Theological Guidance – Mainliners use of biblical themes and understandings in an endless attempt to be the Church “reformed and always being reformed.”
2. Common Cause – Mainliners have had an inclination toward ecumenical partnership in achieving witness and ministry.
1. Speaking without a base – The tendency to “speak the truth to power” without an underlying base of support, thus alienating leaders from the grassroots of the church. Evangelicalism has had a much better sense of the need to “…build grassroots communities of commitment willing to shape life not from the top down or from the bottom up, but from the center out, in civil societies where it is lived.” (99)
2. Doing without Transformation – “…The propensity for many mainline Protestants to think that God calls the church to do, rather than to be.” (99) This tends to lead to a trivialization of personal piety and the need for individual transformation.
3. Neglect of Institutions – Mainliners have favored movements instead of institutions. They have been more preoccupied with protesting institutions rather than incarnating them.
All in all I think the authors have captured well the major themes. I generally share there final assessment.
Posted at 06:53 AM in Public Policy, Toward an Evangelcial Public Policy (Book Discussion) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
God’s mission is renewal of shalom. What will this age of shalom look like? The vision was unveiled over time. First, I will begin with a look at the Old Testament vision of the coming age and then turn to the New Testament vision.
God had promised Abraham that “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) Abraham was then blessed by God through Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, in Genesis 14. Chapter 15 begins with Abraham inquiring of God about how all the things he has promised will come to be since God had not provided Abraham an heir through Sarah. This encounter ends with God making an unusual covenant.
Abraham was instructed by God to sacrifice selected animals and then cut them in half. He was instructed to place the halves on the ground opposite each of other with a space between the halves. This was the traditional covenant or treaty ceremony. The two parties would walk through the gap between the animals symbolizing that if they did not uphold their end of the covenant, then may they become as the sacrificed animals. What is most peculiar is that it is only God who passes between the animals, in essence declaring that God will be faithful to the covenant regardless of how faithful Abraham is to his end of the bargain! The passage ends with a promise of land, later to be Israel.
The biblical narrative progresses on through the lives of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and the migration of Abraham’s descendants into Egypt. Four hundred years later there is the confrontation with the Empire of Egypt and the miraculous deliverance from bondage by God into the land promised to Abraham. The Exodus becomes a central theme for the Hebrews, where God delivers his people from the bondage of their oppressors into shalom in their own land.
Just prior to entering the Promised Land, God made a covenant with the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The structure and elements in the book of Deuteronomy greatly reflects the suzerain-vassal treaties of the era. God spells out what it is expected of the people of Israel and then names the "blessings and curses" in Chapters 27-30.
If Israel obeys God, then Deuteronomy 28:3-6 (NRSV):
3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock. 5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
If Israel disobeys God, then Deututeronomy 28:16-19 (NRSV):
16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. 17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock. 19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
Deuteronomy 29, almost as if to anticipate the faithlessness that is to come, warns that disobedience will lead to exile and the desolation of the land. But then comes a promise from God which is one of the most remarkable passages in scripture, Deuteronomy 30:
1 When all these things have happened to you, the blessings and the curses that I have set before you, if you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2 and return to the LORD your God, and you and your children obey him with all your heart and with all your soul, just as I am commanding you today, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, gathering you again from all the peoples among whom the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 Even if you are exiled to the ends of the world, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will bring you back. 5 The LORD your God will bring you into the land that your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it; he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.
6 Moreover, the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. 7 The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on the adversaries who took advantage of you. 8 Then you shall again obey the LORD, observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, 9 and the LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10 when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" 14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Adherence to God's law would bring shalom. Failure to obey the law would bring dispersion and calamity. Yet, even with dispersion and calamity God promised to eventually bring them back from exile, bring down their enemies, and restore shalom. The nation of Israel rose to great heights under David but soon departed from keeping God’s law. As promised, exile and desolation eventually followed. Even as the calamity began the prophets spoke of restoration to come. They spoke of a messiah who would fulfill Deuteronomy 30. Three of the most awe-inspiring visions of this coming age are found in Isaiah:
Isaiah 9:2-7 (NRSV):
2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness --
on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
And, Isaiah 11:1-9 (NRSV):
1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
And, Isaiah 65:17-25 (NRSV)
17 For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD --
and their descendants as well.
24 Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent -- its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.
As the exiles returned to Israel in the Fifth Century B.C.E., it was these visions of the future they clung to. Yet, by the time of Christ more than 400 years later, the promised freedom from oppression, and expected return to greatness and shalom, had not materialized. Where was the one who would lead them in the exodus from their bondage?
The zealots used violent resistance in an effort to force God’s hand in delivering them. The Pharisees and others sought renewed compliance with the law so that God would once again set things aright and return Israel to glory. There was a clear anticipation of a future. There were many cultural narratives that led other nations to prominence but unique to Israel was an expectation of a promised future. It influenced all they did. They waited for one who would throw off their oppressors, gather those who had been dispersed, and restore shalom.
The power of nun: taking a lead role in shareholder activism is a fascinating article in the Christian Science Monitor by Jeffrey MacDonald. Nuns educated in economics and with Church connections around the world are becoming activists in corporate board rooms and corporate shareholder meetings. I love it.
India Rising is an article in the most recent edition of Newsweek. Bush is headed there this week.
While China's rise is already here and palpable—it has grown at almost 10 percent since 1980—India's is still more a tale of the future, but a future that is coming into sharp focus. A much-cited 2003 study by Goldman Sachs projects that over the next 50 years, India will be the fastest-growing of the world's major economies (largely because its work force will not age as fast as the others). The report calculates that in 10 years India's economy will be larger than Italy's and in 15 years will have overtaken Britain's. By 2040 it will boast the world's third largest economy. By 2050 it will be five times the size of Japan's and its per capita income will have risen to 35 times its current level. Predictions like these are a treacherous business, though it's worth noting that India's current growth rate is actually higher than the study assumed.
Coming on the heals of the World Council of Churches meeting this story got me thinking. I'll take this kind of "globalization oppression" to the Godly socialism of the World Council of Churches any day. *grin*
Part I – Learning from the Past
Chapter 3 – Evangelical Denominations at the Foundations of Modern American and British Social-Political Structures and Policies: A Philosopher’s Perspective.
By Paul de Vries, founder and president of New York Evangelical Seminary Fund; author.
Our purpose is to develop a working comprehension of the key eighteenth and nineteenth-century American and British Protestant evangelical denominations and their perspectives and influences on modern social political thought, structures, and issues. (64)
De Vries writes that in the two centuries before the twentieth century the vast majority of Protestants were evangelical “trusting the Bible as the final authority for behavior and belief.” (64) Their beliefs have had a profound impact in the US and UK for both good and bad. He identifies four major families of denominations and each family's particular relationship with social policy issues. Lutherans, Calvinist (Presbyterian and Reformed), Baptist/Anabaptists, and Methodists are his four families
There are three marked tendencies that he believes each grouping has had to resist.
“First, they have to resist the temptation to separate from society and develop a socio-political ethic just for themselves.” (65)
“Second, they have to resist the temptation to oversimplify the gospel by concentrating on ‘saving souls.’” (65)
“Third, they have to resist the temptation simply to repeat earlier formulations of Christian ethics that were formed for another time and place.” (65)
Here is a summary of his thoughts about each family.
The “two kingdoms” perspective is identified as the driving force in Lutheran social-political thought. Since Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world the church should not get entangled in the matters of state. De Vries maintains this has led Lutherans to be both less critical and less transformative of societal structures, though they have tended toward instilling strong personal pietism.
Calvinists (Presbyterian and Reformed)
In contrast to Lutherans, Calvinists have seen themselves as reformers with a “desire to reshape the social world so that it would no longer be alienated from God.” (67) I like de Vries observation,
While Lutherans believe that we should obey the Lord in our daily occupations, Calvinists believe that we should seek to obey God through our daily occupations, because we cannot blindly assume that our occupations actually serve the common good. (67)
Also mentioned is the idea of “sphere sovereignty,” that God is sovereign over the various “spheres” of life (church, state, economic, and education) with none of the spheres being superior to another. Each sphere has its own authority and is answerable to God.
Anabaptists and Baptists
De Vries identifies a distinct separatist tendency among these folks. They have sought to establish holy communities away from government control. There has also been a tendency toward non-violent resistance to the state when it has acted unjustly. They have been champions of religious liberty.
The Methodist movement began as an evangelical movement within the Church of England. They have tended to focus more on social justice and caring for the outcasts combined with expectation of seeking Biblical ethical perfection. There emphasis on justice and ethical behavior has often placed them at the leading edge of justice and civil rights causes.
From all this de Vries concludes that there are strengths and shortcomings of each family but working in unison as members of one body each has important contributions to make to an evangelical engagement of public policy.
This summary of de Vries essay is a distillation of what he himself admits is a discussion of generalities, not hard and fast divisions between families. Keeping that in mind, I think his essay gives some helpful “hues” to consider as we think about public policy.
Earlier I mentioned a city in Canaan called Shalem. The earliest reference to the city was 1850 B.C.E. in Egyptian texts. Baal was the god of all nations in the Near East, except for Egypt, and each locality had its own version of Baal. Shalem was the Baal for its region. It was in the same family of Gods as Ashtar and Molech. Cities of the Near East like Shalem weren’t just economic centers. They were religious centers. They were the very incarnation of the deity. These religious cities were the highest expression of defiance against God. Babel was the archetypical city in defiance of God and Shalem was another manifestation of Babel.
Shalem symbolized Venus, the evening star. It conveyed the idea of completeness and fulfillment, the culmination of the day. Shalem is in the Bible. We first encounter Shalem in Genesis 14:18 when the priest-king Melchizedek, described as the "king of Salem," comes out to bless Abraham. (The anglicized version of the Shalem is spelled “Salem.”) Ancient texts that referred to the city often referred to it as Urushalim meaning “foundation of Shalem.” David annexed the area of Urushalim to Israel after Israel had conquered Canaan. He altered the name of the city and made it his capital. He took the first syllable for God’s name, “Yah” from Yahweh, and added to the front of the name: Yahurushalim. The anglicized name for God is Jehovah and the first syllable is “Je.” Therefore, the anglicized name of the city becomes “Jerusalem.” Shalom, appears to have evolved from the Canaanite word “shalem.” (1)
The theological imagery is powerful. "Shalem" originally meant completion and fulfillment through human idolatry. God enters the picture and infuses a new vision of what completion and fulfillment really is. God adds God's name to that which was humanity’s highest expression of defiance toward God (Urushalim) and transforms it into God’s foundation of completion and fulfillment (Jerusalem). What is the euphemism for the newly restored order at the end of the biblical narrative in Revelation? The New Jerusalem!
Urusalem > Jerusalem > New Jerusalem
This is the mission of God in the world. To transform Shalem to Shalom and Urusalem to the New Jerusalem. God will not abide the vain illusions created by his rebel eikons. God will disillusion the world that all may see God for who God is. God will renew shalom.
(1) Much of the preceeding comes from, Robert C. Linthicum, City of God. City of Satan: A Biblical Theology of the Urban Chruch, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991, p. 24-26.
Climate of Uncertainty is an excellent piece in The Weekly Standard about the science and politics of Climate Change. It gives an excellent overview of the complex issues involved and what world leaders are likely to do in response to uncertainty. Here are his closing remarks:
These developments suggest that however more convincing the scientific case for serious global warming may become, most world leaders are recognizing that near-term emissions reductions aren't a sensible way to begin moving to a post-carbon energy future. Twenty or thirty years from now we are likely to look back on the Kyoto Protocol as the climate-policy equivalent of the discredited wage and price controls of the 1970s, even as the climate prediction models themselves may come to resemble the elaborate Keynesian models that were supposed to enable us to fine-tune the economy with perfect precision. The Keynesian understanding of the economy was not wholly wrong, but fell far short of the mastery of detail its backers claimed. Climate alarmists like to warn us of the danger of severe climate "surprises" that may come our way. But if we're really taken by surprise, what does it tell us about the limitations of their models?
Is there--to extend the analogy--a "supply-side" analogy for climate policy? Amazingly enough, a hot topic among environmental economists is the positive relationship between economic growth--the central pillar of Bush's climate strategy--and environmental improvement. There is even a conceptual curve for it, known as the "Environmental Kuznets Curve," that can be scribbled on a napkin. It looks just like the Laffer Curve.
Does Black History Have a Future? is an Acton Institute article by Anthony Bradley. He addresses the need for Black history to recover the pre-1950s heritage of strong men and strong families. Despite slavery and Jim Crow oppression, until the 1960s, over 80% of Black children were born to married couples. All I can say to this article is Amen. Here are Bradly's closing thoughts:
Black feminists such as Bell Hooks in We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity, continue to spew the pathetic myth that much of the impending demise of the black male is due to “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” In Hook’s vision true masculinity has little to do with righteous male leadership in the home. “I don’t need a man” is the feminist mantra that creates a context wherein generations of black male youth go unfathered, unchurched, unprotected from abuse, and left to be raised by law enforcement or the foster care system.
Hooks does not trust the traditional black church, bemoans male aggression, and disdains the free market (even though she makes a living in the market, selling books and lecturing). The solutions to the present crisis, however, begin precisely in those areas Hooks rejects. If black men returned to the black church which has served as the backbone of black people since slavery, and adopted the brilliant and economically liberating “Declaration of Financial Empowerment” developed by Black Enterprise Magazine, for example, it would change America forever.
Caricatured black male aggression is not a problem to be solved but a powerful trait to be directed toward its destiny in love. Wherever black males are lovingly raised to fight aggressively for what is true, noble, pure, and admirable, we will find great marriages, stable families, a love for learning, moral formation, economic wisdom, and a platform of empowerment that would catapult black America beyond the dream of Martin Luther King.
The most recent edition of E-Quality has an edited version of an article by Gordon Fee called The Cultural Context of Ephesians 5:18-6:9. It as a look at the household code in Ephesians, the controversial "husband as head of the wife" passage. When I read the original version of this article four years ago it brought together of a number of things I had been processing and it will play a key role in my Theology and Economics series. I highly recommend it.
Part I – Learning from the Past
Chapter 2 – A History of the Public Policy Resolutions of the National Association of Evangelicals.
By Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Cizik gives a thirty page chronological overview of public policy resolutions adopted by the National Association of Evangelicals over the last sixty years. This chapter is important because it sets the stage for the present and shows the trajectory of movement within the NAE. I apologize in advance for the length of this summary but I think it is important background. The following headings are the headings Cizik uses in his essay.
Spirit of St. Louis, 1942-1943
Cizik begins his discussion highlighting a speech in St. Louis by Harold John Ockenga, pastor of Boston’s Park Street Church, titled The Unvoiced Multitudes. It was delivered four months after the Pearl Harbor attack. Ockenga compared the state of Evangelicals to the small countries in Europe trampled by Germany. He called for united action against secularism and unbelief. Cizik notes that “Mindful of the absolutist tendencies associated with fundamentalism, evangelicalism’s new leaders promised to ‘shun fall forms of bigotry, intolerance, misrepresentation, hate, jealousy, false judgment, and hypocrisy.’” (36) Ockenga’s speech led to the foundation of the National Association of Evangelicals United for Action which was eventually shortened to National Association of Evangelicals. The NAE came to see itself clearly as an alternative to the Federal Council of Churches (changed to National Council of Churches in 1950) which the NAE believed had a virtual monopoly in American Protestantism and was dominated by theological liberals.
Cizik also relates an interesting story about Charles E. Fuller, founder of The Old Fashioned Revival Hour. The leader of the American Musicians Union threatened to unionize Fuller’s musicians even though they were unpaid volunteers. Elwin Wright was dispatched to Washington to meet with a senior senator who was antagonistic toward the labor leader and threatened Senate investigation if the labor leader didn’t back off. It was a successful move. However, the bigger political issue that seemed to animate the political work was the threat from broadcast networks to exclude conservative broadcasters from their networks.
Concerning the Federal Council of Churches response to the formation of the NAE, Cizik writes “They [FCC] immediately attacked it ‘as giving sectarianism a new lease on life and as encouraging the reactionary and dissident wings of the great Protestant denominations' in the Federal Council.'" (38)
Crusader Decades, 1943-1956
Reverend Clyde W. Taylor, who had been a missionary and a faculty member of Gordon College of Theology and Missions, became the first head of the new Washington Office of the NAE. “Citizens of heaven and earth” began to emerge as a theme for the NAE. Cizik quotes Carl F. Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947) wherein Henry wrote,
Fundamentalism is the modern priest and Levite, by-passing suffering humanity. The picture is clear when one brings into focus such admitted evils as aggressive warfare, racial hatred and intolerance, the liquor traffic, and exploitation of labor by management, whichever it may be. (38)
Cizik also notes that during this period the NAE saw themselves as watchdogs of church and state issues. They perceived three major threats to Constitutional separation of church and state. First, there was concern about Roman Catholics using their size and influence to securing federal funding for parochial schools and hospital buildings. (There was without a doubt a bit of anti-Catholicism mixed in here.) Second, there was concern about atheists and agnostics who wanted to remove religion from government and also a concern about government ownership of resources, industry and property. Third, there was concern about religious minorities that restricted the right of others to exercise their religion. (e.g., Jewish groups that opposed distribution of bibles as sectarian books.) There were other issues that the NAE issued resolutions on like Communism, support for public schools, and opposition to pornography and liquor, but these three issues seem to have been the driving force during the era. Also, all through this time and into the 1960s, there was support for a constitutional amendment that would declare America a Christian nation.
A big moment for the NAE was when leaders were invited to the White House by President Eisenhower in 1953. This gave them a new level of respectability. Life magazine wrote a feature article in 1958 that Evangelicalism was becoming the third wing of Christianity in addition to Mainline denominations and Roman Catholics. Cizik points out that while many politicians saw Evangelicals as potential voting blocks, most were leery of being to closely identified with Evangelicals because of the propensity of many leading Evangelicals to alienate other core constituencies.
Moving into the Mainstream, 1957-1967
The NAE commended Bill Graham in 1957, for his New York City Crusade. This began a long association between the NAE and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as they united in their opposition to the influences of secularism. Cizik believes Graham’s greatest achievement was bringing Evangelicals into the mainstream of Christianity. He helped build on platforms of the NAE and eventually helped them skirt the anti-Catholicism that was evidenced by Evangelicals in the 1960 election. (The NAE issued statements expressing their doubts that a Roman Catholic president could fully separate himself from the influence of Rome.)
The political issues that seemed to generate the most concern were the 1962 Supreme Court rulings of Engle v. Vitale (ruled against school prayers) and Abington School District v. Schemp (ruled against daily Bible readings.) The NAE described this as practical atheism. On civil rights, Cizik notes that the NAE spoke at House Judiciary Committee meetings in 1956 and 1963, and affirmed a call for churches to integrate in both spirit and practice 1964. However, the NAE issued no statements about the 1963 Civil Rights Act or the 1964 Voting Rights Act although they did issue a statement in 1965, saying that they were anguished about those who had been denied civil rights. They also did not issue a statement about the Vietnam War but instead issued statements about the need to confront the Communist Threat.
A Changing Mind-Set, 1968-1980
Evangelicals in the late 1960s were averse to political involvement. Prominent Fundamentalist ministers and Billy Graham routinely held to the strategy of saving the lost instead of social reform. By the late 1970s Evangelicals had done a 180 degree turn. What happened? Social change and emergence of counter-cultural movements happened. Evangelicals determined that they were called to defend and restore traditional morality.
Statements in this era decried the moral decay. Three years before Roe v. Wade, the NAE had declared that abortion, except for certain extreme circumstances, was wrong. As federal control over public schools increased the NAE reversed their position on government support of Christian schools, suggesting that tax credits might be a good thing. They issued statements in the early 1970s that were supportive of environmental protection but it wasn’t until 2004 that they actually began mobilizing for action. Cizik cites a litany of issues that Evangelicals issued statements on during this era, the majority dealing with personal morality matters. However, beginning in the 1970s The NAE began passing resolutions that condemned racism and discrimination. (Cizik writes that statements were issued in 1971, 1975, 1977, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1999.) Internationally the NAE supported Taiwan and Israel.
Two other issues affected the Evangelical world in this era. First, changes in Federal Communication Commission rules contributed to the rise of contribution funded televangelist broadcasting and the rise of the National Religious Broadcasters. Second Newsweek declared 1976 the year of the Evangelical and Jimmy Carter was elected as a “born-again” president. However, support soured for Carter with his support of the Equal Rights Amendment, homosexual rights, and unwillingness to halt federally funded abortions.
Political Insiders, 1980-1992
Attempts by the IRS to impose controversial restrictions on religious organizations galvanized what became known as the "religious Right," the most high profile organization of which was Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. The NAE issued a resolution called “The Christian and His Government” that called on Christians to pray for their government and be politically active. That fall, 61% of “born-again” white Protestants voted for Ronald Reagan. The following year, Francis Schaeffer’s book A Christian Manifesto was published as a treatise against secular humanism. The NAE issued two major resolutions on responding to secular humanism in 1982. Quoting from one of the resolutions, Cizik says the NAE believed that secular humanism led to, “...unrestricted abortion, free love and homosexual practices, permissiveness in divorce, genetic engineering or cloning to help mankind evolve into brave new men.” (51)
Another Supreme Court case, Bob Jones v. United States, created a dilemma for the NAE as concerns over racial equality versus religious liberty were brought into play. The NAE reluctantly filed a friend of the court brief for Bob Jones, fearing government intrustion in religion in other areas. Cizik writes that this is also what led to a statement of official opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment by the NAE as well.
Ronald Reagan made his “Evil Empire” speech in 1983 to the NAE annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. The next year, 81% of Evangelicals voted for Reagan. Cizik writes that, “The NAE staff members were increasingly consulted about administration appointments and policy, and they seized the opportunity to influence government." It was also in 1984 that the NAE published a well received policy series called “Peace, Freedom and Security Studies.”
The NAE condemned South African apartheid in 1986 and called for religious freedom in Nicaragua in 1987. Also, in 1987, they published a resolution entitled “Peace, Freedom and Human Rights” that called on Christians to be peacemakers and to support human rights regardless of the political orientation of the governments involved. Cizik writes that this foreshadowed initiatives on religious persecution, sexual trafficking, and peace in Sudan that would come later.
Although Pat Robertson ran for president in 1988, polls of NAE leaders placed Robertson fourth in their list of preferred candidates. Bush won with 82% of the Evangelical vote in 1988. However, Bush’s favorability began to wane as gay-rights activists were invited to the White House for bill signing ceremonies and Bush took no action against the National Endowment for the Arts for funding pornographic art. NAE and Southern Baptist leaders began to feel they were being taken for granted and asked for a meeting with Bush. They received no apology from him as he pointed to other policies he had accomplished on their behalf. The “no new taxes” flip flop further strained relationships. Bush and Billy Graham spoke at the fiftieth anniversary of the NAE and Bush reiterated his support for family values. However, with the economy having soured, Bush lost the election to Bill Clinton and the NAE began to rethink its connection with Republicans and the “religious Right.”
Evaluating Partisan Politics, 1992-2000
President Clinton’s capacity for outmaneuvering Republicans on Capitol Hill, referred to as “triangulation,” or winning of votes from conservatives to pass innovative legislative efforts such as welfare reform that liberals opposed, meant that he would assiduously court certain religious conservatives. The end result was that there was always an open door for the NAE staff members at the White House. (55)
NAE President Don Argue called for evangelicals to distance themselves from GOP partisanship. That didn’t stop the NAE from passing resolutions opposing homosexuals in the military or opposing Clinton’s healthcare reform. They did however find a partnership with Clinton on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, even though the law was eventually ruled unconstitutional. They also supported Clinton’s efforts to open trade relations with China. Cizik notes that Argue and he, along with a rabbi and an archbishop, were invited to go to China in 1998, to talk to President Jiang Zemin about religious persecution. The National Council of Churches lobbied Clinton to have a representative present but to no avail. Clearly there was a shift underway in religious political influence.
Cizik writes that Evangelicals began to distance themselves from Clinton after the sex scandal. By 1999, many on the religious Right were urging retreat from politics but the NAE was firmly committed to political involvement. Cizik cites a study the showed,
In 1990, 75 percent [NAE leaders] believed ‘changing individuals’ one by one through evangelistic means was the best way to change society; by the year 2000, a nearly identical number of leaders (64 percent) had concluded that ‘changing both individuals and the institutions of society’ was the preferable and most effective way to translate biblical values into a secular society.” (57-58)
A study I read in 2004 about an NAE member denomination called Fundamentalism in the Church of the Nazarene showed a similar shift from 1996 to 2004, indicating that something significant happened in the last decade.
New Internationalism and Faith-Based Initiatives, 1996-2004
Cizik mentions a Nicholas Kristof’s May 2002, New York Times column called, “The New Internationalists.” Kristof wrote that there was a new breed of Evangelical activists replacing the likes of Robertson and Falwell and they were influencing US foreign policy. They were focused on a broad range of human rights and religious freedom issues. Cizik points back to “A Conference on the Global Persecution of Christians” on January 23, 1996. It was a joint event by the NAE, the Institute on Religion and Democracy and Freedom House. Cizik writes,
“Released that day was a document entitled The National Association of Evnagelical’s Statement of Conscience on Worldwide Religious Persecution and helped launch a movement that would rattle diplomats in foreign capitals. After two-year battle that included opposition by the Clinton administration, the State Department, the business lobby, and the National Council of Churches, the International Religious Freedom Act was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress in 1998 and signed by President Clinton.” (59)
Cizik goes on to highlight a number of other international policy achievements.
On the domestic front, the NAE has been a big backer of Bush’s “Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.” They have been active in exploring how best to have Christian-Muslim dialog in the wake of 9/11. They have also been supportive of Bush’s Partial Abortion Ban Act and the federal marriage amendment.
The influence of the NAE continues to grow. In March 2005, the NAE issued a document called For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility to draw other people into the discussion about how to address what Mark Noll called “the scandal of Evangelical thinking." That was the purpose of this book as well.
(If you are interested in NAE policy statments or some of the statements mentioned in this summary, many of them can be found at the NAE website under the "Governmental Affairs" link in the Resolutions/Documents section.)
Posted at 09:37 AM in Public Policy, Toward an Evangelcial Public Policy (Book Discussion) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Evangelical Christianity shifting outside West is an interesting article linked at Presbyweb today. I think it illustrates the "widening" of Evangelicalism as it finds its expression in other cultures. Here are the opening paragraphs from the article:
Evangelical Christianity, born in England and nurtured in the United States, is leaving home.
Most evangelicals now live in China, South Korea, India, Africa and Latin America, where they are transforming their religion. In various ways, they are making evangelical Christianity at once more conservative and more liberal. They are infusing it with local traditions and practices. And they are even sending "reverse missionaries" to Europe and the United States.
In 1960, there were an estimated 50 million evangelical Christians in the West, and 25 million in the rest of the world; today, there are estimated 75 million in the West, and 325 million in the rest of the world (representing about 20 percent of the two billion Christians worldwide), according to Robert Kilgore, chairman of the board of the missionary organization Christar.
Genesis 4 tells of humanity's descent into delusional behavior. It begins with the story of Adam and Eve’s sons Cain and Abel. The two sons offer sacrifices to God but Cain’s sacrifice is rejected for some unstated reason. Cain becomes jealous and angry towards his brother rather than adapting his behavior to whatever it is God expected of him. Cain gets Abel alone and murders him.
This story has significance in ways that may not be readily apparent. A brother killed a brother. Brotherhood was a special relationship in the Near East and in the Greco-Roman worlds. Marriage was not a relationship of equals in these cultures. Parent to child relationships were hierarchical and often there was emotional distance between fathers and children. The most emotionally intimate relationship one could have was sibling to sibling, especially brother to brother. While we find sibling murder to be more disturbing than the typical murder, it was much more disturbing for the original audience of this story. First there was the attempt by Adam and Eve to become like God. Now Cain exhibited the willingness to destroy his own brother to minimize his own shame and humiliation.
The most instructive part of this story is Cain’s departure. Cain never expresses remorse or regret.
16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch. Genesis 4:16-17 (NRSV)
There is a wealth of information in these two verses. Cain departs from the Lord and settles in Nod. This is an oxymoron. Nod means “wandering.” Literally, Cain is going to settle in the land of being unsettled. Furthermore, when you and I orient ourselves by looking at a map or a compass, we are conditioned to find which way is north and go from there. The ancient cultures were oriented to the east. The east was where the sun came up indicating “the beginning.” The west, where the sun set, signified “completeness.” In fact, in the area that later became Israel, there was a Canaanite city called Shalem. It was named for the planet Venus, also known as the “evening star,” a celestial body that marked the end of the day with its appearance. Shalem signified completeness or fullness, as in the completion of the day. Some linguists believe that the origins of the Hebrew word shalom are found in this word. Eastward travel was sometimes used as a symbol for going backward. Cain was literally and figuratively walking away from shalom.
Cain now had a dilemma. Cain had burned his bridges to God. Yet eternal meaning and purpose (or immortality) can only be had in relationship to God. Cain had to find some new sense of meaning. So what did he do? He did two things. He started a family and built a city. He named both his first son and the city Enoch, which means to “initiate.” Cain was initiating life apart from God. This was his strategy for achieving a sense of immortality. Instead of being an eikon of God and filling the earth with God’s glory, Cain opts to hole up in a fortress and create his own elaborate illusion of meaning and purpose.
Of course, being the illusion it is, Cain’s new world can not abide competing realities. His world and the world of any future “Cains” are put in the position of creating and preserving what Walter Brueggemann calls the “eternal present.” In the eternal present, the way things are is presented and represented as being what always has been and what always will be. Cain must make his illusion prevail at all costs or risk having his "reality" exposed as a fraud. All competitor visions must be destroyed.
Destruction is precisely what occurred to Cain and humanity. So virulent was the virus of Cain’s murderous delusion that it threatened to destroy all humanity. Succeeding chapters in Genesis tell us that God brought forth a flood to destroy virus infected humanity and begin anew with Noah and his family. God repeated the command to Noah that he had given to Adam and Eve: Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). God was intent on filling the earth with his eikons.
Unfortunately, no sooner do we leave the story of Noah then we come to the story of a people who come from out of the east (the backward place) to settle in the plains of Shinar, (modern day Iraq.) The leader of this people, we learn from Chapter 10, was named Nimrod which means, “We shall rebel.”
Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Genesis 11:4 (NRSV)
The city is Babel which means in Babylonian, “Gateway to God.” Some have surmised that the idea was to build a tower so high as to reach God but all cities of that culture had a tower. More likely the expression of building "a tower with its top in the heavens" simply meant to build a magnificent city. “Make a name for ourselves” was possibly intended to express a desire to achieve renown. However, some scholars believe the intent was to establish authority over themselves by deciding on their own name. Either way it was in open defiance against God. Particularly noteworthy is their justification for their efforts. God has reissued his command to Noah to fill the earth but these people are concerned that if they don’t unite they “…shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Scattering across the face of the earth is supposed to be their mission.
Babel has a double meaning because it is also very close to the Hebrew word balal for “confusion.” God intervened and created confusion among the people of Babel and succeeding in scattering them across the earth. This confusion prevented them from pursuing the same destructive path of Cain.
This is not the last episode of rebellion against God’s plan to the fill the earth. History has been an ongoing attempt by humanity to create vain (i.e., self-important yet ultimately ineffective) illusions of life apart from God. To this day there is a struggle to create and preserve the “eternal present.” We are ever trying to settle in Nod, the land of wandering, somewhere east of Eden. The story of scripture is God’s unveiling of a reality that will disillusion us from our futile struggle to fabricate shalom apart from God and draw us back to the true shalom that was meant for us from the start.
Bono's American Prayer is the feature story in the most recent Christianity Today. A must read for all U2ers. The article closes with:
Michael W. Smith, a Bono-level celebrity within contemporary Christian music, met with the Irish rocker in Nashville in December.
"Obviously, something has happened to him," he told CT. "If you really look back at the early days of U2, I hate putting labels on things, but they really were a Christian band. I think he got really frustrated with the church and became really bitter. I think he's probably sorry for the way he reacted, to a certain degree."
"I really can't judge him for what he does. Everyone's got to work out their own salvation," Smith said. "I think that he has got a bit of a new lease on life. Maybe he's found another place in this world and what he's supposed to do in life. He's been preaching this for a long time, but to know that we might actually be able to pull this thing off [saving Africa from destruction]—I think [this] does wonders for his soul and for his heart."
"I think he would probably love to have that as his legacy, rather than being one of the biggest rock stars of all time."
New Economy, Old Math is an article in TCS Daily by Congressman David Dreier (R-CA) who is Chairman of the House Rules Committee. He is calling for a new tools in how we measure employment. Old measures do not take into account the rapidly growing trend of self-employment and other nuances captured by the Current Survey Series household survey.
In fact, the public and private sectors have historically overlooked the household survey and relied on the payroll survey to gauge national job growth. When we look back to the pre-WWII economy, favoring the payroll survey makes sense. At the time, there was relatively little variety in the types of jobs available or the way they were created. Familiar companies, such as U.S. Steel and General Motors, dominated national employment.
The disparity between these jobs surveys became particularly apparent throughout the early stages of the post-recession recovery in 2002 and 2003. While the payroll survey lagged for months, the household survey demonstrated a strong and growing workforce, where self-employment accounted for a third of all job creation.
Following the end of the recession in November 2001, job creation in the household survey had rebounded by the following May. Although there were some ups and downs in the ensuing months, the household jobs numbers never again dipped below the November 2001 level. By November 2003, more than 2.2 million net new jobs had been created, and the pre-recession jobs number had been surpassed.
By contrast, the payroll survey did not demonstrate net job growth until August 2003, and didn't return to the November 2001 level until April 2004, nearly two years after the household survey had caught up. And the payroll survey's pre-recession jobs number was not surpassed until February 2005. This prolonged lag in the payroll survey's job creation numbers led to claims of a "jobless recovery." While every other major indicator of economic strength surged forward, from GDP to productivity, the payroll survey persisted as an anomaly of negative news. In an already dynamic economy, the increased churn created by economic expansion only highlighted the growing inadequacies of a Depression-era payroll survey. Using mid-20th Century methods to take a snapshot of the 21st Century employment picture simply does not work.
Blogger Buzz-Kill? is an article from TCS Daily. The author is speculating on the future of the blogging phenomenon. Here is the conclusion of his observations:
Even if the biggest, richest, and most popular blogs are hugely successful financially -- and more importantly, even if they're not -- there will be millions of people out their generating and publishing their own content. Regardless of what happens, the vast majority will be doing it without being paid (they already are) and they'll be doing it because, as I noted last week, it's fun. Which is what should really worry the Big Media people, because it's something that doesn't change with the financial markets. From four years ago comes this advice: "Beware the people who are having fun competing with you!" Because it's hard to put them out of business, so long as it stays fun.
So the real threat to Big Media will persist even if Gross's (wishful?) forecast of a blog "bubble" comes true: It's the danger posed by a collection of amateurs who can do many of the things that only a select few used to be able to do. And the real story isn't whether some bloggers get rich -- though, obviously, I'm all in favor of that -- but whether those who used to be sheltered by high barriers to entry can manage to survive in a world where those barriers have largely vanished. So far, it's looking like a close-run thing.
Creating Wealth for the Poor is an interesting opinion piece by E. J. Dionne, Jr. The article is about how Democrats might advance an agenda that makes a difference in people's lives instead of endless harping about wealth redistribution. Here are a couple of excerpts:
That's where the Urban Institute study, "Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men," co-authored by Offner with my Georgetown University colleagues Peter Edelman and Harry J. Holzer, comes in. They write: "Nearly 3 million less-educated young people between the ages of 16 and 24 -- about half of whom are young men -- are disconnected from education and employment in the United States." This disconnected cohort includes significant numbers of Hispanics and whites, but African Americans are disproportionately represented in their ranks. While policymakers have spent much energy on the problems facing single mothers, they have done little about the disadvantages facing young men.
The authors of the report offer resolutely hardheaded solutions. They would reform education and training programs and work with employers and other intermediaries to connect these young men to the labor market. They would expand programs such as the Job Corps that have "proven track records," and have us do far more to integrate ex-offenders into the world of work. They would create much stronger work incentives through income supplements, higher minimum wages and changes in the child support system.
The Urban Institute authors can be read as bringing Sims's practical focus on government's role in wealth creation to the task of expanding opportunities for the least fortunate among the young. This is good public policy. My hunch is that it could also be good politics.
I haven't read the report by the Urban Institute so I don't know how much I agree with the specifics but it sounds to me like this is on the right track. Here is a link to the Urban Institute where you can learn more about the report: Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men. It is going on my reading list.
I know that the metaphor for church leadership is shepherd. However, I wonder if shepherd doesn't have us envisioning the wrong kind of animal herding. The link below is to a clip of a commercial by EDS a few years ago. It perfectly sums up my experience in church leadership.
(This is the first in a series of sixteen posts summarizing, for discussion purposes, a collection of sixteen essays edited by Ronald J. Sider and Diane Knippers on public policy.)
Part I – Learning from the Past
Chapter 1 - Seeking a Place: Evangelical Protestants and Public Engagement in the Twentieth Century.
By John C. Green, Professor of Political Science, University of Akron.
Green gives a brief history of political engagement by Evangelicals over the last century. He categorizes identifies three avenues of engagement:
Green believes that the first two avenues dominated Evangelicalism in the 1920-1940s. After 1940, with the founding of the National Association of Evangelicals, regularized politics became part of the mix. From about 1970 on, quiescent politics waned. Having defined these avenues, Green explains that American Protestantism fractured into mainline an Evangelical camps. He identifies three Evangelical streams that emerged. First, there were denominations that emerged in direct response to modernizing events in the mainline churches. These denominations would include the Holiness, Pentecostal, Neo-evangelical, and Charismatic movements. Second, there were ethnic churches like the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Christian Reformed Church. Third, there were the Southern Protestant churches, most notably the Southern Baptists. From here Green gives a chronology of events that affected Evangelical engagement.
1901-1940, A People Displaced
Green believes that during the first half of this period politics was not significantly different from the politics of the 19th Century. World War I was the turning point. Increasing fragmentation in American Protestantism erupted in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. A focal point of the controversy became the evolution debate. Anti-evolution organizations sprang up and the issue reached a climax when evolution opponent and former Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan squared off against secularist Clarence Darrow. It was a show trial but Darrow succeeded, with the help of the press, in making Bryan look foolish to the entire nation. Bryan died unexpectedly a few days after the trial.
Heading into the 1930s the mood of Evangelicalism became increasingly pessimistic. Political engagement tended to move from the national to local levels. However, events like the arrival of the New Deal and the repeal of Prohibition convinced many Evangelicals that America was in moral decay. Many began to question the value of being involved in politics and focused on evangelism for change.
1941-1970, A People in Flux
As Evangelicals began to turn more exclusively toward evangelism, a need was felt for greater and more effective cooperation. Two groups emerged in response to this challenge. First, was the more separatist and strictly fundamentalist wing formed organizations like the American Council of Christian Church in (ACCC) 1941 and the International Council of Christian Churches in 1948, led by Carl McIntire. Second, were what some called the neo-Evangelicals led by Carl F. Henry who was instrumental in founding the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1942. The NAE saw themselves as a reform movement to fundamentalism and advocated social and political engagement.
The ACCC, ICCC and affiliated groups became increasingly strident about anti-communism and antagonistic to the aims of the NAE. The movements parted ways in 1957. The former group went on to relative obscurity and isolation. The NAE contingent popularized and given credibility by Henry’s Christianity Today and the work of evangelist Billy Graham, grew in numbers but still seemed reticent about political action. The turmoil of the 1960s movements concerning civil rights, women’s rights, environmentalism, and war opposition drew some evangelicals, largely from colleges and seminaries, into political engagement.
1971-2000, A People Prominent
Green gives a wider ranging overview of this era. He notes the significance of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for women in 1972 and the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision as turning points in Evangelical political concern. He points to the 1973 Chicago Declaration as significant event (It led to the formation of Evangelicals for Social Action.) Green also notes that this re-engagement with politics led to a more diverse if somewhat divided Evangelical movement. Some of the trends he noted were the, ‘… the moderation of the separatist impulse among fundamentalists, the development of the ‘electronic church’ of televangelists, and the rise of the suburban “megachurches.” (p. 26) The election of “born-again” president Jimmy Carter gave Evangelicalism a new respectability but by 1980 many Evangelicals were dissatisfied with Carter's leadership and the direction of the nation.
It was also during the 1970s that the “Christian Right” was born. Responding to events that they saw as threatening to traditional family values (e.g. abortion, sexual-permissiveness, no-fault divorce, pornography and homosexuality) some Evangelical began to mobilize to stem the tide. Secular humanism came to be seen as the primary problems as popularized by Francis Schaeffer’s Christian Manifesto (1981). Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority around 1980 and it became the most prominent of a host of similar “values” political organizations. Most of these organizations were spent by the end of the decade. In 1991, we witnessed the organization of the Christian Coalition by Pat Robertson and the Christian Right revived, mostly in opposition to the election of President Bill Clinton.
The reality was that after all this political action little of the Christian Right’s agenda was accomplished. By the late 1990s, former leaders like Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson had become disillusioned with politics and believed that Evangelicals needed to get back to evangelism as a way to address social ills. Green believes this is a re-emergence of quiescent politics.
Green also acknowledges the presence and contribution of “completely pro-life” groups like Evangelicals for Social Action, led by Ron Sider, who have embraced a set of political perspectives that are a mixture of what many would consider to be left and right positions. Center for Public Justice was another such organization. Also of significance was the work of Jim Wallis and the Sojourners community in Washington, DC.
Finally, Green notes that party voting was split almost equally among the two major parties in the 1970s. By 1984 the Republican voting percentage of Evangelicals was 74% and in 2000 it was 71%. By and large Evangelicals have become a reliable Republican constituency.
Green notes that both movement politics and quiescent politics have attractive features yet neither has ever accomplished much over the last century. Movement politics tends to build up considerable energy and enthusiasm at first but when it becomes clear there will be few short-term victories, support often wanes. The quiescent approach tends to lead toward an unhealthy apathy. That leaves regularized politics. It has the danger of getting caught up in power for power's sake and loosing Christian moorings. Green ends the essay with this observation: “There are no easy answers, only tough choices with real consequences.” (p. 32)
Posted at 08:00 AM in Politics, Toward an Evangelcial Public Policy (Book Discussion) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
After Neoconservatism is an exceptional article for the New York Times by Francis Fukuyama from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Everything I have learned about economics, politics and sociology over the years says to me that prosperity is the catalyst that leads to other social goods like democracy, conservation, education, etc. I have been directly involved in economic development in the US and I have friends scattered across the globe doing economic development. Rarely have I read an article that so succinctly summarizes the general perspective I have been coming to over the last 20-25 years (And in the New York Times no less *grin*). I don't endorse all of his analysis or specific solutions but I think we are of similar minds. Here are just a few quotes from the article.
What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation. Liberal democracy is one of the byproducts of this modernization process, something that becomes a universal aspiration only in the course of historical time.
"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.
The United States needs to come up with something better than "coalitions of the willing" to legitimate its dealings with other countries. The world today lacks effective international institutions that can confer legitimacy on collective action; creating new organizations that will better balance the dual requirements of legitimacy and effectiveness will be the primary task for the coming generation. As a result of more than 200 years of political evolution, we have a relatively good understanding of how to create institutions that are rulebound, accountable and reasonably effective in the vertical silos we call states. What we do not have are adequate mechanisms of horizontal accountability among states.
The conservative critique of the United Nations is all too cogent: while useful for certain peacekeeping and nation-building operations, the United Nations lacks both democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in dealing with serious security issues. The solution is not to strengthen a single global body, but rather to promote what has been emerging in any event, a "multi-multilateral world" of overlapping and occasionally competing international institutions that are organized on regional or functional lines. Kosovo in 1999 was a model: when the Russian veto prevented the Security Council from acting, the United States and its NATO allies simply shifted the venue to NATO, where the Russians could not block action.
The final area that needs rethinking, and the one that will be the most contested in the coming months and years, is the place of democracy promotion in American foreign policy. The worst legacy that could come from the Iraq war would be an anti-neoconservative backlash that coupled a sharp turn toward isolation with a cynical realist policy aligning the United States with friendly authoritarians. Good governance, which involves not just democracy but also the rule of law and economic development, is critical to a host of outcomes we desire, from alleviating poverty to dealing with pandemics to controlling violent conflicts. A Wilsonian policy that pays attention to how rulers treat their citizens is therefore right, but it needs to be informed by a certain realism that was missing from the thinking of the Bush administration in its first term and of its neoconservative allies.
If we are serious about the good governance agenda, we have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy, development and the rule of law around the world, organizations like the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like. The United States has played an often decisive role in helping along many recent democratic transitions, including in the Philippines in 1986; South Korea and Taiwan in 1987; Chile in 1988; Poland and Hungary in 1989; Serbia in 2000; Georgia in 2003; and Ukraine in 2004-5. But the overarching lesson that emerges from these cases is that the United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about. By definition, outsiders can't "impose" democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective.
God created the “heavens and the earth” and then placed humanity to be his image (or eikon's) on the face of the earth. The interconnected relationships between God, humanity, and creation can best be described by the Hebrew word shalom. Some of the elements of shalom are:
Clearly shalom does not prevail in the world today. The biblical narrative explains how shalom was lost beginning in Genesis 3. A serpent engaged Eve in conversation by asking if God really said that she may not eat from any tree in the garden (knowing full well that only one tree had been prohibited.) By framing the question this way the serpent directed attention to what had been denied versus the amazing rich gift of creation that had been provided. Furthermore, the serpent suggested that there was a great benefit being denied Adam and Eve by the prohibition because if they would eat the fruit they would “… be like God, knowing good and evil.” Adam and Eve ate the fruit. In so doing, they disobeyed God. They distrusted and minimized God as they sought to be more than they were, but ended up becoming far less than they were intended to be. They were left in an existential predicament. With their eyes open, they realized that eating of the tree did not elevate them to gods. They could not go back to what they were before but they also realized they could not go back into God’s presence. So what did they do? They hid.
Chapter 2 of Genesis ends saying that the man and woman were naked and were not ashamed. There was total intimacy and transparency in their relationship. They were guilty and ashamed after disobeying God. Guilt comes from violating a moral precept. Shame comes when our actions reveal we do not match up to the model we have of ourselves. Adam and Eve were not only guilty; they were also cut off from God, the ground of their identity. They were broken eikons, unable to reflect God’s image. God appeared on the scene, called them out of their hiding, and inquired of Adam what had happened. Adam blamed it on Eve and Eve blamed it on the serpent. Had God asked the serpent, the serpent would no doubt have blamed it on God, since God had created the serpent. Denial and diversion became the human answer to their existential dilemma.
God explained to Adam and Eve the consequences of their actions:
Gen 3:16-19 (NRSV)
16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." 17 And to the man he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Then God made garments for them and expelled them from the Garden of Eden.
Peace of mind was lost as human beings sought to become more than they were but became less than they were created to be. Where harmonious relationships had once existed, denial, discord, and deceit would now dominate. The pronouncement to Eve revealed that endless power struggles will ensue within the most intimate of relationships. What should be the most joyous outcome of the most intimate of relationships, the birth of another, would now be accompanied by significant pain and suffering. Injustice would emerge and community would be fractured as delusional behavior became the norm.
The pronouncement to Adam makes clear that the exalted and glorious call to have dominion over the earth has been reduced to a laborious toilsome battle for survival. Creation appears to have been altered in some way that contributes to this curse (see Romans 8:18-25) but surely an anticipated consequence was the fracture of authentic community due to jealousy, greed, hate, oppression, and ultimately murder and war. On top of all this, beings that were meant for eternal community with God would now face the annihilation of death as well as the loss of meaning and purpose experienced in death.
In short, the eikons rebelled and shalom was horribly marred. According to the biblical narrative, this is the world we live in today. So what is humanity’s response? What is God’s response?
(Note: I am relating the Genesis stories here as historical events. It is beyond the scope of this series to address if these events were factual, allegorical, or something else. For my purposes, I am relating a narrative account of God's involvement in history. I would invite readers not to get lost in historicity issues and instead "enter" the story.)
Last week the World Council of Churches met and made some statements about capitalism. I responded to those statements with a post on Saturday. I have received a variety of responses. I have also begun a series on theology and economics. I intended to discuss the specifics of capitalism later in the series and I still intend to do so. However, response to my recent post has illustrated for me once again the considerable confusion that exists over what capitalism is. Too often the term “capitalism” is used as a proxy for an American socio-political-economic ethos that has been weighed and found wanting. When I use the term capitalism I am talking about a specific economic system with specific attributes. One of the best definitions I have come across is in a recent book by Rodney Stark.
Capitalism is an economic system wherein privately owned, relatively well organized, and stable firms pursue complex commercial activities within a relatively free (unregulated) market, taking a systematic, long-term approach to investing and reinvesting wealth (directly or indirectly) in productive activities involving a hired workforce, and guided by anticipated and actual returns. (1)
Vibrant capitalist economies are accompanied by a relatively strong emphasis on democracy, civil rights and protection of property rights. These are technically traits of the legal/political institutions of a society, as opposed to the economic, but they tend to reinforce one another.
Charles Wheelan writes the following in his book Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science:
I will argue that a market economy [capitalism] is to economics what democracy is to government: a decent, if flawed, choice among many bad alternatives. Markets are consistent with our views of individual liberty. (2)
The typical critique leveled against capitalism is the oppression of some by people or nations who practice capitalism. It is argued that it is the economic system itself that generates the oppression. I take issue with this assumption. Let me illustrate by way of analogy.
Wheelan’s comparison to democracy is a good place to start. One of the central issues of the US civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s was voting rights. African Americans were systematically blocked from voting, even though on paper they had the right to vote. When Dr. King and other leaders confronted this issue there conceivably were two options available. One was to declare democracy evil and unjust. A new form of government could have been demanded. The second was to decide that democracy was a good thing that should be extended to all. That would mean confronting and reforming those institutions that were blocking the extension of that democracy. Of course, civil rights leaders opted for the second perspective. Now extend this logic to capitalism.
The United States has been entangled in inexcusable economic abuse of others over the years, especially since the US became a world power toward the end of the Nineteenth Century. One example is the relationship of the US to much of Latin America throughout the Twentieth Century. Many of these countries were formed under the oppressive Spanish hacienda system that concentrated obscene amounts of wealth in the hands of a few families, and placed the rest of the population in perpetual peasantry. There was tremendous oppression and injustice in these countries before the United States arrived on the scene. Instead of introducing free markets to these nations, the US propped up and reinforced the oppressive régimes. US military forces were used to suppress freedom movements. American corporations like United Fruit Company were allowed to maintain their own private military to prevent disruptions of their plantations by freedom movements. Working hand in hand, multi-national corporations, the US government and oppressive régimes cooperated to enhance each other’s vested interests. Key to keeping their control was the suppression of any move toward free market capitalism and the institutions that support it. Oppression was not caused by the imposition of capitalism. It was caused by the suppression of capitalism!
In Mid-Twentieth Century America, powerful interests were at work blocking the extension of democracy to African-Americans. The answer was to confront the powers that were blocking the extension of democracy. Powerful forces have long been blocking the extension of capitalism to those who have been denied the greatest engine of prosperity ever devised. The United States and Europe have been, and in some ways still are, part of the blockage. For instance, a great many quality food products could be grown in, and exported from, some of the most impoverished areas of Africa, but the US and Europe have subsidized their own food producers and erected tariffs to prevent free and open trade with these African nations. If true capitalism were allowed to function there were would be a temporary disruption in US and European markets while many Africans would quickly began to see increasing prosperity enabling them buy other goods made in places like the US and Europe. All nations would benefit in relatively short order. The problem is that powerful food production interests have the ability to use political power to block the functioning of markets. The answer is more capitalism not less.
Another fallacy is that capitalism is based on greed. Following the political analogy, this is like saying democracy is based on lust for power. We expect people who go into politics to work for the public good and not for their own aggrandizement. Do most politicians enter the political arena because of a vision to implement an agenda that they believe is for the public good? I think so. Are there often elements of ego and desire for power involved? You bet. Are there some for whom this is the primary motivation? Absolutely. However, overreaching with political power may work for a time but our democratic institutions have a way of snapping such excesses back into line eventually. Generally speaking, if you want to exercise power for an extended time you must advance the public good with your power.
Similarly, do most people in business desire to create quality goods and services, make profits, and then reinvest those profits to improve and expand production. I think so. Is an element of greed or selfishness present at times? Yes. Are there some people who are motivated primarily by greed? Absolutely. However, if the greedy do not make a quality product that consumers will buy, they may succeed in the short run but the market has a way of snapping them back.
Neither our republican democracy nor capitalism provides justice for all, all the time. Both aim to strike a balance between maximizing individual freedom and advancement of the common good. Both assume corrupt and corruptible human beings. The most desirable state of affairs is a society of people choosing of their own volition to engage in virtuous political and economic activity. When virtuous behavior is compulsory it ceases to be virtue. It merely becomes obedience.
If you create the freedom for people to behave virtuously, you also create the opportunity for immoral behavior and must be willing to acknowledge its inevitability. The best we can hope for in a free political or economic system are institutions that reward virtuous behavior and entice the less virtuous to at least contribute to the common good. The occasional failure of these arrangements to render a perfectly just outcome is the price of freedom. The great temptation when injustice does emerge is to grasp for utopian cures that will eradicate a specific injustice, yet these utopian “solutions” always have the effect of elevating either individual freedom and or the common good above the other, thus creating an even worse tyranny. Democracy and capitalism, as imperfect as they are, are by far the greatest freedom and prosperity enhancing tools known to humanity.
(1) Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Capitalism Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success. New York: Random House, 2005, p. 56)
(2) Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2002, p. 21)
(Note: I thought I would recommend a very good economics primer by a professor of mine at Eastern University, John Stapleford. The title of the book is Bulls, Bears and Golden Calves: Applying Christian Ethics in Economics. It is written to be a supplement to the major college economics textbooks. However, it reads just as well as a stand alone volume. I think it does a wonderful job of introducing basic economics and integrating Christian thought. I highly recommend it.)
Moms' Malaise is essentially a three-in-one book review by Valerie Weaver-Zercher of books about motherhood in the 21st Century. She is reviewing Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, by Judith Warner, The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women, Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels, and The Myth of the Perfect Mother: Rethinking the Spirituality of Women, by Carla Barnhill. I was especially interested by her mention of Barnhill's perspective of seeing parenting as a part of spiritual formation. I also take special note of books written by unabashed Evangelicals that receive praise in Christian Century. *grin* I had a friend tell me recently how much she appreciated the Warner book. I wonder what others think who have read these books?
Here are a few quotes from the article:
Like these authors I find comfort in imagining a utopia in which the projects of making a family and making a living fit together more smoothly. And like them I have found sarcasm and disdain to be shields against the many pressures of 21st-century motherhood. But while I value their sociopolitical analyses and share their anger at the complex forces that make sane mothering almost impossible these days, I find little in their books to give me strength and hope for the journey—the strength and hope that are exactly what mothers need to resist the powers the authors describe. Indeed, after reading about the plague of exhaustion facing mothers, I felt too exhausted to do much of anything.
After exploring how to resist the unique pressures that evangelical mothers face—pressure to homeschool, to use corporal punishment, to view motherhood as their highest calling—Barnhill fleshes out the idea of motherhood as a spiritual practice similar to prayer and fasting. Drawing on the work of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, Barnhill encourages readers to view parenting as a spiritual practice through which God shapes us rather than as "a role filled with high expectations and the resultant disappointments." Citing examples of Christian mothers who were instrumental in the abolition of slavery and the passage of laws against child labor, she makes a strong case that virtues such as compassion and creativity that are "refined in the practice of motherhood can and should be used in other arenas to bring God's love, peace, mercy, and justice to the world." In other words, who I become as a mother can filter into other arenas of life, including activism on behalf of other mothers and their children.
One could argue that the recent spate of books on the stresses of motherhood amounts to just so much whining by a bevy of privileged, highly educated women with a surfeit of professional options and material wealth. But let's hope that Barnhill's vision is not entirely in vain. The formative practice of motherhood, even in America's middle-class wasteland of competition and consumerism, might form women into more compassionate, caring—and yes, even angry—citizens who advocate on behalf of all women, especially those with fewer options. Through a holy blend of social criticism and spiritual fortitude, women with children might be able to resist the guilt and perfectionism that, if these authors are correct, are now the signatures of motherhood.
Yesterday evening I typed posts straight into Typepad instead of composing in Word which I usually do. I spell checked and then published. So I came back to one of those posts this morning with five paragraphs and it contained 12 errors! The ones I fixed last night. Argh! All I can figure is I hit the "discard corrections" button instead to the "save corrections" button.
The feature that has killed me more than once is when I have saved a post to be published at a later date. I get my post the way I want it. I click the preview button to check it out. I click the "return to edit" button and then click on the "publish later" option. The box pops up for me to enter date and time and, after making the entry, I hit "save." That returns me back to the edit window. From there I go on to other tasks or close out of the software. Those of you familiar with Typepad will know that I just lost my post! Once back at the edit window I have to save the post because the previous save button only sets a date and time to publish if you save the post. When you go to navigate away from the blogware, Typepad gives you no warning you have not saved anything. You just get up the next day expecting to see your new post and it isn't there. I am guessing that has happened to at least ten times in the last six months and it happened again last week.
I guess my point is that Typepad is hardly idiot proof. I was just wondering what problems you have had with your blog software. Are you satisfied with it? Why or why not? I have to admit I generally like Typepad but for absent-minded people like me it does make it a challenge at times.
I wrote a post earlier this week to see if there are others who would be interested in reading through Toward an Evangelical Public Policy together. A sufficient number have said they would be interested so I will plan to start next week.
I will briefly summarize each essay as an individual post. I figure we can do two or three a week. I will begin on Tuesday the 21st with chapter 1. Hopefully you have a copy and can read along. If not, I hope my summary, and the comments of others, will be enough to give you an idea of what the essay is about so you can join in. Hope to see you then.
Posted at 09:56 PM in Toward an Evangelcial Public Policy (Book Discussion) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Mega Church: The Game This one had me going for a minute. I think I hurt myself laughing while reading the game features. Be sure to click on the image of the game box at the site to see the Amazon.com spoof. This is a classic!
Christian economists say poverty ‘is the fruit of deliberate policy’ is an article by the Presbyterian News Service about events at the meeting of the World Council of Churches linked at Presbyweb. Also linked is a related story, Capitalism 'unmasked' as 'savage, barbarous system' , from the Presbyterian Layman. These articles will give you some sense of the hostility toward free markets and capitalism expressed by religious elitists, most of whom I am willing to bet have never started a business or studied economics. This is one of the most instructive quotes of the PNS article:
One of those values must be cooperation, Tandon said. “Capitalism is based on competition and greed, and structurally negates cooperation,” he said. “Socialism, which is based on cooperation, has not always worked, but people everywhere are trying many cooperative models. Most all of them haven’t moved beyond the local, but they are alternative systems.”
Capitalism is not based on greed or selfishness. It is based on self-interest. Jesus said to "love your neighbor as you love yourself." Inherent in his command is self-interest. When you make a product, make it to standards you would want if you were making the product for your self. Someone else does the same with a product they make. You each value the other's product more than you value your own product. You trade and both parties win. Capitalism does not run on greed but it does channel it in positive directions. If you are greedy, you are still going to have to make a quality product to make enough to satisfy your greed. The competition of ethical businesses compels greedy people to behave in positive ways.
Capitalism is the most cooperative system of economics in history. Countless thousands of people combine resources to form and operate corporations and businesses, free to engage and disengage as they see appropriate. It is capitalism that creates organic, fluid and coordinated action that could not even have been contemplated a few short generations ago. As for socialism, it too achieves cooperation. When it fails to deliver the goods because there are no markets to accurately signal supply and demand, it achieves cooperation at the end of a barrel of gun. It is probably the most "cooperative" form of economy devised. The above quote has things backwards.
There are fewer things that I am more convinced of than this: Following the mostly well intentioned agenda of the World Council of Churches will damn countless hundreds of millions (maybe billions) of people to abject poverty for the foreseeable future that otherwise would have experienced significant improvements in prosperity and freedom.
(Note: Also see follow up post, 20 Feb 2006, Captialism: What is it?)
The evolution vs. intelligent design controversy is in the news almost daily now. But this is not the only controversy between science and religion. Presbyweb had very interesting story from the LA Times linked yesterday called Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted. The Mormons back to Joseph Smith have always held that American Indians were a lost tribe of Israel. DNA evidence now shows conclusively that American Indian ancestry traces back to Mongolia in Asia. So now some Mormons are struggling to reconcile the discrepancy.
There is something fowl about the whole Dick Cheney incident last weekend. When I first heard he had been Quayle hunting I was pleased. I too have been wondering what happened to our former vice-president since he flew the coup in 1992. But then I realized they were quail hunting.
This type of news is not the kind of thing a lame-duck president like Bush wants to hear with the vultures in the press pecking away at him. Why was Cheney so slow in hatching the story? I don’t think it was because he was chicken. I suspect Cheney was merely trying to get all his ducks in a row before reporting the story. Nevertheless, he apparently laid an egg. It seems like he would have been better off to get the story out and then wing it from there.
Predictably the Democrats have flocked to this story in their endless effort to pigeon-hole Bush and Cheney as liars. Since Republicans tried to tar and feather Clinton, Democrats figure what is good for the goose is good for the gander. What a bunch of quacks. You would think that they would realize people are put off by their Chicken Little antics but they seem to have their heads buried in the sand. I don’t really think this story has wings. I may be eating crow later but I suspect Cheney will rise again like a phoenix from the ashes.
There is still one aspect of this story that intrigues me though. Why haven’t we heard anything from Senator Byrd on this?
The 12 Biggest Money Mistakes is a Suze Orman piece about what not to do with your money that I thought was pretty good. I had a college professor who said that if you wanted to become rich you only need to do two things (assuming a job of course): Never own a car and never have debt. The car thing has never been possible because of where I live. However, I have never bought a new a car and I think each car was ten years old before I departed with it. (We own two '98s now.) As for debt, I made a very wise choice. I married a debt averse woman and left the finances to her.
How can we best describe the state of affairs at the close of the creation stories in the first two chapters of Genesis? A Hebrew word sums it up perfectly: Shalom. We typically equate shalom with the English word "peace." Unfortunately, we often identify peace as simply the absence of war or anxiety. Shalom means so much more.
Here are just few ways shalom is used in the Old Testament. The words representing shalom are in bold.
Absence of War
Joshua 9:15 (NRSV)
And Joshua made peace with them, guaranteeing their lives by a treaty; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.
1 Samuel 16:4-5 (NRSV)
4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" 5 He said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice."
Personal welfare of people and animals
Genesis 37:14 (NRSV)
So he said to him, "Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me."
Jeremiah 33:9 (NRSV)
And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them; they shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.
Zechariah 8:16-17 (NRSV)
16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the LORD.
Peace of mind
Psalms 119:165 (NRSV)
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
These are just a few examples of the many shades of meaning in shalom. There are other more nuanced instances as well. All seem to point toward a combination of wholeness, wellness, and harmony.
There are three more passages I want to highlight. These passages show the centrality of shalom to God's vision for humanity. The first passage is the Priestly Prayer and the other two are messianic prophecies.
Numbers 6:24-26 (NRSV)
24 The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NRSV)
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Ezekiel 37:24-28 (NRSV)
24 My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. 25 They shall live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your ancestors lived; they and their children and their children's children shall live there forever; and my servant David shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations shall know that I the LORD sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is among them forevermore.
Shalom is the best descriptor for the state affairs at the end Genesis 2. Shalom is also the best descriptor for the state of affairs at the end of time as evidenced in the last two passages. While shalom is not primarily an economic concept, economic issues are integral to the concept. God’s primary mission for us is to care for creation and enhance it in ways that reflect what God values. Work is of God. The transformation of resources and distribution of goods is integral to God's mission for humanity. There can be no shalom without economics that honors God.
Anxiety Amid The Prosperity is an opinion piece by Robert Samuelson. He is asking why there is so much anxiety amid prosperity. His last two paragraphs pretty much sum up his thoughts. Interesting analysis.
So we return to the original puzzle: Why does an economy of greater stability have industries of lesser stability? The answer is competition. An intensely competitive economy enhances overall stability by holding down inflation (which is itself destabilizing) and spreading economic disruptions throughout the business cycle (rather than letting them accumulate for periodic, massive downturns).
But the solution to one problem creates other, though smaller, problems. Except during unsustainable booms, say, the late 1990s, even good times are punctuated with insecurities, disappointments, job losses, broken promises and shattered expectations. What may be good for us as a society may hurt many of us as individuals. The unending challenge is to find the necessary social protections that help the most vulnerable without frustrating desirable, if sometimes painful, change.
China Needs to Get Rich Before It Gets Too Old is an interesting article at Bloomberg.com. Columnist Andy Mukerjee gives a number of demographic variables not working in China's favor as it tries to grow its economy, not the least of which is a rapidly growing dependency ratio.
Qiao's research shows that China's dependency ratio -- the number of people too young and too old to work divided by the working-age population -- will start rising at the end of this decade and approach 50 percent in 2030, from less than 40 percent at present, making China as gray as Japan was last year.
By 2050, every 10 Chinese workers in the age group of 15 to 64 will support a total of seven younger and older people -- a dependency ratio of 70 percent.
An aging society may be an inevitable part of demographic transition, though ``what makes China's case unique is that the sharp rise in dependency ratio will arrive earlier in terms of per capita income level relative to other countries,'' Qiao says in her report.
Let a thousand blogs bloom is a Times of London article about the impact blogs are having on power and politics in China.
China is in the grip of a new “cultural revolution”. This revolution differs from Mao Zedong’s calculated mobilisation of Red Guards against the hierarchy in two vitally important respects. It is welling up from below as a culture of outspokenness takes hold; and, although the spread of this revolution, in chat rooms, text messages, mass e-mails and as many as 13.3 million blogs, can be slowed by thousands of cyberplods sent in hot pursuit, it cannot be stopped. After months of smouldering arguments within the Communist Party about how best to handle it, the volcano of discord at the top has begun to erupt in full view. These arguments about how much freedom to allow — or indeed, whether the floods opened by technology can be dammed — go to the heart of the debate about China’s future direction. The leadership’s dilemma is acute, and harder and harder to hide.
How best to guard against turbulence — by relaxing controls or telling the million-strong People’s Armed Police to put in the boot — is just what the backroom arguments are about. China’s leaders need no persuading that small sparks start big fires and, with protests and mass demonstrations officially admitted to have risen to 87,000 last year, the sparks are no longer small. Hu Jintao, China’s President, started by promising more democracy and open debate, but appears to have lost his nerve, pointedly praising North Korea’s party discipline and censorship in a 2004 speech.
Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister, has argued on “efficiency” grounds that “independent” thinking must be encouraged. He has recognised that a society of “yes” men cannot develop the innovative edge that drives the knowledge economy. But neither man dares risk the party’s neck. They understand Lenin’s dictum that knowledge is power, but not that it is slipping from their grasp, as Marx and Mao and Deng Xiaoping make way for King Blog.
Any meaningful discussion of economics from a Christian perspective must be grounded in the epic narrative that God is unfolding in history. That narrative begins with the first two chapters of Genesis. There are at least six aspects of the creation stories that have great importance as we begin to think about economics.
God created all that is and all that is belongs to God. The opening words of Genesis tell us that God created “the heavens and the earth.” This is a euphemism for everything that is. God hovered over the face of the desolate planet and brought it to life. God and the material world are not one in the same but neither is God absent from the created order.
God created an orderly world. One of the most striking features of the Genesis stories, particularly Genesis 1, is the matter-of-fact sequential presentation of events that lead up to the creation of humanity. The Hebrew bara, indicating special creation, is used only in conjunction with the creation of matter, the creation of animals (nephesh) and the creation of humanity. All other mentions of “creation” or “made” have the connotation of someone “superintending the formation of” or “making out of existing materials.” God is a God of order and God loves to create. By studying the order of the created world we come closer to the mind of God.
God created humanity in God's image. Genesis 1:26-27 says,
26 Then God said “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (NRSV)
Verse 26 introduces a peculiar conversation. If God is just about to create humanity, then with whom is God having a conversation? Most scholars I have read believe this is a “conversation” within the trinity. This “conversation” is a way to highlight the fact that something of profound importance requiring great contemplation is about to occur. It punctuates the moment.
The important occurrence is the creation of humanity in God’s image. In what sense is humanity created in God’s image? I believe the verse 26 answers this for us. Human beings share bodies, minds, and emotions with a variety of other species on the planet. What is unique is our ability to reason and be creative using abstract thinking. We have the ability to know the mind of God. Ancient Near East kings erected carved images of themselves throughout their kingdoms as symbols of their authority. (1) God distributes us as images (eikons in Greek) of himself throughout the earth. (2) The eikons are to rule over creation, care for it, and bring it to its full potential just as the king would.
God ordained both individuality and community. God created Adam first and entered into relationship with him as an individual. Individuals are of profound importance to God. But God created Adam out of the community of the trinity and declared that it was not good for man to be alone. God created woman and united the two. Thus, while individuals are important as eikons of God, they are incomplete eikons apart from community. Any theology that embraces individuality to the destruction of community or elevates community to the point of devaluing individuals violates God’s “both and” valuation of humanity.
God placed humanity over creation to be stewards and to be eikons of God's authority. I have already noted that God placed humanity in dominion over creation. Yet, as singer Don Henley once noted, “They don’t make hearses with luggage racks.” God ultimately owns all that is. When it comes to possessing material goods we can have only one of two relationships. We can forgo possessions or we can be stewards of them for God. Any sense of ultimate human ownership is a delusion.
But stewardship isn’t just a default option. It is the mission of humanity. It is the universal call God has given us.
28 God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." 29 God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. (NRSV)
Just like the eikons of the ancient kings, God desires to have his image spread across the planet, marking his domain. But God’s eikons are not lifeless images. They are animate eikons participating in God’s work of creation and care. The call to creation stewardship did not end with the fall of humanity nor has it been revoked at any later date. Bringing the created order to fruition, including human culture, is still our mission.
God established the ideas of linear time and progress. It is hard for us to fully appreciate how radical the Genesis story is compared to ancient cultures. While other cultures had creation myths, they believed the material world was eternal. Time moved in cycles (e.g. day/night, full moons, seasons, years, saeculum, etc.) The goal was to conform individual and corporate behavior to cycles ordained by the gods. Failure to do so would often bring the wrath of the gods. The modern idea of human events progressing toward ever greater achievement was foreign to ancient thinking.
When the Jews appeared on the scene they introduced the idea of linear time. There was a beginning to time and matter. There was a progression from a formless earth to a bountiful earth with Adam and Eve. The mission given to Adam and Eve was to grow in dominion and fill the earth with eikons of God. This is the genesis of the modern notion of history and progress. Events are moving from a starting point and progressing toward a conclusion.
1. Hans W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, translated by Margaret Kohl, London: SCM Press, 1974, p.160
2. Thanks to Scot McKnight for putting me on to this eikon lingo.
What causes poverty? Countless volumes have been written over the ages trying to answer this question. The fact is, it is one of the simplest questions of all time. It can be answered in two words: Being born. We have nothing when we come into the world . All that we have comes through investment others make in us and through investment we make in ourselves. Poverty is our natural human state. The real economic question is, “What causes prosperity?”
No topic is more frequently discussed in the Bible than the topic of material possessions, and yet the Bible gives us no economic system for implementation. It speaks a great deal about prosperity being of God but how do we achieve it? That is something the Church has been left to discern as it lives in community with God through the ages.
Economics is central to our life together. Unfortunately, I believe that economics is frequently misunderstood by the Church. I recently read N. T. Wright’s otherwise excellent book The Last Word where he wrote,
The greatest of the Enlightenment-based nations, the United States of America, has been left running a de facto world empire which gets richer by the minute as much of the world remains poor and gets poorer. (p. 13)
There are several things that need to be unpacked from this sentence:
1. Enlightenment thinking by extension is responsible for our economic systems.
2. The United States is the primary cause, or at least a major culprit, in world poverty.
3. The world is getting poorer.
This characterization of the world is a widely shared among theologians and seminarians, but it is wrong:
1. Free markets and capitalism are direct extensions of Christian thought and a moral good.
2. There are cultural and economic dynamics at work that play a much bigger role in persistent poverty than the actions of the United States.
3. The world outside the West is experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of prosperity (though it is unevenly spread.)
Over the coming days I am going to layout a rudimentary theology of economics and the causes of prosperity. I will tap into the biblical narrative to see what scripture has to say to us. I am particularly going to emphasize the eschatological implications for economics. I am going to reflect on what capitalism is, on where captialism came from, and on its promise for the future. I will reflect on what this means in terms of how we view our everyday lives and the implications this has for how we envision being the Church. Furthermore, I will tell you the ending now. I do not believe that the decline of morality in the marketplace or morality in general, is primarily a function of Enlightenment thinking. Nor do I believe it is a function of the Western political and economic systems. The primary locus for the decline in morality is in the Church, and as it relates to economics, in the Church’s marginalization of work in the marketplace as godly service.
I hope you will join me on the journey.
The Climate Forest for the Trees is an article about research just published in Nature. Dr. Anthony Lupo writes:
The earth-atmosphere system is composed of five sub-systems, each of which exchange mass and energy with each other. These five sub-systems are the: a) atmosphere, b) oceans, c) ice - covered regions (cryosphere), d) land masses (lithosphere), and e) plant and animal life (biosphere). The complex interaction among these separate parts of the system has been problematic for climate modelers to represent adequately and is one of the reasons that these models are not considered entirely reliable for predicting future climate changes. It is the study of these kinds of physical processes where there are discoveries waiting to be made that will greatly advance our understanding of the environment, and will require the cooperative efforts of scientists with different specialties.
Finally, this new publication should also put a large dent in the argument put forth by environmentalists (and some scientists themselves) that the science surrounding global warming is already settled and that the debate needs to shift to what needs to be done to address global warming.
If You Can't Have Bread, At Least Have a Circus is an article in TCS Daily that does a superb job of showing how many of the problems in the Middle East are economic not political. The author, Peter Schaefer, basically makes the case that economic opportunity precedes democracy. I have become persuaded of this view over the years. He concludes the article with:
After former grade-B actor Josef Estrada was elected president in 1998, the international press was shocked. "Why," they all asked, "would Filipinos elect a crooked, drunken, philandering buffoon as president?" But the honest answer was, "Why not?" If you can't have bread, at least have a circus. The sad truth is that Philippine presidents can do little but entertain, so in 1998 they elected an entertainer. Elections in the Philippines are little more than a chance for poor people to sell their vote for a few bucks.
But when the law protects a person's home and his life, the political equation changes dramatically. Then, those who make and administer the law directly affect the lives of the poorest voters. Elections will actually matter to the people. Only at that point will they tend to select leaders rather than entertainers. Economic opportunity fertilizes the growth of a civil society, which is the only real support for an electoral democracy. Votes alone are bricks along the Yellow Brick Road. Behind the curtain of electoral democracy, we'll find no wizards, only men.
A Consensus About Consensus is an article in TCS Daily about the alleged consensus on global warming. The author is George H. Taylor who is the State Climatologist for Oregon and past President of the American Association of State Climatologists. Taylor shows how studies of the literature do not bear out an overwhelming consensus. He writes:
But even if there actually were a consensus on this issue, it may very well be wrong. I often think about the lives of three scientists who found themselves by themselves, on the "wrong side of consensus." There have been many in the history of science, but I singled out Alfred Wegener (Continental Drift), Gilbert Walker (El Niño), and J. Harlan Bretz (Missoula Floods). None is well-known now among members of the public, and all of them were ridiculed, rejected, and marginalized by the "consensus" scientists -- and each of the three was later proven to be correct, and the consensus wrong. As a well-known writer once said, "if it's consensus, it isn't science -- and if it's science, it isn't consensus."
When I hear the rather strident words of people like Tolan and Harte ["consensus" claimers] I am reminded of Wegener, Walker, and Bretz and what they went through. Many of my fellow climate scientists have been criticized for many years for their "non-consensus" views. They persist in seeking truth, regardless of government policies or popular opinion. No matter how many people agree.
Dave Ayers linked Stop Worrying About the Trade Deficit at his blog recently. Like him, I think it is a good explanation of what the trade deficit is and why it is largely a red herring. The trade deficit is not debt and should not be thought of as such. The article closes with,
Of course, part or all of the trade deficit can become debt. This happens whenever Americans borrow dollars from foreigners. As it happens, the most prodigious borrower today is Uncle Sam. But despite self-righteous accusations leveled at foreigners by the likes of Senators Schumer and Graham, the fact remains that U.S. government indebtedness is not caused by foreigners buying Uncle Sam's bonds, but by Congress spending beyond its means. If government debt is a problem, then Congress should stop borrowing. Complaints about the trade deficit are a red herring.
We Americans have many real problems confronting us. The trade deficit isn't one of them.
The Future or Fad? A Look at the Emerging Church Movement is an article by Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson professor in religious studies at North Park University in Chicago. The article is in an Evangelical Covenant Church denominational publication called The Covenant Companion. (Go to the February, 2006, edition click on the link for a pdf of the article.) I think it is an exceptional article. For more about McKnight check out his Jesus Creed blog. Here are a few quotes:
Not since the charismatic movement of the 1960s or the Vineyard movement of the 1980s has any movement in the church attracted as much attention, resentment, or confusion - and at the same time, seen such a positive reception - as the EM has during the first decade of this new millennium.
Some would describe the EM outside the U. S. as a highly effective grassroots attempt to reach others with the gospel through local efforts, Bible studies, house churches, and social services. Any description that does not acknowledge the worldwide scope of this movement will fail to see that it is far more than an American sideshow among disaffected evangeclicals.
D. A. Caron's recent book, Becoming Conversant with Emerging Church, misses the target because Carson criticizes the whole movement by focusing on one leader (Brian McLaren), one issue (postmodern epistemology - the theory of how one knows truth), and one problem (the postmodern denial of truth). The EM is more than McLaren, often not at all concerned with epistemology, and rarely (if ever) does it deny truth.
Like any new movement, the EM - like the seeker church and the charismatic movement before it - has been seen as either the next big thing or as a threat to traditional Christianity. Neither of the these assessments rings true.
The EM is a post-evangelical group of young Christians who are doing what they can to get the church back in line with the kingdom vision of Jesus. My suggestion is that we listen and learn what the Spirit is saying to the church.
The reason I make this suggestion is that I cannot think of any denomination in the world more in tune with the heart of the EM: a missional gospel that seeks to live out the gospel in such a way that evangelism is what the church "is" as much as what the church "says." That, I think, is a Covenant as it gets. ["Covenant" is shorthand for the Evangelical Covenant Church.]
One of my favorite blogs is Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight, a professor at North Park University in Chicago. I find it helps me bridge a great cavernous divide within our culture. No, I am not referring to the fact that he is at an Evangelical Covenant University and I am Presbyterian. It has more to do with the fact that he is a Cubs fan and I have been following the Cardinals since I was seven years old.
One of the things I particularly like about McKnight's site is the book studies he does. He will go through a book, writing a brief blog entry on each chapter. The discussion goes on from there. I have enjoyed the two or three I have participated in and I am getting started in his new discussion about N. T. Wright’s book on Paul.
This has inspired me to try a book discussion here. Last year Baker Books published a collection of essays on public policy edited by Diane Knippers and Ronald J. Sider titled, Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political Strategies for the Health of the Nation. I would propose doing two posts a week, say on Tuesday and Friday, completing the book over an eight week period. I am not particularly interested in a one way information dump from me. I would really like to have some conversation. Is anyone reading this blog interested in reading these sixteen essays with me? I would like to know that there are at least three or four others who would like to have such a conversation. We could start as early as next week. Please let me know if you are interested.
Posted at 10:14 AM in Toward an Evangelcial Public Policy (Book Discussion) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)