The American Church & Political Idiocy

While much hay has been made in the days leading up to and since the epic “government shutdown,” what seems to have been lost in it all is any discussion of the ill effects of the shutdown upon the average federal worker, not to mention its effects upon the poor and vulnerable. Even amidst all the political grandstanding and photo-ops, Congress has seen fit to make sure they still get paid. But how ought communities of faith address issues of political idiocy such as this? How might churches and other faith communities become part of the solution rather than part of the problem? In a piece on Huffington Post entitled “Shutdown Turns Americans Into Captives in Need of Delivery,” Rev. Chuck Currie makes the case for the political powers to stop playing games with the needy of our land and get back to the work of leading. But even as we might bemoan the intransigence and incompetency of Washington and how it has led to hungry families further impoverished by their own government, we might want to ask a bigger question about what ought to be the appropriate response to caring for the least of these. Is it larger government programs with more funding? Is it less taxes so individuals and churches can pick up the slack in the...

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The American Dream & the Myth of Retirement

As a clergyperson, I harbor no real expectations of retiring in the traditional sense–i.e., working until the age of 65 (or 67 depending upon the generational cohort to which you belong) and then “retiring” (quitting) from work for the rest of my life.  While this will not dissuade me from planning and saving for later in life, the idea I have for my latter years is less “no work” and more “different work.” The reality many of the current retirees face–including those who had well paying jobs, planned for the future, and did what they were “supposed to do”–is not one of their own making.  Many discover very quickly that even what they have isn’t enough and are forced to work even later than they ever expected, as detailed in this Washington Post piece entitled “Retirement Today.” As I read through the article, I began to wonder what this says about our current society–in particular, how we’ve moved away from families supporting each other during our waning years towards a model whereby each one is solely responsible for themselves.  In many respects, this is the direct result of our capitalist system and an outgrowth of the de-centering of the family as the predominant social unit. Given this reality, how might we envision a new idea of retirement, one not...

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Self-Interest: The Economic Drive?

Has bartering every really existed as a true economic system outside the debit-credit sort of system?  If so, what did it look like?  These are important questions to ask given the rise in popularity of ‘bartering’ as a new means of economic transaction (even a magazine like Real Simple has tips on how to barter). The anthropologist David Graeber released a book last year related to debt and its five thousand years of history, and the folks over at Two Friars and a Fool have been working their way through the book.  In the most recent post, the issue of bartering and its relationship to global economics throughout history was addressed.  The author details how bartering was created not as a means of economic transaction, at least not on a large scale, but rather as a “thought experiment by economists trying to explain their discipline.”  In addition, the author notes how bartering throughout history has traditionally been undertaken as a self-interested act, where each side, in an effort to procure what they needed to serve, was looking out solely for themselves. I’m thinking about this in relationship to the rise of the “sharing economy,” as well, and its insistence upon peer-to-peer engagement.  Many folks, including myself, have been lured by the possibility to be help in such things like...

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Capitalism with a Conscience

In a recent speech, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that “the traditional Christian virtues are essential.”  He went on to detail how capitalism, versus, say, socialism, relies heavily upon Christian faith to undergird its inherent freedom in the market–i.e., in order to balance the freedom given in “free market capitalism,” one must trust that those involved are restrained by something outside themselves, something like faith. As one reads through Scalia’s comments, it’s hard to imagine that Scalia is viewing the same “free market” that our country has faced in recent years.  Rather than Christian virtues, it would seem our economic system is run and controlled by greed, incredulity, and immorality.  Do you think capitalism as it is currently embodied in the United States can be restrained by individualized Christian virtues?  Have we gone so far down the rabbit hole that it would be hard to turn around? If we were to truly practice a “capitalism with a conscience,” what would that look like?...

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Pope Francis & the Poor

While I’ve found much to appreciate in the actions of Pope Francis since his installation, I’m even more encouraged by a new proposed meeting between Francis and Gustavo Gutierrez, one of the preeminent liberation theologians of the last half century.  Liberation theology is a movement that grew within Catholicism: …as a Catholic response to the Marxist movements that fought Latin America’s military dictatorships in the 1960s and ’70s. It criticized the church’s close relations, including often overt support, with the regimes. (via Religion News Service) What’s amazing about this meeting is how quickly the “prosperity gospel” has taken hold in various sections of Latin America and other South American locales. Pope Francis has challenged the Catholic Church to return to its concern and care of the poor and has made good on that call by initiating this meeting....

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