Thursday, August 27, 2009

Loving the Poor

According to the U.S. Census Bureau one in eight people are deemed to be in poverty, which is about 35 million people. Despite that 46% of these people own their own home, 76% have air conditioning and most own their own car, have television, cell phones, and typically have food and water, let’s accept the impoverished in America as being one in eight people.

That’s a rather large problem. I think the amount of people on welfare is much smaller than these figures, but I haven’t been able to ascertain the accurate data on that yet. The question that is often debated is how can the poor be helped and whose responsibility is it to give them aid.

Some think it is the government’s job to provide that aid and are comfortable with a form of socialistic welfare to the poor. Others think it is a job of faith based organizations to provide this care to the people in their community. The former often creates an unhealthy dependency on the government tantamount to an entitlement mentality of those who receive these benefits. The latter perspective can create the same sort of dependency and entitlement just directed towards faith based institutions instead of the government.

There is a question of whether such dependency is truly giving aid to these people. Of course, it meets their basic needs are met to some degree, but what does it rob them of at the same time? It causes generational dependency on someone else for ones needs to be met. It doesn’t promote freedom from poverty, but dependency to a system of receiving aid from an institution.

Think about it this way. Parents raise their children with the intended result of them being self-sufficient. They are teaching them along the way to learn how to support themselves financially, to be wise with their money. If a parent has not done this they have children who continually return to the nest for shelter, food, and help to pay off their debt, etc.

When people depend on an institution for their aid, it’s like children who never grow up to become self-sufficient generation after generation. I don’t blame the people in this situation; the institutions have a great deal of the responsibility for causing this situation.

People have a diversity of needs that an institution simply cannot meet. My husband and I saw a woman struggling to get her motorized wheel chair fastened onto the back of her car. My husband went to aid her in this task. It was quiet an ordeal. It was so very hot outside, we felt terrible that she has to do that on a regular basis. She said she really needed the motorized scooter, but Medicare said no and gave her a chair that is much more difficult to manage. A person who cares about her could easily see that the scooter would have been a better option for her.

What if caring for those in need was something that Americas did because they loved people? If those who need are one in eight, then that’s seven people per each person in need that can help those people one on one. Picking up extra groceries for a neighbor, helping the disabled do yard work and with house repairs, babysitting a single mother’s children so that they can go to work, etc. How much more love is shown to a person when an individual gives a helping hand, then when an institution mails out a monthly check?

This past week I heard a story a man told about a friend of his who was once a teenager in a group home thinking that life had nothing to offer for he had only experienced hardship. Being cared for by the system wasn’t something he saw as good will, but something that was the result of not being treated well. One day a man visited the group home and gave each teenage boy two hundred dollars. His reason was that God told him to. That teenage boy suddenly realized there was some good in the world and someone cared about him. Today he is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. One act of kindness changed his life in a way an institutionalized form of care never could.

What if American’s loved their neighbor and got involved helping the poor directly. Of course, many American’s give to charity and volunteer for charities. But how about, one on one looking out for the needs of the poor you come in contact with. If only 2 in 8 did this for the 1 in 8 that would be two people helping to every one in need. Would social security, medicare, disability, and other forms of welfare even be needed anymore?

What would this do for people? Maybe people would be enabled to find their liberty to not be dependent, but experience being loved by those who really do care about them. Maybe their children will grow up to be upstanding citizens in their community and pass on the help to others in need because someone was there to show them they cared. Let us not put off loving our neighbors onto a government institution or even unto a charitable institution faith based or otherwise. Let us give of our own time, money, and love and help those who need helping respecting their individuality and retaining their dignity.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Grassroots Reformation

This past week my husband and I attended a series of meetings regarding the foundation of a new organization. I knew that this new organization would be something of a Christian grass roots movement formed to be more involved in the social issues of our day. I knew that this organization was intent upon not being the next Religious Right which was often known by what it stood against and not by giving solutions to aid the nation. This new movement is to be different in that it seeks to be solution oriented and helpful rather than condemning complainers. These people forming this new movement would be ones who would roll up their sleeves and get involved in helping make this nation be a better place. These people would be ones who would not align with one political party, but serve all irrespective of political affiliation.

However, what I discovered in listening to the plethora of speakers from various walks of life and ministries from across America who converged together to address the national situation of our times, were a people with a grander vision than I had foreseen.

What I heard was the coalescence of something that has been sweeping through the Church already; a new Reformation. What I heard was more about the hearts of Christians showing the love and character of Christ to the world. I heard a call for integrity in the Body of Christ like never before. I heard a call to the Church to be more Christ like. What I did not hear was any lamenting on how messed up this world is and how they need to get their act together. What I did hear was how much the Church needs to lead by loving and kind example and help our neighborhoods, communities, states, and nation by aiding them in the matters that are dear to their hearts.

Much was discussed about getting involved in taking care of creation. Also, taking care of the needs of the poor with dignity and respect was high on the agenda. The importance of freedom was also discussed.

Many get fearful that Christians want a theocracy and want to impose religious rule upon people like Constantine procured. However, this is very far from most Christians’ idea of government. We pretty much want the government that was established by the Founders; a nation free from religious persecution and free from an overbearing government. Our ideals are pretty close to that of John Locke or George Washington, not exactly for there is diversity of perspectives, but it’s pretty close I would think. Sure there are some Christians who do in fact what a theocracy of sorts, but I think you’d find them very much in the minority though maybe outspoken at times making it seem like they represent more people than they do.

I would say there are a large number of Christians do not even give much thought to forming opinions regarding government, much less educated opinions. I do not say this to speak ill of them, but only to give some information of the diversity of perspectives.

Once again, the meetings I intended were far more about Reformation of the Church then they were about anything else. The reason I and others want to be involved in social matters and political matters is because we love the world and not because we want to make it more palatable for our own comfort, but so that we can help all people have a higher quality of life and liberty.

There is much more I want to write on this subject as there are many matters in the forefront of most Americans’ minds concerning the direction of this nation. Thus, I will be straying from my normal subject matter to address some of the key issues of our day in the days and weeks hereafter.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Limitations of Governmental Power

John Locke’s “The Second Treatise of Government” is well established to contain the foundational philosophical principals underlining the creation of the American Republic. The passages below are excerpts from this great work written in 1690. Below the passages are my paraphrases of the principals he teaches in this book.

“It cannot be supposed that they should intend, had they a power to do so, to give anyone or more an absolute arbitrary power over their persons and estates, and put a force into the magistrate’s hand to execute his unlimited will arbitrarily upon them; this were to put themselves into a worse condition than the state of Nature, wherein they had a liberty to defend their right against the injuries of others, and were upon equal terms of force to maintain it, whether invaded by a single man or many in combination. Whereas by supposing they have given up themselves to the absolute arbitrary power and will of a legislator, they have disarmed themselves, and armed him [government power] to make a prey of them when he pleases;” John Locke 1690

“For I have truly no property in that which another can by right take from me when he pleases against my consent. Hence it is a mistake to think that the supreme or legislative power of any commonwealth can do what it will, and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily, or take any part of them at pleasure.” John Locke 1690

Each person owns that which in which they rightfully labor to acquire.

That becomes their property.

People institute government to protect their freedom to their life, liberty, and property.

That government instituted by the common agreement of the people to represent such interests does not have the authority to do what no one can give them the authority to do.

I have no rights to the property or life or liberty of another.

I cannot give up rights I do not have to a government who only gains its authority by the consent of the governed.

Thus it is outside of the bounds of my rights to give to the government the authority to take property from others and do with it what they choose even if they deem it necessary for the good of others no matter how well endowed those people are. Therefore the government can never have such a power without usurping the rights of the people they are entrusted to protect.

Such a government that oversteps its bounds in this manner ought not be trusted.

Monday, August 17, 2009

John Locke on Freedom & Law

In 1690 John Locke wrote the Second Treatise of Government in which he philosophizes about the nature of freedom and the necessity of law. What follows is a summary of part of what I have read thus far.

He proposes that the, “law, in it’s true notion is not so much the limitation as the direction of a free and intelligent agent to his proper interest, and prescribes no farther than is for the general good of those under that law.” He elaborates further to say, “the end of the law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”

Locke argues that true freedom is not that which allows everyman do to whatever he wants to do by whatever means he wants to do it, but rather it is that freedom to not be restrained by the limitations of things that would harm or usurp our free use of our own will.

For instance, a person who needs another to govern them so that they abide by the law that enables them to be free is not truly free to their own proper use of their volition. However, the person who is able to self-govern themselves within the bounds of freedom is truly free to follow his will in a manner that will not harm him or anyone else.

The law then, in its proper use, whether we are speaking of the laws of Nature common to all men, or to the particular laws of a society are to be in place not to bind man, but to free man.

The people of a society have the right of their own freedom to self-govern themselves in a manner that enables their freedom and the freedom of their neighbor. However, it is self-evident that people are not perfect at self-governing, nor are they always desirous to self-govern themselves and thus the society agrees to put into place a structure of governmental authority with a balance of power to enforce the agreed upon law of the land. This is done not to usurp the freedom of the people, but to protect this freedom as a valued asset to the nation.

When people violate the laws of nature or of the society they become enemies of that society and the law is met out to protect those who are governing themselves and the freedom of the violator is temporarily or permanently taken and replaced by external governing.

It is fascinating to read the foundational philosophy behind the formation of the American government and be reminded of the reasons things are set up the way they are in our nation. A remembrance of our roots can help the modern generation value the principals the Founders believed were indispensable to the health of this nation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is Freedom Free?

The best things in life usually cost the most. The highest costs are typically non-monetary for no one can put a value on the greatest treasures of life. One of those inestimable treasures of mankind is our freedom. History depicts the reality of the costs of freedom and we must not take for granted the reality that freedom is not free.

There is a saying in economic circles that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” The idea is that even if you are partaking of a free lunch, someone, somewhere, paid for it. Either your friend or co-worker paid for it, or the restaurant paid for it, or someone else somewhere down the line.

(Click Here to Read More of My Article at

Monday, August 10, 2009

Freedom of Unity in Diversity

There are a diversity of doctrinal views and thoughts about the nature of God that Christians have throughout the Church. The Catholic Church was pretty much the existing Church presence in the world prior to the Protestant Reformation. During this time there was consistency of Biblical interpretation because the interpretation was that which was set forth by the papal authority. Only those in leadership read the Bible, the rest of the people were told by them what it said and how it was to be interpreted. That’s just the way things were done in those days until a new idea came along that seemed good to put into practice.

With the onset of the Reformation throughout the Western world a new perspective emerged that people can and should read the Bible for themselves. The Gospel was written to all people and should be accessible by all. This unveiling of the Bible opened the door for it to be published in the common vernacular and studied by anyone and everyone irrespective of religious training by papal authority. However, this idea created the question of who has the authority then to claim to have an accurate interpretation. If the Church leadership doesn’t decide that for everyone else and everyone has individual responsibility to understand the Bible themselves what then shall be considered a correct reading of Scripture?

Due to this new freedom divisions began to take place between groups who interpreted Scripture differently. Even though there was a shared core value of what C.S. Lewis called “mere Christianity” between the groups (Catholic and Protestant) they still aligned based on their differences instead of their similarities. This gives the erroneous appearance that the differences are so contrary that no one really can nail down anything true and consistent. When in reality there is more agreement than disagreement. When people align based on what they are against or based on one difference that difference becomes larger than life and seems insurmountable. People looking from the outside in often only see the diversity devoid of unity and think these people claim to have truth and yet all they have is disagreements between themselves. How can people see that there is truth here when we do not even seem to be able to articulate it in unity?

The Church is rapidly changing in form to move away from the disconnectedness of doctrinal disagreement to the continuity of value agreement. Vast numbers of Christians are now seeing that it is okay not to have neat codified interpretations on all matters of doctrine about God. We know in part and we cannot know that our view of a particularity is concretely true, it is mostly likely partly true, but there is most likely much more to it than our view of it. It is quiet likely that the Christians down the street have a different take on that particularity and bring a much needed addition to the perspective of the other group. The Church in the world is now seeing value in the variety of perspectives and not using these differences to create schisms, but uniting based on shared experiences and values in the Lord. This is creating a fluid Church with great freedom to not need to know it all and just take each day at a time in learning about the Lord and not turning current knowledge into rigid absolutes that cannot be altered by new revelation.

When I am asked by what authority I choose one way of looking at a particular topic versus the other ideas that are out there, I can only say that I know in part and I welcome the other parts and I will add to my perspective what I learn along the way and I could be adding wrong things sometimes. When an error becomes obvious to me, I let it go and replace it and move on. Then something else may change in my thinking and I’ll meet that when that comes. I only know in a small part and I try not to hold on to that so tightly that it can’t change with new understanding.

The Church as a whole is rapidly moving into a more experienced based identity than a doctrinal identity. While theology has its merits – one can know the Bible inside and out and have not experienced the truth of it. What good is such knowledge if it isn’t able to be experienced as true? If you can’t know God like you can know your good friend, what good is intellectual knowledge about Him? If He isn’t invading life with His reality and making real His identity then the Church has nothing to say to the world and only offers an empty shell of a religion.

Sociologist Harvey Cox published the well known book The Secular City in 1965 arguing that religion was fading away to be replaced with secularism that is here to stay. Then twenty years later, he wrote Religion in the Secular City arguing that “religion is and would continue to be a significant force in society.” Then in 1995 he published Fire from Heaven proclaiming that the Pentecostal form of Christianity has swept the world and would far surpass the cultural rise of secularism to pervade modern culture. Pentecostalism is any form of Christianity that is experiential believing that God is showing up in the lives of people today with miracles of healing, signs and wonders, tongues, prophesy, etc. Billions of Christians attest to these experiences and are counted amongst Pentecostals. This term is no longer being associated with a particular denomination, but a larger inter-denominational and post-denominational movement that has been sweeping through the Church since 1906. In recent times it has been gaining momentum to the extent that some hail it a New Reformation, even though church historians see it as an extension of the existing Reformation rather than a separate movement.

The point is that the Church is changing from absolutist doctrinal mentality of modernism to a fluid freedom that allows for ambiguity and flexibility on doctrines and embraces each person experiencing God for themselves directly rather than solely indirectly through learning information about Him. The church down the street might have different doctrinal ideas, but we are all experiencing the same Jesus and on this we agree and have life and community regardless of different ideas.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Christianity & Culture

Historically Christians have taken five views of how our Christianity should be lived in society at large.

One view is that our life with Christ ought to be completely separated from those who do not share our faith and thus Christians shouldn’t mingle with non-Christians at all. Such a view point was lived out in monastic life and also in communities like the Amish who live separate from the rest of society.

The second view that the Church has had is to assimilate into culture allowing the culture to set the standards and the church to adapt to whatever those standards may be. This view is usually associated with those who are often identified as liberal Protestants.

A third view is that is that Christ ought to reign above culture in such a away that often lends to the ideology of institutionalizing Christianity into society as was done by Constantine. The Reformation challenged this idea and yet some still maintain this way of thinking.

The fourth view is found in the writings of Martin Luther in that Christ and Culture are in paradox and the two worldviews are always at odds and one only has authority over certain aspects of culture and the other has authority over others but the tension always remains between the two. The Christian, Luther argues, is to live out Christian morality in private by self-governance through love, but the secular world will still need enforceable laws to keep it in order.

The last view on this topic is that Christ transforms culture. This view dates back to the writings of Augustine, but is mostly found in Protestantism as espoused by John Wesley, John Calvin, and Karl Barth, as well as the Great Awakening ministers. In the twentieth century this view was championed by a missionary named Lesslie Newbigin. This approach follows the idea that God’s truth works for all people and shouldn’t be kept to the Church, but given to society to help transform society very much unlike an institutionalized Constantine way of looking at it. It is the view that God has principals that can help any society work better to maintain freedom, peace, justice, and happiness.

These principals when put into effect can create a healthier culture. But this view does not impose these principals, but works to teach them and show their validity by example. This is not a view that seeks to merge church in state, but a view that seeks to give contribution from the church to the culture in which it serves.

This last view has not been practiced much in Christianity, but is now gaining momentum in the modern Church. This last view is one I agree with in that Christians have something to offer the world and that something cannot be forced or institutionalized, but it can be freely given to those who are interested to try it out. If we really do know God and really do hear from Him then we shouldn’t keep that locked up inside our private sector, but offer it to those seeking to make the society we all live in better. However, within this view is the idea that if someone is offering a solution to society that works really well that the church should champion that person’s solution even if that person isn’t a Christian. People can tap into God’s order and God’s principals even if they are not Christian and Christians should recognize and get behind anyone who is working to make our society healthier.

(Source for Historical Data: Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution by Alister McGrath : Oxford Professor, theologian, historian, and biochemist)