Friday, October 31, 2008

Fat Cats

Exxon Mobil set a quarterly profit record for a U.S. company Thursday. A cool $14.83 billion. The Fat Cats get fatter.

In the 2008 tax year, households in the bottom 20 percent will receive $26 due to the Bush tax cuts. Households in the middle 20 percent will receive $784. Households in the top 1 percent will receive $50,495. And households in the top 0.1 percent will receive $266,151. The Fat Cats get fatter.

I mean seriously, "There's no way like the American Way" right?:

But what is great though, is our freedom as the American people to make our own decisions and to not be coerced into voting one way or the other. Like I've said in previous posts, this presidential election will not by any means solve our nation's biggest problems. But it could be a step in the right direction.

Barack Obama and John McCain nor any other human will ever be our true savior. For me however, a step in the right direction means a vote for Barack Obama.. and I'll love you same whether you agree or disagree. But ultimately you can vote however you like:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Need for Change

“The richest 1 percent of the world’s population owns almost 40% of total wealth, and the richest 5% owns 70% of the wealth. Take the assets of the world’s three richest individuals and you have the wealth that exceeds the combined gross domestic product of the world’s 48 poorest countries.”

According to the United Nations Development Program, “In today’s world, deepening impoverishment and increasing enrichment appear to go hand in hand. In 1969 the incomes of the wealthiest 20% of the world population were 30 times higher than those of the poorest 20% of the earth’s people. By 1990 that gap had doubled: the incomes of the wealthiest 20% were 60 times higher than those of the poorest 20%. The difference factor is now 83.”

I don’t think it’s an unfair statement to say that the systems, laws, and practices that are in place reward/favor the few and oppress/exploit the many. I’ll be bold enough to say that there is no way in which you could argue otherwise. That is unless we are still being held captive by this imperialistic, individualistic, and capitalistic theology. Because for those of us that are, or have been, we will tend to shy away from the questions and issues that challenge our status quo.

Somewhere along the way we’ve adopted this notion that following Jesus and being a Christian is affiliated with the “American Dream” or protecting the American way of life, with no regards to the cost or the consequences. That American prosperity is linked to the blessings and favor of God. That capitalism and God go hand in hand.

We’ve created a monster so to speak. Brian McLaren calls it a ‘suicidal system’. Capitalism has become God-like. This newfound theology has been further defined as ‘theocapitalism’. I’m not at all advocating for socialism, that would just be taking things to the extreme opposite and be just as harmful (maybe even more). The problem however, is at the roots.. deeply entrenched underneath all of the weeds and thorns that have sprung up from this broken and skewed system. McLaren articulates this current phenomenon well:

“....the problem isn’t corporations themselves: the problem is the spiritual ideology of theocapitalism that drives many corporations to live for a single bottom line: profit for shareholders, without concern for three other essential bottom lines: the common ecological good, the common social good, and the ultimate good under the gaze of our Creator. Sadly theocapitalism is running the show, driving the prosperity system to pursue progress through rapid growth, serenity through possession and consumption, salvation through competition, and freedom to prosper through unaccountable corporations.”

Without some kind of systemic change, this cycle of oppression and exploitation will continue. The cycle of poverty will continue and the gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen and deepen.

Our savior is not Barack Obama, nor is it John McCain. I don’t want to over-spiritualize this but we really need to put Jesus back in his rightful place as our savior, and to steal the words of Shane Claiborne, our president.
"It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes." -Psalm 118:8-9
Are we ignoring the whole Gospel and message of Jesus, and instead picking out the parts that sound good and protect our way of life? Are we being influenced by a system that works in our favor? All good questions that warrant thought, discussion, and reflection.

I feel like once Christians catch on and let go of what they’re being held captive by, THAT is when real change will happen and the church can function how it's intended to function. So until then my endorsement for president is Jesus. As far as who is getting my vote this coming tuesday.. I've made up my mind, and it all has to do with CHANGE. Tuesday will be one step in the right direction.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Red Pill

During Friday night's plenary address at the CCDA conference, Dr. Arloa Sutter posed a great question:

How are we with people that don't get it?

She was referring to the people that don't get that the Gospel has an equal element of social action and justice as it does with the personal redemptive aspect. People that don't get that Christ's death and resurrection reconciled us to God and reconciled us to each other. People that don't fully embrace the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5) that we have been entrusted with.

I know for me, I have a hard time articulating with both truth and love, that Christians (some of them close friends) have huge gaps in their faith practice. That their theology has gaping holes. I'm beginning to think that the religion of Christianity that is being practiced by most is not what Jesus intended.

What did Jesus intend then?

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." -James 1:27

In very simple words, care for the poor and care for yourself.

Again there is an equal emphasis on the personal as well as the social aspect of Christianity. They are inexorably linked. How often is it however, that we focus so much on keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world that we enter into a state of isolation from the world? It's obvious we're not to be OF of the world, but it's just as obvious that we are in fact IN the world.

That's why it's so interesting that when you continue to read in James 2, he speaks/warns of this very thing. Immediately after making this connection (again) he commands us to not show favoritism towards the rich while neglecting the poor, and follows that by making a convincing case about the importance of our faith and how it plays out in our deeds. (Read James 2)

He closes by making this simple yet resounding conclusion:
" without deeds is dead." -James 2:26
So this begs another question, If our faith in Jesus doesn't compel us to action (with a special emphasis on the poor) what good is it?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Lasting Picture

When I see glimpses of God’s kingdom I get chills. Seeing the mentors at Neighbor to Neighbor interact with their kids is something to see. Looking across the room at the mentors of all ages and all backgrounds helping each kid with their schoolwork in a way that is loving and nurturing, to me, is a glimpse of the kingdom. There are kinks and sometimes things don’t go accordingly, but if we truly believe in the reconciling power of Jesus and the Gospel then these types of occurrences can happen and should happen.

As followers of Jesus we are to live as if the kingdom of God is and can be a present reality. The words: ‘Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..’ should take on a new meaning. No longer is it the pre-game/post-game football game prayer, but it’s a prayer and an invitation for each of us to live with a kingdom focus and to view our world through a kingdom lens.

‘On earth as it is in heaven.’

The presence of God is everywhere; we’re just trained to look past it. We are trained that what we have (Jesus) is what they don’t have. The call to ‘love others with the love of Christ’ gets skewed and becomes a selfish quest to ‘convert and save’. But the invitation Jesus gives us is not a bomb-shelter where the ‘saved’ go and wait, but he invites us to live with a kingdom focus.

‘On earth as it is in heaven.’

What if we took Jesus serious when he talked about being present in the ‘least of these’? What if Jesus is calling us to live radically different then what we've been taught by others? What if Jesus is making a point that the kingdom he’s inviting us into has a level of reciprocity?

Seeing the mentors interact with their kids, I imagine that the teaching and subsequent learning not only occurs from the mentor to the mentee but also from the mentee to the mentor. Both benefit and grow from their relationships with each other, and whether they realize it or not, they need each other. They are not complete without one another. That seems to be the way the kingdom works..

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 5:3