Category Archives: politics

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a House

Y’know when you watch a movie and then you watch it again later and it takes on a new meaning?  I re-watched Fun with Dick and Jane:

An update of the 1977 comedy, Dick and Jane are living the good life. That is until Dick (Jim Carrey) loses his job shortly after getting a promotion that convinced his wife Jane (Téa Leoni) to quit her job. The money is gone, and the house ends up in foreclosure. Dick decides to turn to a hilarious life of crime to pay the bills with his lovely wife by his side. Then together they decide it’s time to steal back what Former CEO Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin) had stolen from them.

The first thing to go is their lawn-the sod gets repossessed.  The electricity gets shut off.  They bathe in the neighbor’s sprinkler system.  They downgrade to a POS compact car.  It was a really funny movie a couple of years ago.  Now it is an uncomfortably funny movie.  You don’t have to look too far to see the effects of the current financial crisis.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the financial crisis for a few months now.  Things are getting pretty rough.  I am in the telecom industry and work for a company that can fall apart at any moment.  And I am not alone.  I have many friends and former co-workers that are jobless.  A couple of my friends just got laid off.  A few years ago there were still jobs to be found…now it is somewhat different.

Most people, even though they live paycheck to paycheck, could survive for a few months.  But then they get hungry.  And cold.  Or hot.  And frustrated.  And depressed.  And finally desperate.  Desperate people do desperate things.

Think about it.  I mean really think about it.  What if…What if you lost your job.  Spouse loses theirs.  Interview after interview, resume after resume.  Can’t find a job.  Or worse yet the ONLY job you can find a $10.00-13.00/hr job.  Any job means no unemployment checks.  Or unemployment runs out.  No insurance.  $10.00 per hour times 40 hours a week times 2 (mom & dad) equals…about $40,000 a year.  That’s about 75% to 50% of what most of my friends at Embarq make in a year (with both working).  Could your family make it if you lost 25-50% of your income?  Even those jobs will fade when folks can’t afford to eat out or remodel or whatever.

One of my favorite radio programs, This American Life, on NPR, had an incredible episode a couple of months ago entitled, Bad Bank.  They talked about a hypothetical bank-the smallest in the world, it has the owner’s $10 and a guy’s $90-he earns 3% for storing his money.  Then the bank turns around and loans $100 to a gal at 6% for a doll house.  This is called a balance sheet.  $100 in the bank, $100 being loaned out.  The bank profits 3% interest right?  Except gal loses her job and can’t afford her doll house payments anymore.  Now the bank doesn’t have the guy’s $90 to give back.  The program stated that the top 3 banks in the US have a unbalanced balance sheet-if there was a run on those banks today they would fail.  The banks want the government to know this, but not the average person!  As a friend of mine pointed out, the FDIC insures deposits up to $100,000 right?  Correct, and who pays that?  The government, the taxpayers, you and I.  And so banks are using that argument-give us a bailout now where folks can keep their homes, or bail us out later when we crash and burn and folks are homeless.

I live on a street that is full of duplexes.  The short block has maybe 20-30 families on it.  If half of them lost their jobs to the point where they could not pay their rent/mortgage and got behind to the point where they were getting evicted…if that happened over the period of a few months they would easily get escorted off the property by the authorities-some would get deported.  And what would become of empty houses?  Where would homeless folks go?  Personally I have no family in the area.  I have no friends with extra houses in the back yard.  But what if that happened over the period of a couple of weeks?  And multiply that times the number of neighborhoods around the city.  It is a much different picture.  There would not be enough police to force folks off the properties.   There would be folks who refused to leave.  There would be desperation, theft, anger, violence.  Things could get way out of control very fast.  Evicting squatters would be at the bottom of the list and the least of anyone’s worries.

OK, here it is, here is the heart of my thoughts:  What is the role of the church in these financially stressful times?
Does the church encourage their congregation to uphold the law and keep the peace?  Will churches open their doors to people who are homeless?  Open soup kitchens and clothing pantries?  Offer transportation-carpools?  Treat people with dignity and respect?  Offer training?  Assistance?  Pull their monies together?  Help single moms?  Pay mortgages and rent?  Stock food pantries?  Pay for lights, gas, water, etc?  Or be in a similarly depressing state?  Will churches end up in foreclosures too?

One of my friends has been laid off-for a year.  He paid his bills with credit cards.   He is pretty upset that he did the responsible thing, went into debt and kept current and others are getting bailed out.  And what about those that took out loans that shouldn’t?  The ones that knew they could not afford it?  The ones that depended upon the banks to deny them the loans.  They should get bailed out?  Businesses should be rewarded for failing?  It doesn’t seem fair!  The responsible ones are getting punished.  That all sound reasonable…right up until you lose your job.  And you suddenly become one who shouldn’t have taken out a loan.  You become the irresponsible one.  You become the failure.  And you feel like you have no options.

I work with a guy at Home Depot (most likely a few guys like this), he has a wife and child.  He works full time and he still qualifies for federal assistance.  I mean he is doing things right!  And he still can’t make it!  He is still at poverty level.

Another friend points out that laws are man-made and that we should do what we need to do to take care of our families.  What does that mean?  Squatting?  Stealing?

Another points out that God won’t give us more than we can handle.  But I am afraid that this line of reasoning is “prosperity Gospel” and faulty.  The truth is that God will never let anything happen to us spiritually to cause us to fall from grace-to break our spirit.  I am afraid that money is another matter.  Food, shelter, clothing, transportation-not spiritually guaranteed!  Will my theology friends steer me straight?  Or back me up?

Another says let’s go, the rapture is coming, Big Daddy is gonna take us home.  However, history paints a different picture of suffering and poverty-Christians participate, and are not delivered from it.  The plague, the depression, wars, martyrs.  God’s people are continually delivered from their sins.  Just not from the pains of this world.

And I am sure the list can go on and on.  The economy isn’t really that bad…It is the worst ever.  Tax and spending is the answer or not the answer.  The President is too liberal.  The Republicans are vetoing everything.  But I don’t care about the President or our government or economists.  I care about the church.  What is the church gonna do?

Another one of my friends attends a church who wishes to move from a temporary setting (mobile church-they set up each week in a school or some sort of facility, then tear it all down and store it during the week) to an actual building.  The pastor is continually asking for money for this endeavor.  My friend asks if that is the responsible thing to do?  The pastor is encouraging folks not to get “distracted” by the environment around them.  My friend is a little uneasy about that.  He sees people around him having a rough time.  He doesn’t want them to become a distraction that gets ignored!  He is considering giving to a charity.

What happens when folks stop paying tithe?  Not because they don’t want to, or because they don’t have any money left after paying for food.  But what if they don’t have money.  Any money!  What if they don’t have food?  No place to live?  No gas to travel?

I know it is a depressing and bleak picture.  I hope it is all crazy talk.  On one hand I say that things will never get that bad.  On the other hand I see layoffs and low-paying jobs.

But…what if?  And what will Christ’s church do?  I hope pastors are paying attention.  I hope they are thinking about preparing for a possible crisis.  I hope Christians are thinking outside of their consumer society.  Outside of their immediate family-you might not think you have extra room…but your friends may be eying your garage or basement soon.  Heck, I might be eying your basement!

I would like to know what you think.

Here’s what I think I think:

The church has a real opportunity to be the church.  The real test will be to see Christians taking in other Christians (and non-Christians!).  Families!  Will churches open their doors to the poor?  The homeless?  The filthy?  The non-Christian?  I hope so.

Will Christians do the right thing?  I don’t know what I would do if I was facing eviction.  I don’t know where I would go or what I would do.  I have no family in the area.  I don’t know who I would feel remotely comfortable asking for a place to stay-for a family of 6.  Or a handout.  Or a ride to work.  I would really want to stay and become a squatter in my rented duplex-my landlords have a real nice house…until they need to downgrade to my place.  I hope I embrace legal and peaceful options.  I hope I remember who is my Father.  I hope I remember you, my friends and offer to help you.

Will Cristian landlords reduce rent?  Will Christian business owners take a decrease in pay?  Will Christians continue to sacrificially give?  Will Christian landlord evict families?  Well, these are difficult ones that have no easy answers.

I hope most of these questions will not have to be answered-especially by me.

-Derin-

PS:  Please send pics of your basement.

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Is the Church Failing Politically?

I posed this question to a fellow believer this weekend: If the American government is not restored religiously does this mean the Church has failed? Let me explain.

We were having a conversation about religion and politics. It was stated that America was founded on Christian principals and by Christian leaders. I agree. It was also stated that America needs to repent and to be restored to a Godly nation. I agree. So I clarified, I asked what the role of Christianity (or Christ) is in someone’s personal life? And we agreed to restore that individual to God-So that they can enter into a relationship with Christ.

What if that never happens in our American government? What if Christian leaders don’t make it into elected/appointed government leadership roles? The response I got was that then America would be worse off and stand in judgment! AGREED! At least in the spiritually. The response I got was that God would raise up Godly leaders. And once again it was re-stated that individuals need to reconcile to Christ and be saved. What if Godly leaders are not raised? Is that failure on God’s part? On the church’s? I think not. My friends thought differently.

Although I agree that individuals need to be reconciled, need to be saved, need to have the transformation that can only occur through Christ Jesus, what if that change never comes to fruition within American politics and leaderships? What if Christians constantly become the minority and pushed underground? The truth is that America is becoming secular and “turning away from God” I only put it in quotes because I am not so sure America was ever that Godly.

So I posed the question: If the American government is not restored religiously does this mean the Church has failed? Keep in mind that it is the role of the Christian to follow Christ-to help introduce individuals to Christ. It is the church’s role to change individuals! Not the government. Do I believe that Christians should not have a role in politics? NO! But I also do not believe that by not converting Congress that that somehow means failure on the part of the church.

Because take America out of the equation. What if we were Chinese or Middle Eastern or Russian? Would the calling that Christians have be any different? No. The culture would be different, the location would be different, our methods would be different-things would look different. But not the calling, not the Gospel message, not the task, not Christ.

And what happens over and over again to the church when it is given a taste of power? When Christianity was first legalized? When it gathered a military to fight against Jews and Muslims? When the Religious Right pulled the political puppet strings? Things were bad. People got hurt. People got lazy. Grace was cheapened. Religion was fashionable.

I think the day is coming when the American church will be restored to its “rightful” place: a position of humility. A position of persecution. A position of servanthood. Where Christianity is not popular, not worn like a badge of honor, not respected and where it is difficult to be a Christian. That day is already a reality for Christians in the Middle East, Russia, China, Muslim cultures, etc. And where is the church victorious? The church is growing in China and Russia. The Middle East is making martyrs out of Christians-heroes of the Christian faith. The blood of the saints is the seed of the church people! Lives are being transformed in the Middle East and in Muslim countries.

What say you?

-Durk-

11 Presidential Issues

Building on the last post (http://www.wqad.com/Global/link.asp?L=259460) I want to talk a bit about the 11 issies reflected in the 11 Questions from the survey.

Issue #1 Iraq: Question: What is your opinion on the war in Iraq? I can only assume that the 6 answers were a summary of all the candidates. I didn’t agree with any one answer, but I closest identified with: “We are going to be in Iraq for a long time, as a support force for the Iraqi government and forces.” I believe the US should should hunker down, and militarily keep peace, set up a permanent base and start to focus on rebuilding while we train their military and create a completely safe environment for the Iraqis to form their government. The killing HAS to stop-and that can only be done with an effective military/police presence (Iraqi and foreign). My preferred exit strategy: None, we set up shop just like Germany and Japan. And we support the government in the same way-let them become independent, but never out of our sight. Or we leave and watch the whole country fall apart-which is lose-lose for everyone. I selected “Very Important.”

Issue #2: Immigration: Question: What is your position on immigration in the United States? Again, I didn’t agree 100% with any one answer. And I think I choose a different answer each time. I am trying to find the Christian answer to this and not just the Republican answer. Security is the most important part of this one to me, the US needs to know who is coming here. A fence is a joke. I don’t believe in blanket amnesty, but I don’t think the answer is splitting up families and blanket deportation either. I don’t support government-funded welfare either, you can’t just come to this country and not work! I like the bill that was just presented extending amnesty to children who were dragged here by their family. I believe in stiff fines and penalties for employers. I think denying citizenship for children born here to illegals is insane and not to mention, illegal. So I guess I’ll pick ‘Tighten security first, but I also believe we should provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already here.” And pick 3rd out of most important.

Issue #3: Taxes: Question: Do you believe the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts should be made permanent? This is where my conservatism shines through. YES. Plain and simple. Importance: let’s make it a 2.

Issue #4: Stem-Cell Research: Question: Should federal funding of embryonic stem cell research be expanded? This is where my pro-life stance shines through…Nope, especially federally-funded. Now having said that there is stem cell research that does NOT include embryonic. I have no problems with that. I still have a problem with the federal government funding it. Importance? Eh, I don’t know. Is this a big deal? The short answer is that it depends. I’ll make it a 2.

Issue #5: Health Care: Question: Do you favor or oppose the concept of universal health care in America? A few months ago I would have opposed this. Today…I keep asking myself what is the compassionate thing to do? And I keep asking what is the best for those that simply can’t afford to pay for health care? And the reasonable answer is to favor universal health care. I don’t want my taxes raised because of it. Importance: Pretty high, 3.

Issue: 6: Abortion: Do you favor or oppose legalized abortion in the United States?  Of course I picked that I oppose legalized abortion.  Not much room for debate there.  However, the importance…I hope this isn’t news:  abortion is legal in the US.  And it would take some pretty huge legislation to change that.  As a Christian I believe that abortion is a modern, on-going holocaust.  However, the US is not a Christian nation!  It is secularizing at a pretty good clip.  So even though it is important to ME I don’t think abortion will significantly change in the near future-no matter what the president vbeleives.  Unless maybe if the Church steps up and becomes known for the place to have your baby in a safe environment that pays expenses and gives the child a good home.  I rated it as a 2.

Issue 7:  Social Security: Question:  Do you favor the concept of privatization of Social Security to any degree? Conservative me:  Yep.  Importance:  High, 4th (highest).  What to say.  I hope that I can take advantage of Social Security benefits when I retire.  I think I can invest money better than the US government.

Issue 8:  Line-Item Veto: Question:  Do you favor or oppose giving the president a “line-item” veto; that is, the ability to remove parts of a spending bill without needing to veto the entire bill? Yes I do and not that important, 2.  Sometimes less is more.  At least part of the bill would get passed without sneaky pork spending!

Issue #9:  Energy: Question:  Do you support federal assistance for the production of ethanol and/or biofuel as an alternative to oil? Yeah.  It is time to the US becomes more independent from foreign oil.  And I don;t think that the private market cares to step up.  So I think it is BEST for all in the US if the gov’t paid for it.  Importance:  Well, would we be in IRaq if we were like primitive South American countries that are independent from any foreign fuels?  No, Saddam would still be killing people.  So it is of the highest importance, 4.

Issue #10:  Marriage: Question:  Do you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman? Yawn.  This is an issue that detracts from other important issues.  Don’t mess with the federal Constitution, leave the issue up to states where the power belongs.  So oppose, importance, not very, I give it a 1.

Issue #11:  Death Penalty: Question:  Do you favor or oppose the use of the death penalty for certain crimes?  Let’s just say I am consistent, I don’t believe in killing unborn babies nor born grown-ups.  I know that the Bible allows for it.  I get it. Would Jesus go around killing?  No.  Another issue that tends to detract from starving people who can’t afford health care and can’t find paying jobs. Importance:  Well, more important than issue #10, 2.

Candidate:  Sam Brownback?  Yeah right.  Fred is like 10th!  But I have filled it out where he was like 3rd or 4th.  Anyway, I’m with Fred for now.  And YES, the results DID surprise me.

So here is MY criteria:  I will vote for a candidate that most alignes with the way I believe.  I won’t single out one issue.   I will also vote for a candidate that has a chance in hades to win.  A vote for a 3rd party is a vote for Clinton!  And that is simply bad news.  So let’s say it comes down to Hillary vs. Giuliani…I will vote Republican.

-Durk-

Which Presidential Candidate…

…Identifies most with issues important to you?

Check out this site to find out:

http://www.wqad.com/Global/link.asp?L=259460

The results may surprise you.

-Durk-

PS Thanks to local radio station KMBZ for this link.

Where is the Church? My 1st Rant

I have been talking to my mom about the emerging church or the Emergent Conversation that is taking place in the Christian church around the world.  Google those phrases and check these out:

I don’t fully understand it, so I am not too sure how I can explain it.  I have read criticisms and I have read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren who is really at the forefront of this conversation (they do not like to be called a movement).  I also saw McLaren speak at a conference.  I do know this: The Christian church has dropped the ball.  Now I want to say that I am not ranting and raving against my mom.  I’m just ranting to the air.  I guess it is to the church, but to no one in particular.

The church has dropped the ball…and who is picking it up?  The government with their welfare programs that keep the poor just poor enough to not want to do anything about not being poor!  Who is picking it up?  Planned Parenthood slaughterhouses that get rich by pretending to love their victims, while still manageing to offer some sort of false hope.  Where is the church?  Encouraging the discrimination of gays and promoting war (KEEP READING…).  Why isn’t the church helping low-income families?  Why isn’t the church helping single-parent families?  Why isn’t the church helping the sick and poor?  Why isn’t the church promoting peace?  Why isn’t the church doing its job?  I don’t know, but I understand that the world has turned from the church that stopped offering hope and to the world that has nothing to offer.

So let me clarify a couple of my above statements.  I think homosexuality is a sin.  Thankfully it is the church’s job to help introduce the sinner to Christ-who forgives sins and transforms lives.  I think the winds of change in Iraq were the right thing to force.  But I am not blood-thirsty.  As I write this there has been a thwarted terrorist attack in Europe, Hezbollah is attacking Israel and Israel is defending themselves and I have not forgotten 9/11.  Tyranny and terrorism should be fought against.  HOWEVER, war should not be romanticized.  War is not good!  It is necessary at times.  Those times should be decisive and short.

I think part of the problem is that the church should be separate from a capitalistic culture.  Don’t get me wrong, capitalism has its place: in the economy!  Heck, I eBay, that is capitalism at its purest.  But the church should be a socialistic community of believers (within the church and within society).  The church should be a place where the members want to make more so they can give more away to those in need!  I remember thinking in college that the early church practiced socialism and that socialism could be a good American economy.  I was very wrong.  Bresee had it right or maybe it was Wesley, “Make all you can, save all you can and give all you can!”

It’s the church, THE CHURCH that should take care of people.  The church should love people.  The church should give away time and money and love.  The church needs do invest in people and not expect a financial return.

Where is the church when it comes to illegal immigration?  Should the church be on border patrol with guns?  Should the church be harboring fugitives and helping people break the law?  Is their another way?  Why isn’t the church offering to help immigrants come to The Land of Opportunity LEGALLY?  Because it involves, spending money and giving up time!  That kind of compassion used to be called sacrifice.  Christians are not so good at that anymore; they leave that up to Christ, they nail Christ back on the cross and tell Him to stay there.

I am not a supporter of separation of church and state, I think it is unconstitutional.  But it is happening everyday.  So Christians can choose to fight it or they choose to accept it.  I guess I do both.  I vote with my heart, but I also do not believe in legislating morality.  We no longer live in a Christian nation (if we ever really did), so once again Christians find themselves as the outsiders or the foreigners within their culture.  I think it is important to make that distinction.  The world does not understand Christianity!  It isn’t their job to pass Christian legislation or to believe the way we do!  The world does not follow Christ.  It is the job of the sinner to sin!  That is what they know!  That is what they understand.  But yet we Christians still operate like we are still in power.  But we aren’t.  And that’s OK; it is the way it has always been!  That is when Christianity does its best-when it is under fire!  It was Tertullian who said, “In the blood of the martyrs lies the seed of the Church!  ” I’m not saying that we should sit back and watch while Christianity gets outlawed, but I don’t think that it is always the church’s job to legislate morality.

I think homosexual marriage can put an end to the sacred institution of marriage and I also think that banning homosexual marriages alienates homosexuals from the church.  On one hand you have the world doing what the world does, sin!  On the other hand you have the church hurting a group of people.  It is a way for the church to discriminate against a community of lost people.  Christians don’t fight to outlaw couples who live together or protest against couples who get divorced for non-biblical reasons.  We don’t rally to outlaw affairs.  I mean what is the church doing about Rev.  Phelps and his band of haters; they protest at funerals!  AT FUNERALS!  I don’t know what the solution is, but what if the church fought with the homosexual for their freedom (to sin)?  Don’t you think that at some point they are going to take notice and build healthy relationships with folks that represent Christ?  And maybe learn what it means to live a life without sin?  Wow, how cool would that be?  I know, many of my friends don’t agree with me on this.  I am also not out there holding hands with the homosexuals as they march down the street.  But I struggle with voting to ban gay marriages and civil unions.

Take a slightly less controversial issue: Children with AIDS.  What if the church worked with AIDS stricken children the way Mother Teresa worked with those stricken with leprosy?  And why are Christians more apt to help children and kick sick adults to the curb?  Where is the church?  Campaigning for Republicans?  Trying to rebuild the Religious Right?  Trying to defend the actions of George Bush?  I’M GUILTY, right here, that’s been me.

I think I am winding down a bit…

Oh yeah, the Emerging Church… Well, it is all about what it means to be a Christian in a post-modern world.  How do you build the Kingdom of Christ when those that need to be transformed are no longer convinced by apologetics?  Post-modern people no longer respond to arguments.  Systematic theology tries to convince folks that Christianity is truth, that kind of method is a thing of the past.  People don’t want to be convinced, they want to see Christians living out an authentic life that actually means something to them.  They want to see it, they want to experience it.  They don’t want to hear sermons on prayer; they want to learn how to pray.  They don’t want to hear about the attributes of God, they want to experience the love of God.  It is very experiential which is very close to existentialism, but that is exactly where the unchurched, non-Christians are and they can’t be convinced or talked into something.  They want to see it.  They want Christians to live what they believe so that it makes a difference in their lives.

How do you present Christianity in a media-driven culture?  You present Christianity with media.  You present the e-Gospel.  It is the same ageless message, but presented in a modern way.  And not watered down, but in terminology that represents modern language.  Not catering to people that are seekers, but having a message that is presented in a way that the average person can understand.  Post-modern people communicate on a 6th-grade level, but are educated on a master’s level!  Use smaller words to describe the same message of hope.

How do you build a community of faith in a culture that longs to have community again?  Well, you participate in the community!

OK, I am almost done.

Finally, a word about justice.  Brian McLaren tells a great story that illustrates the difference between justice and mercy.  Say you are standing before Niagara Falls, just looking out into the water in awe.  Suddenly you see a person floating in the river, they are drowning, fighting for their life to get to shore before they go over the edge!  You panic, regain your composure, get some folks together and pull the guy out of the water to safety!  That is an act of mercy.  Say you see another person, you pull them out, and then another, and they seem to keep coming!  Again, pulling these drowning folks out of the water are acts of mercy.  But where is the justice?  Justice is when you walk up river and stop the guy that is pushing people into the freaking water!  STOP THAT GUY!

The church needs to practice justice & mercy.  But the church also needs to first stop pushing people in the water, and then they need to stand up against others that are doing the same.

OK, I feel better.

-Durk-