Thursday, July 3, 2014

Original Sin Remains

Capitalism as conceived by Efficient Market Theory makes the error of not taking original sin into account. Many who call for deregulation, do so under the belief that once regulation, the entrepreneur will act morally and for the benefit of all mankind. In other words, capitalism works on the very unbiblical idea of those that hold capital will be innocent and the market will force them to be innocent. But can humans be completely innocent? Does the market truly same man from his original sin.

Can the forces of selling and buying purify humanity’s conduct. The conservative is correct in questioning the wisdom of Government to purify man. Government vital to human living and exists to ensure the controlling of human vice such as greed, lust and oppression, but it does not make Government immune to the folly of human nature. Man will continue to wear the stain of our own foolishness. The wisdom of our founders understood this and left us with a system of checks and balances. For to leave power uncheck is to invite the worse kind of human power, blind to its own seeds of destruction. A great leader will never the less fall victim to his own nature.

Yes, the conservative can point the many failings of Government, smug in the wisdom that bares out in the course of human life. Governments will engage in the worst of actions all with the best intentions. Where the modern conservative fails is in thinking that humanity, can indeed be purified by the winds of the markets. Adam Smith saw the error with the example of the Greedy farmer. Morality, for Smith was something beyond the market to create. The markets could operate with the invisible hand if morality emerged from a fully developed understanding of human nature. The markets are no less powerful than Government to purify man. If anything they tempt man into indulging in original sin. For nothing that many on Wall Street joke about the moniker of being the Masters of the Universe. Once many of the libertarians reverse the order and derive their morality from the markets and not the other way around, we can see a generation of Bernie Madoff and the idea that money has its own reality apart from the rest of human life.

 The reality that Christians should point to is that only in love can man be purified or at least starts down the path. The first moment of this purification process is realizing in oneself and not just in others the taint of our own sin. And by sin, I reach back to the older understand of sin as a breach in our very being. Sin is more than violations of an external law, but is a corrupting influence through the whole of life. We all suffer from the taint within both ourselves and those around us.

The biggest myth we tell ourselves that we are innocent, which has the corollary that it must be the other who holds the taint of sin. They are the problem, which leads to the most fundamental mistake of human life, rid ourselves of the other and we eliminate the problem. If anything has show us again that we have not found the way to purify ourselves, whether by government or markets, it has to have been the last decade. Human folly and original sin still controls us more than we wish to confess. We still gorge on fruit of good and evil in a vain attempt to be in control and a master of the universe.

When we find ourselves alone, we can only point the finger at another and claim innocence as the flesh and blood of our sin drips from our mouth. Behavioral economics has come to the same conclusions that humans, far from being the rational creatures we imagine ourselves, we are filled with biases and dark desires all the while trying to maintain a view of being innocent. So, I have outline want seems to be a bleak view of history with a darker vision for our future. If we are condemned to being able to purify ourselves, what hope can we muster.

The Christian answer remains of the cross that reveals the very nature of our violent ways. Within the cross’s shadow, we can hardly claim innocence nor purity. The resurrection points to the reality of regeneration. When we stop with our pretense of purity and innocence, we can start to follow the one that does love us. Markets cannot save us from ourselves. When we see our own folly within our dealings with the markets, we can see the need to check our desires. Government cannot saves us. Our founders understood this well and that is why they chose to separate powers between as many people as possible.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Washington Redskins and the founding principles

The whole issue with the name Washington Redskins has me in quandary. The defenders of the name really have to be ignorant of history. The claim that the owner named the team to honor a native American coach is both ludicrous and sad. Even if truth, which is a stretch, the owner was a product of his age and was very racist in a time it was the norm to be racist. The fact that he named his team a racist name only adds an exclamation point to his racism. Today it is norm to hold racist views but deny the term. "I am not racists, I just point to the fact that blacks are drug dealers and lazy, Mexicans are dirty and lazy, and Indians are drunks and lazy."

Lazy has become the new moniker for racist views.

Lazy an individual trait is suddenly transmuted to a whole people group to whitewash a history of oppression and domination. Those who see nothing wrong with the name would likely know more about Custer's last stand than about the Trail of Tears or Wounded Knee. They most likely would not know about the rapes and wholesale genocide committed by the invading European, and justified by the belief that the native Americans where sub-human. That is the true history of the name redskins, a way of degrading a set of humans as to make it easier to abuse them. That is where the name came from, Europeans downgrading another group of humans to justify what can't by any normal human morality.

The problem is that is also seen as a social justice issue. It is not. If tomorrow, or when ever the team changes its name, it will be hailed as a win for the oppressed people by liberals. "See, we force the change of the name. Aren't we so enlightened." While the name change would be a victory, it would be victory only for common decency and no more. It will not change our shameful past of genocide, and it will not help the social condition that many Native Americans find themselves today. The problems they face as a people well not be met by a name change. Many Native American see this. Okay you changed the offensive name of a football team, but our community is still facing the effects of a long and sad history, which you are again ignoring.

It only when start to come to grips with the truth of history and do the hard work and the real work of reconciliation can heal this nation. Jesus sowed a way through forgiveness and reconciliation and it is up to us to follow. America has done some great things, and it has a dark side of genocide, slavery and oppression. But like the Bible says the truth sets us free. Only when we look at our sins and confess them can we transcend them.

Like Martin Luther demanded. It is time to cash the check on the founding principles of this country. For if we are to live up to them, they we must start from the core idea that all men are created equal. If you do not, we fail the promise of America.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Like The Hypocrites

Lately, I am praying more. Others' experience of having quiet time with the Lord made me want to pray more. I want the peace that goes beyond all understanding. I want to follow Jesus more. The problem is that it is boring.

Now, I am not saying that Jesus is boring, or that the Holy Spirit is, or that the Father is. Heaven forbid. They are infinitely exciting. I am talking about the fourth person in our group: me.

What a whiner. Get me this. Give me that. I want a new computer. I want … I want … I want. If patience was tree bark, I would stripped the patience off of a 500-year-old redwood, and that damage was only done in yesterday’s time with God. Talk about one shallow dude.

Do I pray for world peace? Nah, I ask for help losing weight. Do I ask for healing for those I see that need it? Nah, I ask for Pizza to be non-fattening. Do I ask for wisdom? Nah, I ask for my post to go viral and for people to talk about me. I did I mention me? I listen more to my culture than to God. My culture tells me that its all about me and my wants with Madison Avenue asking me to make my life about me, me, me.

After all, it is easier to sell stuff to the self-absorbed! (Suckers unite!)

I just happen to agree the ads and make myself a good consumer even when approaching the Almighty.

God, I didn’t like the weather yesterday. Rain? Really, God? I wanted to go outside for fun. I want my money back.

I understand that this weakness in me, and ask for God to make me a better person, one that others will admire and who others will want to emulate because of my strong Christian faith. I am like a self-absorbed cheerleader who gets an audience with the Queen of England and uses the opportunity to complain about her best friend being designer-challenged or her hangnail that is just so, so, so annoying. I really get a good look at my own shallowness within God’s attention.

Hence, why I don’t like it. It is more of a brief yawn of the soul rather than a dark night of the soul.
Hence, why it is important to do. Loving God and others is not natural for me.

And this why I find myself fighting going into prayer. See, when I prayerfully read the Bible, I always cast myself as the hero within the story. I am the hero that comes and blows the horn for the walls to tumble, or frees the Egyptian slaves, or even stops the injustice of the crucifixion. Hollywood movie hero to the rescue.

Finally, I have the really bad habit of thinking that I am doing God a favor by spending time with God. Okay, let’s do this prayer thing, I say, and I will give God a half hour of the day’s 24. Aren’t I good?

When I get to praying, I realize how shallow I really am, and I don’t like it. Notice, I am speaking to the creator of all, and I am prancing around thinking that God should be grateful for my face time. Really? Wow, what a jerk I am.

Of course, I know I am alone in my shallowness. Others pray for the important stuff like loving others. I must be the only one that makes prayer all about himself.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Age Old Problem of Millennials

In my day, when I went to Fuller Theological Seminary, we had to walk six miles up hill both ways, while fighting both the 100-degree heat and four feet of snow. When we got there, we were glad for the thimble full of wine and the piece of bread, which was all we ate for the whole day. So, get off my lawn, you Millennials.

I am hesitant to write about Millennials for fear of sounding like an old coot. I prefer thinking of myself as a middle age coot, or in reality I still think myself as a young coot with graying hair. My body has other ideas, though...

I attended Fuller in the last Millennium, the late nineties, and the hot topic then was why the Generation X kids were not going to church. Being a Gen X, I had some ideas as to why. Then, as now, going to church meant missing a large chunk of young adults. Then, as now, the complaints were of too much politics, too much judgment and too little Jesus. My, how times have changed. Instead of talking about better beats for our music, the church now talks about better lattes. I do like a good latte.
The question of millennials leaving the church neglect an almost century old pattern. Eighty or 90 years ago, one could find articles as to why the young people had stopped going to church and how to get them back. Should women with bobbed hair be accepted in church? But after the young adults sowed their wild oats, they'd return when it was time to start raising their children. So, one can say safely that when millennials will start returning to church once they, too, feel the urge to reproduce. Heck, it sounds like the Amish were right with Rumspringa. No problem, you say. I say, “Get off my church lawn.”

Why? Because, this is not the pattern of a growing church. Jesus' first followers were young adults. When one looks at the vital times of the church, and the current vital growth of the church worldwide, they'll see that young adults lead the church. These were and are people unhappy just being quiet and behaving. They seek action and adventure. Those points of vitality of the church are less about personal ethics and more about what Jesus said in Luke 4:18-21:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[a]
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The wild oats were sowed and adventure was had within the church. Setting free the captives, what young adult looking for adventure could turn from that? Middle and older adults, of course, are afraid of such vitality as it means the kids are not sitting quietly in the back, but demanding a Jesus that shakes things up front. We want kids to behave most of all. So, we create programs to pretend we want them back and lament when they aren’t coming to church making noise and releasing captives. Who wants to worship with the poor and the captives? Come back when you have your own junior with you and then we will put you to work at Vacation Bible School.

When we see the church empty of the people who are the source of the church’s vitality then we have to question whether the church is proclaiming the Gospel or simply a place of telling their young to behave? Jesus riled things up by preaching peace beyond all understanding, and the young followed. We don’t like things riled up and want the peace that comes from behaving and keeping quiet in the back. Are we really telling Jesus to get off our collective lawn?

Join us for our next Coffee Talk at 10 a.m., Sept. 7 at Revel 77 Coffee for a discussion on "Engaging Millennials." Tinajero is a panelist.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Hot Afternoon of Soul

Afternoon.I feel as drained as a ghost town bathtub, cobwebs growing from the rusting faucet. Yes, a black tarantula makes its way across my mind, after a numbing week at work. Or did I make myself numb? I look for signs of life in the abandoned buildings of my spirit. The rope ties lack horses. The dust settles on the old player piano. The bar glasses no longer clear, but are caked with passing yellow dirt. Even tumble weeds on longer roll down the streets, too much effort.

This will pass, I say under my breath, my weariness for doing work and recovering from a period of creative explosion. The weekend will combine rest, playing with an alive 3 year-old, being with my love and worshipping God. Poetry arises in the living of life, even when the space has crimped dry. But for now, on a city bus heading home, the ground of my being cracks like misfitting puzzle pieces baked by a scorching day. Though, as I make my through this alley way, I fear not as I listen for the still voice that is with me.

Strange, these desert towns that arise periodically like seasonal dirt devils. I have no idea why the train of my life stopped here for the afternoon. The hot dry wind breaks for no reason. The broken door swaying in the breeze, slamming in timed interval. The crashing sound creating a sort of clock. This is the high noon of the soul.

One of the many dangers of the high noon of the soul is thinking that we are more than just tourists to the ghost town. We start to look at the abandoned building for answers. When the bus comes to pick us up, we miss it. There are other rattlesnakes roaming. Thinking that this stop, human as it is, should be beyond Christians. No, we all stop here from time to time. The wilderness’s wilds wrench even those closest to Jesus. High noon will pass. The morning will come. For now, feel the dry sun and be with the desert until the bus comes.