Category Archives: Politics

We need transformation, not bailouts

The worst grade I received in college was in a beginning accounting class.  I took it because a bunch of my fraternity brothers said it was an easy class.  I forgot that they were all business majors.  I, on the other hand, had been avoiding real math classes since my junior year in high school, when I could take computer programming instead of Calculus. In other words, I am no economic expert, but I can’t help but feel like all of the talk about bailouts and economic stimulus and billions of dollars of corporate aid are all treating the symptom instead of the disease.

All of this reminds me of someone getting liposuction to get more fit, when what is really needed is a change of eating habits (of which I know a lot about).  You can do all the liposuction you want, but until there is a change of lifestyle, and sometimes this takes a radical transformation, the same problems are going to keep popping up.

All the economic fixes that I read about seem to be nothing more than sucking the fat out, without addressing the problem of how it got there in the first place.  We need to stop sucking out the fat, or the same problems will just creep up years down the road.  Instead, we have to go through a transformation of our culture.   We have come to a place in our culture where buying stuff has been identified as the path toward happiness.  We all want happiness, we all want joy – there is nothing wrong with that.  I believe that God wants us to be happy.  God wants us to have joy.  The problem is where and how we pursue that happiness.

To many, happiness, freedom and joy come with the ability to buy stuff we want.  If we have that plasma TV, that game system, and that MP3 player, then we will be happy.  Once those things are acquired, and the happiness still hasn’t come, then we seek out other stuff to make us happy.  Instead of finding freedom and joy, people get trapped into the slavery of consumerism and debt.  Consumer debt in this country is staggering.  The last figures I found claim that we have enough consumer debt (which does not include mortgages) to spread it around to over $5,000 per man, woman, and child.

What we need is transformation.  We desperately need a transformation of a culture that is lost in a world of greed and accumulation.  Our culture needs to stop idolizing the rich and the celebrity.  We need to turn off “Deal or No Deal” and the E! channel.  We need to ignore the advertisers. We need to realize that the only sure source of joy in the world is a relationship with God.  Through Jesus Christ we are offered freedom – true freedom.  We need to find freedom from the gods of accumulation and debt.  Those gods offer nothing in return. 

On the other hand, Jesus offers us life, and life abundant – not stuff abundant.  I believe we are headed for some difficult times.  We as a culture have a choice to make.  Every great empire the world has ever known has crumbled because of one thing: economic turmoil.  We are looking at the same type of collapse unless we have a cultural revolution.  Those are our choices: collapse or transformation. 

The change we need as a people will not come in the form of bailouts or economic stimulus packages or tax cuts.  The change we need will come in the human heart, when we as a people decide stop working to acquire more stuff, and we work instead for the interests of all humankind.

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Obama and Hank Aaron.

I have yet to get political on this blog, but I have also not been shy about letting people know who I would vote for in the weeks and months leading up to last night’s election.  We have had Obama ’08 bumper stickers on both our cars since the primary.  My wife and I went to Lafayette, Ind., during the primary to hang signs on doors. 

We went to Springfield to see Obama introduce Joe Biden.  I was quoted on the front page of the newspaper the next day and was identified as “An Obama supporter from Chenoa.”  I also shook Obama’s hand that day and was giddy for a week as I told the story to anyone that would listen.  On facebook I have made a point to let everyone there know that I am an Obamamaniac. I have refrained from making any political statements from the pulpit, and I did not go so far as to put a lawn sign in front of the parsonage, but I think everyone that knows me knows who I voted for yesterday.

While pondering his extraordinary road to victory, I am reminded of Hank Aaron.  You might know Aaron as the second-leading home run hitter in baseball history.  He broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs in 1974. Aaron hit his 713th home run on the second to last day of the 1973 season, and spent the offseason just one home run shy of the most renowned record of all of sports – owned by the greatest figure of American sports history, Babe Ruth.

After the last game of the 1973 season, Aaron wondered if he would make it to the 1974 season, and he had good reason to wonder.  No one knew about it at the time, but Aaron was receiving threatening letters as he approached Ruth’s record.  During the offseason the death threats poured in.  Some of the most hateful, vitriolic things ever written were directed at this quiet and peaceful man.  “Hammerin” Hank was the most consistent hitter baseball has ever known, but because of the color of his skin, he became a target.  Recent accounts of this time have revealed that Aaron had a full squad of body guards, that he lost weight and sleep.   One reporter covering the chase at the time wrote Aaron’s obituary, with the foreboding knowledge of what could come.  After Aaron’s 715th home run, two teenagers ran out on the field to congratulate him, many feared for a moment they were there to harm him.  In recent interviews Aaron admits that he did not enjoy the chase, and that the ugliness that came with it made him bitter for many years.

Last night Barack Obama became the first African-American President-Elect.  As I watched him give his speech, which brought me to tears twice, a nagging feeling lingered.  I believe that one day we will find out that Obama experienced much of the same hatred that encountered Aaron.  I am sure that he has been bombarded with ugliness that most of us have never experienced.  As much as yesterday was about hope, I am realistic enough to know that even though 54% of Americans voted for Barack Obama to be the President of the United States, there are some that hate him with an unyielding passion.

I am full of hope for America.  I believe that we have come a long way, but I also know that we have a long way to go.  Electing a black man to be President is a signal to us all that America is truly the Land of Opportunity.  Electing a man to be President who has a grandmother living in Kenya is a sign to the world that the American Dream is still alive.

Yet I can’t help but think of Hammerin’ Hank, and all those people that threatened to take his life for hitting too many home runs.  I fear for President-Elect Obama and his beautiful family. 

I am hopeful for the future of America.  I believe we are striving toward a better future, one where demonizing those that are different is not accepted, one where diversity is lifted up as a triumph, one where the melting pot looks more like a stew.  I also know that we are not there.  Until that day, I will continue to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven.  God Bless America.  God Bless all nations, and may God bless Barack Obama.

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