Here, It’s for You!

I read somewhere recently (this is my paraphrase), don’t focus on your problem, focus on God.

Just think if the folks meeting at the White House would do that. Or at UN. Or in the parliaments of Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Yemen, Uganda, or Great Britain, among others. Trouble is, some of them probably already think they do.

The focus on God can so easily become telling other people what we are sure God says–mostly about how wrong or bad the other people are.

I am pretty sure the writer I am paraphrasing had a different idea. He meant that we would profit if we spent more time listening to God, and less time listening to (and endlessly repeating) our problem. 

As a preacher, I try to be careful not to suggest what other people do unless I am willing to apply it to myself. And before I talk too much about how other people live, I try to see their patterns in my own life. What I discover most of the time–probably it would be all the time if I could rid of all my blind spots!–is that I have been there, done that, just like those other folks.

That is good, so far as I am able to live that honestly. But the biggest gain I can make is to spend more time listening to others, especially to God.

Listening is generally difficult in this world so filled with sound. We can’t begin to hear all the different voices. So we often listen to the loudest, most insistent one.

God’s voice is generally very small and quiet. Fortunately, God is the most persistent voice of all. God never stops trying to reach us.

Here, it’s for you. It’s God!

Who Needs Help Here?

Something continues to be askew.

Too many workers are out of work and too many folks are having mortgage troubles. The overall economy just sputters along, sort of like an engine that really needs a major tune-up.

But then I read that the typical CEO of a major company earned $9 million last year, up by 25% from 2009. Corporate profits are up by almost 50% since the recession officially “ended” in June 2009–much more than after earlier recessions, when profits rose in the first several years by 11-28%.

Wage-less and jobless "recovery," according to many economists

Workers’ wages and benefits make up 57.5% of the economy, an all-time low. Until about 2005, that figure had been remarkably stable–about 64% through boom and bust.

According to the Associated Press who talked to many economists, “the economy’s meager gains are going mostly to the wealthiest.”

I do not begrudge the wealthy their success.

But I do not understand the reluctance of many politicians–mostly, but not exclusively, Republicans–to ask these folks to chip in a little more to the national treasury. The argument most often offered is that doing so will force these wealthy folks to stop creating jobs.

Trouble is, I don’t see them creating many jobs now with their newfound wealth. In the meantime, the national debt grows. The folks who resist tax increases on the wealthiest want to reduce the debt entirely by cuts in government spending. Of course, many people without jobs need some government programs more than ever.

Sure, there are government programs we cannot afford right now, no matter how worthy. I read that Vice President Biden and bipartisan negotiators have agreed on cuts totalling $2 trillion–yes, trillion, not measly billions, but trillions.

But Congressman Cantor and others walk out of the negotiations when the focus turns to tax increases. They claim that tax increases of any kind are unacceptable–a deal-breaker.

Something is wrong with this picture: The hurting pay more, the wildly successful don’t?

Doesn’t neighborliness ideally go both ways? Or is it supposed to only go up?

Today’s the Day!

We celebrate July 4 as Independence Day. But historians will tell you that the deed was actually done on July 2. That’s the day the delegates voted to approve the Declaration.

Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson

Either way, it is the founding document of our nation (not the constitution, which is our set of national bylaws, but is not our founding document).

Many credit Lincoln with restoring the declaration to its rightful place in the center of our history. During the years prior to the Civil War it had been somewhat cast aside in national conversation.

But his insistence on its fundamental truth–the equality of persons–formed the foundation of his argument for no more slavery (even though for many years until the nation was deeply in the ugly war did he go the whole way and seek to end slavery).

As I muse about this magnificent document today–enunciating grand principles we still seek to live up to and listing one grievance against the King of England after another–I am struck by how some have twisted its fundamental message. They claim, quite without much foundation in the document itself, that it is government that is the source of all trouble, and that therefore government must be made very small.

Of course, that is nonsense. It is tyranny that is the issue. A government that serves the broad interests of its citizens well and is consented to by them is not , by definition, tyrannical. On the other hand, a government that serves primarily the powerful and the rich is, by definition, tyrannical.  The government of King George III served first and foremost the interests of the mercantile class and manufacturing interests of England and the King.  When the colonists realized this, they stopped consenting to that government.

And what of equality? Do we not need a government that has sufficient authority to provide civil mechanisms to protect those whose legal standing is weakened by (sometimes tyrannical) majorities?

I am grateful that our founders–in the Declaration and in the Constitution–as well as in the earlier years of our Republic, as in the Civil War–provided for a system of organic government and laws, a structure and process that adapts to the needs of each day.