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« Progressives’ Socialized Business Got Us Into This Mess... | Main | A proclamation »

September 30, 2008

An American House of Cards

Houseofcards Years ago, a pastor friend of mine was in Nigeria on a mission trip. One day, a woman approached him in the hotel lobby to see if he was interested in her, ah, services. Gene turned her down, but escorted her into the hotel dining room and bought her dinner. He asked her why she was working as a prostitute. Her reply: "My mother is dead, my father is blind, and my brothers and sisters have no one but me to provide for them."

They talked about how hard the economic situation in Nigeria was, and the hopelessness that the average citizen felt because there were so few ways to legitimately earn a living.

In the course of their conversation, Gene made a statement that he believed hard economic times were in store for America because we have turned our back on God (this was more than a decade ago). The woman's reply was that she hoped and prayed this would not be the case. Why? Because America has done so much to help poorer countries around the world. Her worry was that, should God remove His blessing from America, the rest of the world would suffer for it.   

This article indicates that leaders around the world fear that, too. Our helter-skelter pursuit of the "American Dream" is not only threatening to bring down our own nation's economy; it may also bring down the economies of other nations. And as we are forced to get our own financial house in order, we will undoubtedly find that we have less and less to share with the world's poor. We have been negligent stewards of the blessings God has given us. We need to repent of our foolishness not just because it's hurt us, but also because it will hurt the "least of these" throughout the world.   

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Comments

Mike Perry

Quote: "We have been negligent stewards of the blessings God has given us. We need to repent of our foolishness not just because it's hurt us, but also because it will hurt the "least of these" throughout the world. "

With respect to the mortgage crisis, this remark is so vague as to be almost worthless. It's religious fluff.

Our sin was this. We failed to be informed about banking issues and about what our government was doing. We let some politicians (mostly liberal Democrats) and their friends in the banking grow rich off home lending policies that drove up the cost of housing and put many of the working poor hopelessly into debt. On those specific issues, we failed to support politicians (mostly Republican) who were trying to straighten up this mess several years ago. And while that was going on, we fussed and fretted about petty issues in our lives and perhaps gloated because the 'bubble' of rising home prices was making us rich, at least on paper. That, bluntly stated, is our failing.

And yes, we were negligent stewards and fools for doing that. But saying that of ourselves is like saying that someone with lung cancer "has a disease." It does nothing to properly diagnosis the illness and its cause or to come up with a proper treatment. The religious language can't conceal the fact that it's religious fluff.

Any repentance that isn't clear about what precisely we did wrong, what we should have done, and what we now need to do, given the stupendous size of this mess, is little more than pointless emotionality.

And all this is merely a symptom of a much more deeply seated ill. We turn to our feelings because we don't know how to think clearly or even understand the need to think and be informed about these things. We'd rather fret about a thousand less important things. As one book in the 1990s put it, "the scandal of the Evangelical mind is that there is no Evangelical mind." In this case, there was no "mind" thinking about banking policy. In many ways, Evangelicals still have no "mind" engaged in this issue. They just want it to go away, so they can feel safe and comfortable again.

This failing isn't just about the mortgage crisis. All the messes we now face from teen promiscuity and abortion to gay marriage and euthanasia are issues that were present long before Evangelicals belatedly discovered them and became upset. Arriving late to the debate, is it any wonder why we're doing so badly?

Every Evangelical in a position of leadership should read Robert Coram's Boyd: The Fighter Pilot who Changed the Art of War. What Boyd discovered was that in any competition the side that can observe what the other is doing and respond more quickly is likely to win. It's called 'getting inside the other guy's decision loop.' Whenever he tries to do something, you're there first waiting for him. There's nothing new about that. It's precisely what Jesus was doing in his debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He was always one step ahead of them, because he understood what they would do next.

The mortgage crisis is just one symptom among many of too little too late. Evangelicals understand too little about the struggles that trouble our society, until it impacts them directly. Then it is too late. In their "decision loop" responses to threats, they make the infamous Russian army under the Czars look like a nimble team of Special Forces. That fact lies at the heart of our problems. We think poorly and belatedly, and in particularly we fail to understand the nature of the evil we face.

The mortgage crisis and the impact it will have on home prices, our economy, and our ability to help the poor overseas are all things we should have anticipated and been acting on for at least five years, perhaps longer. Mere emotional "repentance" isn't enough. We need to radically change how we interact with the world around us, or we will be caught flat-footed when the next crisis arrives.

And the next, and the next....

--Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle


Gina Dalfonzo

Mike, we appreciate your sharing your opinions, but we would appreciate them all the more if you could do it without constantly telling others that their opinions are flat-out wrong, worthless, etc. A little tact would be nice. Thanks.

Diane Singer

Mike,

I didn't think it was necessary to state the obvious. But, if you must have a list, I would argue that anyone who is paying attention to the news can pretty much see what specific sins need confessing: greed, dishonesty, double dealing, materialism lust, selfishness, a haughty spirit of entitlement, the desire for instant gratification, a foolish short-sightedness that doesn't save and plan for the future -- all these sins (and more) have led to this mess. You want to point fingers at members of the political and financial establishment who got us here; I'm arguing that we also need to look in the mirror.

My experience tells me that when I come before the Lord with David's "search-me" prayer (see Psalm 139:23-24), the Holy Spirit is more than capable of bringing to my mind the sins I need to confess and then pointing me to the changes I need to make to live according to His will. You may find such an encounter with God "religious fluff": I do not.

More than ever, Americans need to be on our knees praying according to
2 Chronicles 7:14: "If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land."

Jason Taylor

Not to appear uncaring of anyone who got bit. But isn't Nigeria a rather hyperbolic comparison so far? We are still the richest country in the world.

labrialumn

There is an evangelical mind about banking, just as there was about the other things that author pretended didn't exist.

However, it gets labeled kooky, even by Christians, even though it comes from the Law which God gave to Moses.

"We the People" had nothing to do with the Breton Woods agreement, nor with the decision to replace silver certificates with fiat debt paper, nor with the debasing of our coinage. Possibly "We the People" could have stood up and done something about it, if we'd been educated as to what was going on and what the implications were, but that didn't happen.

Did Clinton at all run on the anti-redlining rules he decreed that led to this mess? If not, then we aren't responsible for his actions, either. Likewise did Barney Frank and Chris Dodd run on the policies they insisted on and profited greatly from? If not, then only they are responsible, and even if they did, those of us from other districts are not responsible.

Repentance is to be for sin. Not for being in some fashion part of a group where someone else sinned. It has to be for specific sins, individually committed.

Diane, you end your comment with exactly the right passage, but the point I'm making about repentance is important for all to understand.

Diane Singer

I used the story about the woman in Nigeria simply as a way of pointing out that this financial crisis is about more than just "me and mine." God has blessed this nation, and used us to be a blessing to others. Thus, when God's discipline falls on America, it's not just America that suffers. You can bet, too, that we'll soon hear from the charitable organizations we personally support that "giving is down." The ripples will spread from the local, to the national, to the international.

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