Our new president gave a powerful inaugural speech. I could not help but hear a “me first” tone in it. I wondered about that “me first” or “us first,” if you will, tied in, if at all, with our Christian injunction to love our neighbor. If a tsunami overwhelms a neighbor, will we go to their help – simply because we are called to help others. Or, will we sit down and ask what’s in this for us?
The world has become increasingly divided between the haves and the have-nots. It is painfully obvious in a country like South Africa where the division falls largely on the lines of color. But the sharpness of the divide is almost as equally obvious in a country like the United States where the haves are voting for Clinton, while the have-nots are voting for Trump. Continue reading
I often think that the greatest insight that the Bible gives us is that mankind is fallen. The story of Adam & Eve might well be a myth but, like all great myths, it reveals an eternal truth. We are all sinners, not irretrievably bad, but not purely good either. We are all a mixture of good and bad. I think the message of the Bible is that this is where we must begin — with fallible, inadequate, human beings, struggling for a place in the sunlight. Continue reading
A recent Sunday School lesson on the creation hymns found in our hymnal set me thinking about the theme of happiness that seems to run through almost all of our hymns. I am a rather passionate believer that our hymnals are the revealed words of God for our time. With the Bible a closed text, our hymnals provide space where modern day prophets can sing their praises of the Almighty as our ancestors did before us. Continue reading
The new Prime Minister of Great Britain made some trenchant remarks in her maiden speech outside 10 Downing Street, promising that the new Conservatives would represent all the people and not just the privileged few. While, I support her goals completely, I wonder just how she is going to achieve them in this new technology driven world. People have not suddenly become more selfish than they were in the past. Rather, what we are witnessing is the hollowing out of the jobs created in the late 19th century by the post-industrial revolution. Society is being divided into those blessed by this change and those cursed by it. The world of the mid-twentieth century has passed away. A new order is upon us. To promise, as she seemed to do, to turn back the tide sounded an awful lot like King Canute on his throne in the waves. Our new world is going to require a lot of hard thinking on all our parts and is not going to yield to simplistic political sloganeering.
Sam Polk, a former hedge fund trader, founder and the chief executive of Everytable and the author of the forthcoming memoir “For the Love of Money” writes a powerful piece in the New York Times titled “How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down.” He muses on how, “From the moment I began working on the Street, the crucial importance of fitting in was communicated to me. During my summer internship at Credit Suisse, the human resources representative told me that whether I received a job offer would not be based on my intelligence, but whether the traders liked me. It was a social test, not an intellectual one. The trading desk I worked on that summer consisted of 15 male traders, and one very junior female trader. To get a job, I needed to become one of the guys.” To stand aside, to be “ethical,” to be “Christian,” means that one is excluded, one is rendered powerless. To get power to be able to affect change one has to become part of the brotherhood but in so doing one is exposed to all the perils of belonging.
Everyone now and then a story crosses my path that leaves me profoundly shocked. This is one in Mother Jones is of them. Police shootings, they write, won’t stop unless we address this problem no one is talking about. They point out how our refusal to pay our fair share of taxes has forced cities and towns to turn to traffic fines to pay the bills. Were we to simply pay the cost of the government that we enjoy, the police would be freed from trying to raise revenue from the poor. And, maybe, these devastating shootings of black people by white police would stop. To demand government services but to refuse to pay for them, is tantamount to theft and is one of the most basic tenets of the Christian life.