Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Some Thoughts on Economics and Equality

         Some people think I'm a Socialist because I tend to point out problems I see with Capitalism.  But that's not the case.  It's just that I do see some things about our current economic system that are problematic.  I remember asking my dad about this years ago, when I was only 14 years old.  (Guess I've always been a deep thinker.)  

    Dad's response was, "Well, it works better than anything else that's been tried, like Socialism or Communism."  He was right, of course.  But in all the 66 years of my life since then, I still haven't found an answer to my question.

        The first problem I see with Capitalism is that in many ways it's still a class-based system like the one that has dominated Western Civilization almost since its inception.  We still have an elite group even though it's now not royalty or feudal property owners.  Now we have CEO's and well-paid lobbyists and lawyers, who keep the wealth concentrated in the hands of a powerful few.

        And in order for these people on the top to have the "capital" to invest in industrial growth, that money needs to be concentrated with them, or so the system assumes.  This means Capitalism needs a large supply of cheap labor in order to amass these funds for the top.  

        By the way, the word "Capo" in Latin, and the Romance languages descended from it, means literally "the Top" or "the Head".  It's where we get the words Cap, Capital, and Capitalism.  (Ask any musician what D.C. means in a piece of music, and they'll tell you it means go back to the beginning, or the "Top" of the piece.)

        The history of our American Economy illustrates this idea of cheap labor well.  In  the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there was a surplus of cheap labor--immigrants, even slaves, children and women.  After Child Labor Laws were established and slavery was abolished, there were still floods of poor immigrants coming in from around the world.  They were looking for a better life for themselves and their families, and so they were willing to accept menial and even dangerous jobs for low wages, in hopes of improving things for their descendants.

        Yes, there were a few large companies who took better care of their workers than most did.  But it was mainly churches and other non-profit organizations who tried to help the desperate poor.  It's no wonder that the idea of Labor Unions and Collective Bargaining found fertile soil with many of the poorly-treated laborers.  Most people seem to forget that is what Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is observing.  Now it's become nothing more than another long weekend, a celebration of the end of summer, and another chance for businesses large and small to promote and advertise themselves through "Labor Day Sales."

        Now that the flow of cheap labor has dropped drastically because of labor laws and curbs on immigration, it's really no surprise that most large companies have outsourced their manufacturing to Third World countries where they can still find cheap labor.  But what will happen when that source dries up?

        I admit that I don't have any answers, but I think we need to mull over some of these things.  How can we have an economy that gives dignity to everyone?  How can America really fulfill its promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to every citizen, not just an elite few?  I hesitate to point this out, but the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were landed gentry, part of "The Top" of society at that time.  They said, "All men are created equal", but many of them owned slaves.  Were they thinking of them as "equal"?  I'm not sure.  Even after over 200 years of existence, our country hasn't really reached this ideal of equality.

        No, I'm not a Communist or a Socialist.  Those systems haven't worked either.  Human greed and government corruption eroded them.  In fact, that seems to be what is happening to our country, too.  No one wants the parties to sit down and submit to arbitration.  No one seems to be looking for what is fair, for "Liberty and Justice for All" as we say in our Pledge of Allegiance.   Instead, we're divided into camps that shout at each other rather than talking to each other.  Each side vilifying the other as wrong, and claiming their side to be right. This is a dangerous road.  At this point, all I feel I can do is pray to God in Heaven to heal and help us learn to be more like Him--for He is the one who truly wants liberty, justice, and hope for every one of us.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

In the World, But Not Of It

Jesus told his disciples to be "In the world, but not of the world."

                That's a tricky balancing act, I've found.  Some Christians move too far out of the world, isolating themselves from all other things, even living off the grid.  Some climb into ivory towers where they can look down on everything else.  To me this is a way of proclaiming they're the only ones who are right, and everyone else is wrong. 

                Now, I'm not saying to conform to every view the present world is throwing at us, or turn our backs on God or His Word in the Bible.  But lording it over others, and trying to force them into our views is not the way Jesus spread the Gospel.  And it's not the way he told his followers to do this, either.   Jesus met people where they were.  He asked them what their needs were, and then he gave them those things and proclaimed that God loved them.  He didn't say they had to obey all the legalistic laws the current religious establishment was requiring.   There were no hoops to jump through to earn God's love.

                At the center of everything Jesus did when he walked this earth was love--overwhelming love that went so far as to lay down his life for us.  St. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (italics mine)

                So what does this mean in daily life, where the rubber hits the road?  St. Peter put it this way in his first letter: I Peter 3:15-16 "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect,  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

                The best visual example I can think of is that Jesus wants us to be Lighthouses.  Not dark, angry defensive Fortresses.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Lo, How a Rose...

 "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"
  is a well-known Christmas carol to many.  It is centuries old, as one can tell if they read the original words.  It may have been a Old English Madrigal, sung on the streets of city, town, and village.  I like it so much that I chose it as part of the music for our wedding in 1975.

In the interest of translating hymns into modern English, however, the title has changed to "Lo, How a Rose Is Growing."  Sounds nice enough, right?  But something is lost in "translation", unfortunately.  The hyphenated word "E're" literally means ever, or even better: FOREVER.  Not just growing, but never dying.  Why is this important?  Because that rose represents Jesus, who was born as a baby, became a man, died, and rose from the grave--conquering death.  His Rose will Never Die!

Besides that, he cried, hungered, grew tired, felt pain, and all the other things human bodies experience.  To think the the Lord of the Universe would stoop down so low, to be like us weak, fallible humans is beyond comprehension.

So what does all this have to do with my son's rose bush?  When he bought his house almost 2 years ago, there was this bare stump in one of the flower beds.  He did nothing to it, no watering, no pruning, but fortunately he didn't dig it up.  And lo and behold, it began to bloom this year!

What a perfect picture of Jesus' resurrection!  Lo, How a Rose Forever Blooming!