Friday, June 27, 2014

The Pitchforks are Coming...

I have long maintained that we are experiencing a new feudalism, and that the increasing inequality cataloged by the Gini coefficient portends future political instability. Nick Hanauer confirms my ideas.

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

Memo: From Nick Hanauer
To: My Fellow Zillionaires

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?
I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.
Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.
***
The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.
Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Room for Debate: Christianity, Capitalism and Libertarianism

How ironic to be told this by a  Calvinist. But Smith is absolutely correct. This article is from a New York Times series, God and Mammon, which debates the question, Is contemporary capitalism compatible with Christian values? http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/06/25/has-capitalism-become-incompatible-with-christianity

Steadfast Principles in a Changing World
James K.A. Smith
James K.A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College, holding the Gary & Henrietta Byker chair in applied reformed theology and worldview. He is also an editor of Comment magazine and and a senior fellow at Cardus.
Updated June 25, 2014, 6:52 PM
Beware “Jesuology.” That is how British theologian Oliver O’Donovan describes those Christian public theologies that claim to privilege the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Ask a Jesuologist our question and you can guess the answer: “Blessed are the poor” and “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.”
Christianity isn't incompatible with free markets. But it may be incompatible with modern capitalism and its growing inequality and exploitation.
All true. But Jesus also tells parables about servants who are punished for their terrible return on investment. From which Jesus-sayings should we deduce an economic theory?
A Christian social vision is never a simple enactment of Jesus-sayings, both because the Gospels are embedded within a wider canon of Scripture and because Christian social thought is conditioned by an eschatology — a sense of what is yet to come, and that we’re not there yet. Every Christian social vision is forged in this “not yet.”
In light of that, Christianity is certainly not incompatible with free markets. Indeed, in many ways, the emergence of such markets — and the prosperity produced by them — depends on the capital of a Christian worldview that prizes both flourishing and freedom.
But Christianity may have become incompatible with “contemporary” capitalism — with what seems to be increasing inequality in society. (Things might not be as bad as Thomas Piketty suggests, by the way.)
Christianity is incompatible with libertarianism — an ideology rooted in social atomism that pits all against all in a war of wills. Capitalism is not inherently libertarian, so the more it is wed to such a distorted social ontology, the more it becomes inconsistent with Christianity, which is fundamentally communitarian. When capitalism ceases to be an engine of the common good, it is inconsistent with Christianity.
Christianity is also consistently critical of greed. So the grab-all-you-can approach to executive compensation is a concern. In 1982, the chief executive-to-worker pay ratio was 42:1; in 2012 it was 354:1. What should concern Christians today is a selective inheritance of Adam Smith: we’ve prized the "Wealth of Nations' and ignored his "Theory of Moral Sentiments." We’ve seized upon the magic of self-interest and forgotten his counsels about virtue.
Finally, Christianity is deeply concerned with the plight of the poor. And, in fact, in many ways — tenured radical tirades notwithstanding — capitalism has been good for the poor. But Christianity is equally concerned about justice for workers. Figures like Pope Leo XIII and Protestant statesman Abraham Kuyper have affirmed both the good of markets and the need for unions. They didn’t equate capitalism with exploitation, but they did see the need to protect the dignity and value of work and workers — a concern that remains equally valid today.

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

Pentecost Meditations

Pentecost reminds us that Christians are not autonomous individuals, but rather persons participating in the body of Christ, and ultimately, in the community of the Trinity.

"Therefore if somebody should say to one of us, “You have received the Holy Spirit, why do you not speak in tongues?” his reply should be, “I do indeed speak in the tongues of all men, because I belong to the body of Christ, that is, the Church, and she speaks all languages. What else did the presence of the Holy Spirit indicate at Pentecost, except that God’s Church was to speak in the language of every people?” "
--An exposition of Ecclesiastes by St Gregory of Agrigentum

http://universalis.com/20140607/readings.htm

The Central Role of the Church in God’s Work in the World

 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/what-is-pentecost-why-does-it-matter/

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on individual followers of Jesus as they were gathered together in Jerusalem. This gathering became the first Christian church. New believers in Jesus were baptized as they joined this church. They, along with the first followers of Jesus, shared life together, focusing on teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They shared their belongings so that no one was hungry or needy. As these first Christians lived out their new faith together, “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Thus we speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the church.

In theory, the Spirit could have been poured out on the followers of Jesus when they were not gathered together. There are surely times when the Holy Spirit touches an individual who is alone in prayer, worship, or ministry to others. But the fact that the Spirit was given to a gathering of believers is not incidental. It underscores the centrality of the church in God’s work in the world. The actions of the earliest Christians put all of this in boldface. The Holy Spirit is not only given to individuals, but also, in a sense to the gathered people of God. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul observes that the church is God’s temple and that the Spirit dwells in the midst of the church (3:16-17; in 1 Cor 6:19-20 we find a complementary emphasis on the dwelling of the Spirit in individual Christians).

Personal Implications: Many Christians, especially those of us who have been influenced by the individualism of American culture, live as if the church is useful but unnecessary. We seem to believe that as long as we have a personal relationship with God, everything else is secondary. But Pentecost is a vivid illustration of the truth that is found throughout Scripture: the community of God’s people is central to God’s work in the world. Thus, Pentecost invites us to consider our own participation in the fellowship, worship, and mission of the church. It is a time to renew our commitment to live as an essential member of the body of Christ, using our gifts to build the church and share the love and justice of Christ with the world.

Pentecost Icon as an Icon of the Church

Pentecost Icon, Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery (c.1497)
Pentecost Icon, Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery (c.1497)
The Icon for the feast of Pentecost is also called the Descent of the Holy Spirit, as it is a depiction of the event described in the Book of Acts (Acts 2:1-4) when the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of fire upon the Apostles gathered together and enabled them to preach in different languages. However, the Feast of Pentecost is not only the commemoration of an historical event, but a celebration of a present reality: the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Likewise, the Icon for Pentecost is much more than the depiction of a past event.
Ss Peter and Paul, Pentecost Icon
St Peter (left) and St Paul (right)
The presence of the Apostle Paul in the icon, even though at that time he had not yet converted on the road to Damascus, hints that this icon is more than a purely historical picture. Sometimes, the evangelists Luke and Mark are also shown, despite also not having been present in the upper chamber at Pentecost. The gathering, then, is a representation of the Church. The Apostles are seated in a semi-circle, representing a unity and harmony similar to that found in Icons of the Holy Trinity. As in icons of the Holy Trinity, a semi-circle, rather than a full circle, is used so that we as observers are drawn into the unity.
Descent of the Holy Spirit
Descent of the Holy Spirit
The source of their unity is in another semi-circle at the top of the icon, showing the descent of the Holy Spirit. From the blue semi-circle (c.a. mandorlas) a single ray of light for each of those gathered shines down to illumine them. Sometimes the “tongues of fire” described in Acts are shown at the tips of the rays, ready to descend upon the Apostles. Other times, the tongues of fire are shown already within the halos of each of the seated Saints. Some icons of Pentecost show a dove, either within the mandorla at the top of the icon, or even descending upon those gathered in the upper chamber. Given the appearance of the Holy Spirit as a dove during Christ’s Baptism, it is understandable that this physical image of the Spirit is also used in Pentecost icons. However, the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of flame at Pentecost, and a dove at Christ’s Baptism, being – in reality – neither of these things. Therefore it is inappropriate to depict the Holy Spirit as a dove at Pentecost, or indeed in any icon except those for the Theophany feast.
King Kosmos, Pentecost
The Cosmos, holding the promise of Apostolic teaching
At the bottom of the Icon is another semi-circle, showing an old king against a dark background. He is often named as Kosmos and represents the world. He is crowned as a symbol of earthly authority – i.e. he represents all the peoples of the world, rather than the whole of creation. He is sat “in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79), and is aged to show the corruptibility of the world. Yet he also holds a blanket containing scrolls representing Apostolic teaching (compare with the scrolls held by the Apostles in the Icon itself and “the meaning of objects held by saints in icons“). Though in darkness, the descent of the Holy Spirit has not only reached the Apostles, but also all corners of the world into which the Apostles will preach the Gospel. The Empty Seat A striking aspect of the Pentecost Icon is the empty space at the centre, between the Apostles Peter and Paul. This central seat is a place of honour, the “Teacher’s Seat” around which the Apostles are gathered. Why is it empty? Because it is the seat Christ should be sitting in, Who has ascended physically into Heaven. Yet Jesus promised many times that though He would leave them physically, He would instead give to them the Holy Spirit as a comforter, advocate, and guide. This promise was first realized at Pentecost, and is still true today. Therefore, the Icon, which is also an Icon of the Church, shows the Apostles gathered in unity, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, surrounding Christ Who is invisibly present. The world, Cosmos, is at their feet, ready and waiting to be harvested through the passing on of Christ’s teaching.
Assumption Cathedral, Kem, Russia (17th Century)
Pentecost Icon with Mary at the centre (17th Century)
Some icons of Pentecost show Mary the Mother of God in the centre, occupying the “Teacher’s Seat”. Surviving icons of this sort are usually western (the above comes from the border between Finland and Russia). Mary was present at Pentecost, though as already mentioned, the icon is not primarily a historical snapshot of the event. The Theotokos’ presence in the centre is not problematic though, as she is the ultimate exemplar of a Christian. With Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit acts within people, and through the Saints Christ is manifested in the world. Mary is therefore shown in the “teacher’s seat” as the best example we have, and the person on earth who most resembled Jesus Christ (both physically, as His mother, and spiritually as His disciple). Nevertheless, the “empty” seat is a more widespread and, I believe, more impressive image of both Pentecost and the Church. The Apostles are seated as equals, with no individual among them taking the central seat of authority. They don’t need to. Their unity as the Body of Christ is sustained through the real “Vicar of Christ”: the Holy Spirit.
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Pentecost

Blessed are You, O Christ our God, who made fisherman all-wise, by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them, drawing all the world into Your net. O Loving One, glory be to You.
(Apolytikion for Pentecost) More About the Feast of Pentecost>>

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Can you be Catholic and libertarian?

If they keep this up, I may need to convert.


Can you be Catholic and libertarian?

By Melinda Henneberger, Published: June 6 

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/can-you-be-catholic-and-libertarian/2014/06/06/92e602d4-ed00-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html


For years, American Catholics have been under pressure to vote Republican. Though no church leader ever put it quite that baldly, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke came close when he said the Democratic Party was in danger of becoming a “party of death.” Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs has repeatedly suggested that Catholics shouldn’t be able to receive Communion if they vote for politicians who differ from church teaching on a few “non-negotiable” matters: abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia, same-sex marriage — and more recently, the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. 
The most intense call to the ballot box came from Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, a Holy Cross priest who referred to the “calculated disdain of the president of the United States” in a homily ahead of the 2012 presidential election. “Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments,’’ Jenky said, “would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care. In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama — with his radical pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda — now seems intent on following a similar path.”
None of the protests that followed claimed that Jenky hadn’t made himself clear.
Now, though, the red papal loafer may be on the other foot, with economic conservatives being called out.
In Washington this week, the cardinal some consider the pontiff’s “vice-pope’’ mocked them outright at a conference called “Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case against Libertarianism.” The Religion News Service story on the smackdown of trickle-down ran under the headline, “Catholic and libertarian? Pope’s top adviser says they’re incompatible.”
That adviser, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was introduced by AFL-CIO president Richard L. Trumka, and preached against deregulation and “worshipping idols, even if that idol is called ‘market economy.’ ’’ Rodríguez also called trickle-down economics a “deception,’’ and said the “invisible hand” of the market steals from and strangles the poor: “We are no longer to trust the blind forces and the invisible hand of the market. This economy kills. This is what the pope is saying.”
Some libertarians have described the pope’s economic views as naive and uninformed — and Rodríguez returned the favor. “Many of these libertarianists do not read the social doctrine of the church, but now they are trembling before the book of Picketty,’’ he said, referring to French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-seller, “Capital in the Twenty-first Century,” on the wealth disparities that have us headed into a new Gilded Age.
In some ways, the fight is over competing interpretations of the American story, said Meghan J. Clark, a moral theologian from St. John’s University. The libertarian telling of that story stars a frontiersman who carves the American West out of nothing, in radical autonomy, with only a hunting knife. Only, doesn’t that self-made man creating something out of nothing sound a lot like God? “That’s the [Catholic] problem with libertarianism,’’ Clark said. “It depends upon a human person who creates himself, and there’s no way to make that harmonious with Christ.”
The economy created by all those frontiersfolk is the unfettered free market, and Pope Francis himself recently reiterated his view that it is “an inhumane system. I didn’t hesitate to write in . . . “Evangelii Gaudium’ (“The Joy of the Gospel”) that this economic system kills,’’ Francis told reporters on his plane en route to Rome from Jerusalem. “And I repeat this.”
Of course, Pope Benedict XVI, too, spoke out against “the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism.” Pope Francis may or may not even know who the budget-cutting Catholic Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is.
It’s Francis’s constant refrain, however, that we walk with Christ by staying close to the poor. And Tuesday’s “Erroneous Autonomy” conference was without any doubt an attack on the politics of Ryan and other potential Republican presidential candidates, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who describes himself as “libertarianish,” and his fellow tea party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
The Rev. Robert A. Sirico, of the Michigan-based libertarian Acton Institute, said the conference seemed designed to “create a straw man, shoot it down, and make political hay,” but did not accurately define or reflect views held by any but the most “extreme Randians or anarchists.” Not only is the market far from unfettered, he said, but there’s evidence that its expansion lifts people up rather than leaving them behind.
He was invited to come and sit in the audience and be instructed, he said, but no libertarian Catholic was asked to speak or sit on a panel at the day-long event.
One of the conference organizers, Michael Sean Winters, whose anti-libertarian workthe cardinal quoted extensively at the top of his remarks, said the event was very consciously not a debate, in the same way that during the Cold War, “the objective wasn’t to dialogue with communism; it was to defeat it.”
The meeting wasn’t partisan, he said, since majorities in both parties hold some libertarian, “leave-me-alone” beliefs, with Democrats shooing government out of the bedroom and Republicans out of every other sphere of life. And “the Catholic critique isn’t based on economics; we think they’re wrong about what it means to be a human person.”
Steve Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, which sponsored the conference, argued that like Christianity, libertarianism “offers a comprehensive worldview that informs ethics and art, lifestyles and culture, and even relationships and psychologies. Surely it’s as evident in a NARAL woman’s claim that ‘It’s my body,’ in the art of the ‘selfie,’ and in the doomsday prepper’s fantasy of self-reliance, as it is in rancher Cliven Bundy’s claim that common grazing land is ‘my property.’ ”
Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., argued that libertarianism is a direct threat to faith: “Our ability to call people to believe in a gracious God” is compromised, he said in an interview, if “the cards are stacked against” the poor.
Such gentle, theological warnings against both the excesses of autonomy and of the free market are a far cry from Bishop Jenky’s Hitler references.
Yet on the political front, it’s worth remembering that recent attempts to herd Catholic voters haven’t gone well, and may even have backfired; despite the efforts of a number of American bishops to cast President Obama as “pro-abortion” and anti-Catholic, he won the Catholic vote in 2008 and 2012.
And at election time, it’s unclear that the “you can’t be Catholic and libertarian” argument would work any better than “you can’t be Catholic and pro-choice’’ has.




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Six Ways that Capitalism Fails the Church


http://morganguyton.us/2014/04/22/six-ways-that-capitalism-fails-the-church/
1) Capitalism fails the church when discipleship becomes an industrial complex
Discipleship is supposed to be the bread and butter of Christian community. What it’s supposed to mean is each Christian’s journey of spiritual growth under the mentorship of more seasoned Christians. This is supposed to happen in local communities in ways that are developed organically in their unique contexts. But in recent years, a monster Christian publishing industry has emerged which desperately needs to sell its books and videos in order to grow, thus constituting what I would call a “discipleship industrial complex.” In order to keep growing, the discipleship industrial complex manipulates pastors and church leaders into thinking that their own intuitions and guidance from the Holy Spirit in their local contexts aren’t good enough. They need to use trusted resources like Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life if they want to get results. Pretty soon, these trusted resources are depended upon for everything from children’s Christmas pageants to stewardship campaigns. It’s kind of similar to farmers who buy the security of Monsanto’s patented, genetically modified seeds. The FDA has officially declared that there’s nothing wrong with genetically modified corn. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with genetically modified discipleship either. There’s just nothing personal about it.
2) Capitalism fails the church when consumerism becomes a moralistic obligation
It really hit me recently how the greatest competitor, at least among middle-class people, to the kind of kingdom living that church is supposed to instill is not greed or gluttony or laziness, but moralistic consumerism. The reason that so few Christians tithe is not because they’re spending their money on booze and bon-bons. It’s because they’ve been indoctrinated with the sense that “responsible” people save all that they can for retirement and their children’s college education. It feels like a reckless indulgence to throw a bunch of money at God when there are so many things that could happen to you that would leave your family destitute. The same principle applies to the Sunday travel soccer leagues. Middle-class churchgoers who only make church once a month because of travel soccer or Boy Scout campouts or other children’s obligations are not playing hookey as an act of liberating mischief; they’re doing what they feel obligated to do as “responsible” parents, and church simply doesn’t feel as obligatory as their children’s other activities. All of this is part of a middle-class existence that is defined by a guilt-ridden moralistic consumerism. We are guilt-tripped into “doing our homework” for all our purchasing decisions, such as buying bread that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup or switching over to almond milk because of the latest research on the impact of dairy milk on children’s development. Nothing is wrong with any particular purchasing decision, but they all add up and create a monstrous system of worship that competes with our ability to rest in Christ.
3) Capitalism fails the church when churches with bling build their membership on transfer growth from churches without bling
I don’t deny the fact that there are churches which grow explosively because the Holy Spirit is creating genuine synergy in their midst. There are also churches that have managed to image success with their bling (such as state of the art audiovisual equipment), and in that way poach their members from churches that have dated furniture in their foyers. It’s similar to the way that Walmart put all the mom and pop general stores out of business in the eighties and nineties. This one hits close to home for me because we’ve lost several members to the local “community” church. One of our ex-members said that at her new megachurch, they don’t really have to volunteer for anything since the staff does everything for them. Yup.
- See more at: http://morganguyton.us/2014/04/22/six-ways-that-capitalism-fails-the-church/#sthash.H7V0B86o.dpuf
1) Capitalism fails the church when discipleship becomes an industrial complex
Discipleship is supposed to be the bread and butter of Christian community. What it’s supposed to mean is each Christian’s journey of spiritual growth under the mentorship of more seasoned Christians. This is supposed to happen in local communities in ways that are developed organically in their unique contexts. But in recent years, a monster Christian publishing industry has emerged which desperately needs to sell its books and videos in order to grow, thus constituting what I would call a “discipleship industrial complex.” In order to keep growing, the discipleship industrial complex manipulates pastors and church leaders into thinking that their own intuitions and guidance from the Holy Spirit in their local contexts aren’t good enough. They need to use trusted resources like Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life if they want to get results. Pretty soon, these trusted resources are depended upon for everything from children’s Christmas pageants to stewardship campaigns. It’s kind of similar to farmers who buy the security of Monsanto’s patented, genetically modified seeds. The FDA has officially declared that there’s nothing wrong with genetically modified corn. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with genetically modified discipleship either. There’s just nothing personal about it.
2) Capitalism fails the church when consumerism becomes a moralistic obligation
It really hit me recently how the greatest competitor, at least among middle-class people, to the kind of kingdom living that church is supposed to instill is not greed or gluttony or laziness, but moralistic consumerism. The reason that so few Christians tithe is not because they’re spending their money on booze and bon-bons. It’s because they’ve been indoctrinated with the sense that “responsible” people save all that they can for retirement and their children’s college education. It feels like a reckless indulgence to throw a bunch of money at God when there are so many things that could happen to you that would leave your family destitute. The same principle applies to the Sunday travel soccer leagues. Middle-class churchgoers who only make church once a month because of travel soccer or Boy Scout campouts or other children’s obligations are not playing hookey as an act of liberating mischief; they’re doing what they feel obligated to do as “responsible” parents, and church simply doesn’t feel as obligatory as their children’s other activities. All of this is part of a middle-class existence that is defined by a guilt-ridden moralistic consumerism. We are guilt-tripped into “doing our homework” for all our purchasing decisions, such as buying bread that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup or switching over to almond milk because of the latest research on the impact of dairy milk on children’s development. Nothing is wrong with any particular purchasing decision, but they all add up and create a monstrous system of worship that competes with our ability to rest in Christ.
3) Capitalism fails the church when churches with bling build their membership on transfer growth from churches without bling
I don’t deny the fact that there are churches which grow explosively because the Holy Spirit is creating genuine synergy in their midst. There are also churches that have managed to image success with their bling (such as state of the art audiovisual equipment), and in that way poach their members from churches that have dated furniture in their foyers. It’s similar to the way that Walmart put all the mom and pop general stores out of business in the eighties and nineties. This one hits close to home for me because we’ve lost several members to the local “community” church. One of our ex-members said that at her new megachurch, they don’t really have to volunteer for anything since the staff does everything for them. Yup.
- See more at: http://morganguyton.us/2014/04/22/six-ways-that-capitalism-fails-the-church/#sthash.H7V0B86o.dpuf

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Day by John Donne



Sleep, sleep, old Sun! thou canst not have repast
As yet the wound thou took’st on Friday last;
Sleep then and rest; the world may bear thy stay,
A better sun rose before thee to-day.
Who not content t’enlighten all that dwell
On the earth’s face, as thou, enlighten’d hell;
And made the dark fires languish in that vale,
As at thy presence here our fires grow pale.
Whose body, having walk’d on earth, and now
Hastening to heaven, would—that He might allow
Himself unto all stations, and fill all—
For these three days become a mineral.
He was all gold when He lay down, but rose
All tincture, and doth not alone dispose
Leaden and iron wills to good, but is
Of power to make even sinful flesh like His.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My favorite music for Holy Week

Maundy Thursday

  • Tallis "If Ye Love Me"
  • Durufle "Ubi Caritas"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=457nVpxJDkA

Good Friday
  • Wagner, "Good Friday Music" from Parsifal

Holy Saturday
  • Taverner, "As One Who Slept" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk-PNWS5Wvg
Easter Sunday
  • Rinsky Korsakov, "Russian Easter Overture" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXR0tloMmoo
  • Mahler, "Resurrection Symphony" 
  • Gounod, final chorus, Faust  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvPP7KwxFrw(7:35 on)