Saturday, August 14, 2010

Economic and Moral Microcosm

I am Greece. I am Spain. I am Portugal. I am the U.S. I am Ireland.

I, like each of these countries, have spent years spending like a drunken sailor, living far beyond my means. Peter and Paul aren't speaking with me anymore because I've spent so much time robbing one to pay the other. I've rotated my debt in order to keep on spending, hoping against hope, and any realistic assessment of reality, that somehow it would all work itself out in the end without me having to make drastic changes.

Well, reality does have a nasty habit of eventually catching up with our self imposed fantasies. And with each succeeding step of living in fantasy the cost grows higher and the climb back to level ground is steeper. If we're fortunate enough to have this reality stare us in the face early on, we can adjust our thinking and behavior accordingly and turn things around with a minimal amount of pain.

But if we have a reservoir of support available to us and a system which rewards conspicuous consumption through easy credit than the temptation is very strong to go along for the ride. I bought that lie. I bought the lie that I could buy whatever I wanted based on future earnings which would counteract my current excesses. I, along with my various creditors, believed that the road always rises and never falls. We now both know better.

We live in perilous times of great economic and social uncertainty and upheaval. I can't say what others should do but I know that I have a choice to make in response to my own situation. I have a moral obligation now just as much as I have had at every step of the way in this economic journey to indebtedness. I can either walk away and neglect my responsibility for my part in bringing this about and blame everyone around me for my woes, or I can own up to what I've done and not done and get to the dirty but ultimately noble business of cutting back to bare essentials and work harder to bring myself back up to level ground.

I have spent years being consumed by rampant consumerism and have found myself slowly dying of consumption. I'm therefore faced with very difficult choices brought about by all of my previous choices. But face them I must. The issue isn't whether I will make a choice, it's what choice will I make? Will I continue in this long slumber fed by the ever droning commercial narcotics streaming into my ears and eyes, burrowing deep into my very soul? Or will I awake from this deadly dream to a new day of harsh choices, but which I can at least be content to know that I will have dealt with reality on reality's terms?

A crisis at the right time be a true blessing if it awakens us to what is true and necessary.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Can We (I) Be Offensive for the Right Reasons and Not the Wrong Ones?

I was reminded today at lunch in a conversation with a good friend that if I am a Christian, I must first and foremost be concerned with living out my Christian witness, both in word and deed. To focus on either to the exclusion of either is to short-circuit the gospel's power. Christ has called us to be His hands and feet, but He's also called us to be His mouth to a lost and dying world.

We must be concerned for people's physical well-being of course. But without the gospel understanding we're just helping them to rearrange the chairs on the Titanic. But likewise, if we proclaim the gospel, yet have no concern for people's physical well-being, we betray a cold and shallow understanding of the fullness of Christ's redemption.

Proclaiming the uniqueness of Christ will never be popular to this world, and we shouldn't try to make it so. We must be willing to take the heat for that bold and dangerous claim the He is the only way to the Father. So in this sense we must be willing to be offensive in the way the gospel message is offensive to those not wanting to hear their true condition.

But at the same time we must also beware not to be offensive for all the wrong reasons. Our attitude must reflect the humble servant attitude of Christ and the Apostles. In fact He specifically warned His followers not to act like the surrounding culture that lauds authority over others. Sadly the reality is that many Christian "leaders" have exhibited just that haughty attitude that Christ forbade.

I know, because I've done it.

Last night I started rereading the Gospel of Luke and was immediately struck by how he emphasizes how God works through the marginalized over and over again. That's the way of God's Kingdom. It turns the notion of kingdom on its head and has its nobles serving the peasants and laying their lives down for the sake of the peasants, instead of the other way around, which is what our wars are always about. The poor go to the front lines in order to protect the privileges of the wealthy. But in God's war, He goes to the front lines and sacrifices His life so that we, the poor and enslaved, may be liberated and raised up.

Can we emulate this?

Will we emulate this?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Grand Strategy with Charles Hill

This is an absolutely fascinating interview with Charles Hill about his new book, Grand Strategy, where he lays out a huge narrative arc of political thinking, going all the way back to the ancient Greeks and how they conceptualized the world. He touches on Homer, Aeschylus, Thucydides, the Aeneid, the Treaty of Westphalia, and on and on. A wonderful tour de force of Western intellectual history.

This is just the first ten minutes of the interview. If you want to watch the whole interview, just click on the lower right part of the video and that will take you to the main page where you can watch it in its entirety.