Weekend Reading: November 26, 2016

Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving weekend!  Since you likely have football to watch and leftovers to eat (as I do too), I’ll keep this post brief. There are a three important stories you might have missed in the holiday rush, that I wanted to make sure you saw.

Let’s start down south, where Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has died.  It’s a  stark reminder that all kings of the earth will eventually go down to the grave.

The New York Times gave us a flavor for Castro’s personal abilities: 

Over many years Mr. Castro gave hundreds of interviews and retained the ability to twist the most compromising question to his favor. In a 1985 interview in Playboy magazine, he was asked how he would respond to President Ronald Reagan’s description of him as a ruthless military dictator. “Let’s think about your question,” Mr. Castro said, toying with his interviewer. “If being a dictator means governing by decree, then you might use that argument to accuse the pope of being a dictator.”

Now Castro will meet his Maker and face an interview even he may not be prepared for…

However, the people of Miami were ready for it, and celebrated accordingly. 

The second big story was that Pope Francis (temporarily?) extended Catholic priests’ power to forgive abortion.  This story deserves some comment, and I was really grateful to have been sent the link from Kate, because as we head into the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation the world is reminded why there needed to be a reformation in the first place.

The papal decree was probably received by millions as a mercy, but let me tell you, I read it and my heart simply ached, because it begs the question: why would anyone seeking forgiveness from ANY past sin not be granted that forgiveness? God’s forgiveness is not a magical power, neither is it a bureaucratic order to be dispensed from any living man. God’s forgiveness is God’s to dispense at His leisure and according to His heart and mind. The very reason Christ came to earth was to dispense the gracious forgiveness of a loving God to all who sought it, without need for any human mediators. As Scripture says:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV)

Of course it is the church that preaches that good news (The “gospel”) and the church leaders can remind us of this truth – one way the Catholic church does this is through “absolution.” But we aren’t talking about absolution, which began as simply a reminder that God (not man) had forgiven their sins. Anyway, it ought to be “He absolves you” not “I absolve you.”

The point is this: Men know they are sinful – we know wrong and right from an early age. And forgiveness forms not only the central point of doctrine for the church, but the central need of all men and women. If a church gets something so fundamental and basic as this wrong, and on such a scale, then we have to ask ourselves why they have the right to be called a church of Jesus Christ at all.  What then is necessary for forgiveness? To confess our sins to God Himself, who is listening and ready to forgive.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 ESV)

Story number three comes from Bloomberg: Cheer Up, America: 1,700 Millionaires Are Minted Every Day.  I’ve been noodling on this for a while now, and I think that the recent election results here in America have a lot to do with personal economics, and how people view their personal financial situation.

It is my belief that the growing disparity in income (what the liberals call “income inequality”) is coming about for two main reasons. First, the liberals in the media aren’t wrong that there’s a lot of greed on Wall Street. We see it every day – corporate executives getting huge bonuses (a good thin if they did good work) while exploiting workers (an inhumane and unethical thing if the company is doing well).

Making it seemingly worse is that you certainly have a class of Americans who inherit millions, get into the right schools, and meet the ruling elites from an early age. This isn’t bad on the surface – good schools and inheritance money is a blessing. But when a mindset is perpetuated and is uncharitable, unethical, and sometimes downright evil, then things continue to be run as they always have been.

That’s the corporate side of things.  But, I think the second source of this growing income gap is due to the government and it’s tied directly to the mindset and economic situation of the middle and lower class American individual. Americans of many stripes are becoming more and more dependent upon our government, and increasingly held back by it as well. Many don’t pay taxes, many received food subsidies, and many can’t afford to go to college. But one rung up, there is a newer, and perhaps a more serious issue. Men and women in the workforce are underemployed, lacking access to affordable healthcare – and when they get it, they’re dropped months later.  They simply can’t cobble together enough of a career to get ahead. If the economic recklessness of corporate elites crashed our economy in the first place, it is the legacy of Barak Obama’s policies which have used healthcare to keep the job market stagnate. Millions upon millions of people remain underemployed because of him.

Greed from healthcare companies, and politicians (on the right and the left – but I blame GOP leaders in congress in the 90’s who didn’t properly regulate the industry) set us on a course where it became harder and harder for sick Americans who needed care to get it. Now, no matter who you are you can’t get care because the companies themselves are going out of business, and people aren’t qualified because employers are keeping their hours low enough to avoid paying for mandated (and terrible) healthcare.

So what is the solution? The first steps were taken on Election Day by a populace who knew instinctively that we have to dismantle and reorganize some things. But the real solution is in the people.  We need ethical people in our corporations, and we need less people in our government. We need small businesses who aren’t punished for growing past a certain point. We need morality to reign in the hearts of our businessmen and women. Government involvement in the lives of the middle and lower class has corrupted our education, has squashed the traditional American work ethic, and isolated people by replacing their need for neighbors and church with a need for government checks and a second or third job due to underemployment.  Of course, even the best forms of government are only as strong as the morals of their people.  So we can work on structures all we want, but ethics are just as crucial.

This is still the land of opportunity – I believe that. I’m not a pessimist. But we have a lot of work to do, and it can only be done successfully in community, with adherence to the ethical standards and ideals which made our country tick in the first place.  We need strong churches, and strong relationships with our neighbors. We need giving hearts, and open doors, and lives that are accountable to one another.

I’m so thankful for this country, and it hurts to see it hurting. Yet I praise God that I was born here, and that I have the privilege to live and worship and work here.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend – and enjoy the time with family and friends!

PJW

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