Blessed be the Poor

Do you know what it is to beg for bread?
Do you know the dread of not being fed?
Have you ever had to hang your head?
Have you ever felt the need to plead?
And have you ever been misled,
Given stones in place of bread?
It’s not easy and makes you very queasy;
Some people quickly think you’re sleazy!
Oh, but to be turned down with a frown,
Especially after you’ve helped so many,
Giving a twenty when you had plenty –
Or even when you barely had a penny –
It makes you sick, like a kick in the gut!
When you yourself fall into a rut,
You’re mistreated like filthy smut;
Even your temple-church cuts you;
No more wanted; no more needed;
They have nothing to give for you to live!
Tell me, do you know the dread
Of begging for merely bread?
To be in need of even a few small seeds?
. . .
‘Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

The Rape of Gaia & Wrath of God

Anahita came to me to mourn the rape of Mother Gaia, torn
Apart by her children under seeing Eye of God, whose wrath
Is kindled to bath of blood in vengeance of her innocence,
In defense of purity sublime; so she spoke of horrid crime.

Anahita of seas and waterways now polluted, spoke of disease
And days of drought to come, and not on some but all upon
This terrestrial ball… ‘You shall fall,’ said she in tears
Unleashed in trembling fear for our fate too late to change.

‘You have had your chance,’ sweet voice went on, ‘to dance
With Gaia while nature sings and brings you gifs so freely
And dearly, but…’ loud wailing then escaped open mouth
Now distorted, ‘you craved ill-gained gold and pained us all
… both great and small.’

‘Look up! Look up! Do you see your canopy ripping, dripping
With poison? Look round! Look round! Do you see waters brown
With profusion of pollution? Look down! Look down! In oceans
Far below, creatures frown while crown of life is shattered
… vivacity scattered.’

Uars_ozone_waves[1]

‘Listen! Listen! Heed the call anew of the holy Bartholomew!
Did he not say tis challenge for humanity, yet only sanity
To join together in care and preservation, for this is plain:
Humanity has plundered earth and torn asunder heavenly gift.’

bartholomew11[1]

Anahita bowed her beautiful head and said, ‘Instead of caring
For creation, you have infested and molested your kindred
And now God shall wipe from divine sight the blight of children
To heal plight of nature with laver of renewal; celestial favor.’

‘And what of you, child, so weak and mild?’ Anahita smiled sadly
And asked as she basked in stream of sunlight radiant; but madly
Pathetic man I am, I feel to the floor both to adore and to plead,
‘Have mercy! Have mercy! Have we no chance to change and enhance
In better ways our days of toil, to care for sky and sea and soil?’

Anahita nodded, then shook her head, took my hand and lead me forth
From lazy bed to cities of nations, and corporations, to associations
Of men dressed in best, with holes in their chest, where heart’s
Were missing with greed hissing; money-makers pissing away our future,
With not so much as a suture for inflicted cuts and ripped out guts.

garbage

‘Do you have an opportunity?’ Anahita asked and answered, ‘Yes, you do,
So soon as you rid yourselves of those who bid Gaia on auction block
And lock her away like whore for sale; no more! No more to ignore
Or give free reign to the wealthy insane in craving unhealthy gain
… impair these miscreants; repair creation!’

‘Clean the water, clean the air; share in food, be fair! Soothe the seas
And the bumble bees, and freeze exploitation of the earth that gives birth
To all that sustains what remains of life now so rife with suffering
And shame to the blame of those whose god is money and silvery honey…
Reparation will be your only salvation.’

So says Anahita of oceans fair, as she laid bare her soul to me so free;
But I wonder will the plunder continue because no one listens as the last
Fading flower glistens beneath tired sun, weeping stars and mournful moon,
Our fate so soon to meet without peep of concern, even as in lust we burn
For self-ease, ne’er on our knees to please Creatrix who would still lift
To care for gift freely given, to bless us to sweep clean our morbid mess?

Do we hear? Do we care? And can we bear the truth to begin this repair?
.

Fires, Wages and the Passing of Larry Hagman

The United States is sick because Americans are sick  – not so much physically as psychologically and spiritually – but most do not even realize the presence of the ailment or, at least, the full scope of the same. This came to mind once again, painfully, as I perused the latest copy of The Week during my layover at the Miami airport.

factoryfire
Convenience and low prices come at great cost … even the cost of innocent lives

Consider the recent factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which claimed the lives of more than one hundred employees, who earn(ed) about $43 per month. “Workers at the Ashulia factory, which produces clothes for Wal-Mart and other international companies, said that locked emergency exits prevented many people from escaping the blaze… Wal-Mart said that it had been unaware that one of its suppliers subcontracted work to the substandard factory.”

Really???  Excuse me, but I don’t believe it; in fact, I fully agree with labor activists who claim that “that practice is not unusual, and that global brands intentionally distance themselves from responsibility for workers.” Touché! This has been the case for many, many years. The whole raison d’être for outsourcing jobs is increased profit without any attendant responsibility for the health and well-being of workers producing the goods.

What is really tragically sad is the fact that so many Americans upon hearing about the factory fire (and how many have even heard?) would not even shed a tear, much less protest by no longer shopping at Wal-Mart and other international companies engaged in the same notorious business practices. Sick? You bet, and it will come back to haunt us sooner than later, I’m afraid.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, “we all end up bearing the cost of ‘big box retail’s refusal to pay a decent wage,’” claims Jordan Weismann of TheAtlantic.com. Mega chains like Wal-Mart “pay so little – around $9 or $10 an hour – that their employees wind up ‘disproportionately reliant on safety-net programs like food stamps and Medicaid.’ With negligible increase of cost and minimal impact upon their profit margin, they could easily up pay to better and fairer levels.

Would the company(ies) pass on the cost to the consumer?  According to Weismann, if they paid a living wage and passed on fully half the cost, “the average big-box shopper would pay just $17.73 extra a year. I think most customers ‘would gladly pay a bit more to know the person helping them find the detergent aisle doesn’t need help from the government to feed their child.’ And that may be the only way to break the ‘cycle of impoverishment’ big-box stores have helped to create.”

And again, touché, but I know (unfortunately) some Americans who would vehemently disagree with Weismann and chafe at the idea of having to pay that extra $17.73 annually. There is a kind of sick psychology that some (many?) Americans have bought into that says in effect, “These people working so long for so little deserve their situation; they did it to themselves. In fact, they should be thankful just to have their job without any greater or higher expectations.” Sick? You bet it is! And this is already haunting us; it’s just many (most?) Americans don’t realize it … yet.

I also note with sadness the death of Larry Hagman, “TV’s most beloved villain.”  I was a faithful follower of Dallas and, like millions throughout the states and around the world, got caught up in the “Who shot J.R.?” frenzy.  I even got my first cowboy hat because I wanted to look like J. R. Ewing. (The cowboy hat didn’t quite get it, though… I just didn’t look like an oil baron!)  But I also liked I Dream of Jeannie, though the series ended the year I was born.  Hagman was, evidently, an eccentric fellow and heavy drinker in life, but I bid a fond farewell and say, “Thank you for the good times, and rest in peace, Mr. Hagman.”

We the People… Do We Have Any Say-So?

Well, as a matter of fact, we do!  In the form of initiatives, referendums, even non-binding advisories, average American citizens truly are able to impact government; we just don’t.  At least not often enough, but who says that can’t change?

Here are a couple of issues I have been mulling over and have now stated in the form of “advisories,” that is, “a ballot measure in which citizens vote on a non-binding question … symbolically mak(ing) heard the general opinion of the voting population in regard to the issue at hand. (From Ballotpedia  as cited November 19, 2012)

The first has to do with obscenely high Congressional salaries, especially in lieu of the economic recession we continue to experience;  the other two target both basic human rights as well as the outsourcing of jobs (namely, making it less profitable to do so.)  If you agree with any or all of these proposed advisories, by all means copy, paste and share!  (Above all, though, write your own, get people involved, and let’s begin to take back our government… Isn’t it time?)

With that in mind, then, here are three proposed advisories, which could easily be transformed into ballot initiatives:

QUESTION

Should members of the United States Congress representing residents of the State of (Alabama or ____________ ) be compensated in salary equal to but not exceeding the national median household income (reported at $50,100 for September 2012) with additional quarterly reimbursement for approved out-of-pocket expenses?

EXPLANATION

The rank and file members of Congress earn approximately $175,000 annually.  This does not include any other forms of compensation.  Members of Congress, however, are called upon to represent all constituents – namely, the People – so that establishing Congressional salaries at the median national level seems both equitable and reasonable. This would seem to be even more imperative as great numbers of Americans struggle economically.  While unemployment fluctuates between 7.5% and 8.5%, anywhere between 16% and 18% of American adults are underemployed, leaving nearly 50 million living in poverty according to the Census Bureau.  Reducing average Congressional salaries by approximately 70% would then also be an authentic means by which members of Congress show solidarity with all peoples of the United States.

QUESTION

Should the Government of the United States enact Legislation prohibiting the importation of any and all goods, products, and merchandise manufactured, fabricated, and/or assembled by workers compensated at a rate lower than the equivalent of the U.S. minimum wage (established in 2009 at $7.25 per hour), which equivalent rate will be reviewed at the beginning of each fiscal year?

EXPLANATION

The first federal minimum wage was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 with the stated purpose of preventing American workers from falling into poverty, as well as increasing consumer purchasing power.  This same principle should fairly apply to all workers without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or nationality.  Such an enactment would also lessen the appeal of outsourcing jobs, as cost-of-wages would almost certainly, dramatically increase for American-owned companies and corporations in many parts of the world.  (The average Chinese factory worker earned an equivalent of approximately $1.36 (US) per hour in 2008, working an average, daily 12-hour shift.  By comparison, then, the average Chinese factory worker earns less than one-tenth of their U.S. counterparts while the average cost of living is only approximately half, making the disparity both real and serious.)

QUESTION

Should the Government of the United States enact Legislation prohibiting the importation of any and all goods, products, and merchandise manufactured, fabricated, and/or assembled by workers under the age of 16 and/or working in excess of 12 hours per day?  (In 2006, the average man employed full-time in the United States worked 8.4 hours per work day, and the average woman employed full-time worked 7.7 hours per work day.)

EXPLANATION

From the Department of Labor, “Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage,” we read:

“On Saturday, June 25, 1938, to avoid pocket vetoes 9 days after Congress had adjourned, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed 121 bills. Among these bills was a landmark law in the Nation’s social and economic development — Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). Against a history of judicial opposition, the depression-born FLSA had survived, not unscathed, more than a year of Congressional altercation. In its final form, the act applied to industries whose combined employment represented only about one-fifth of the labor force. In these industries, it banned oppressive child labor and set the minimum hourly wage at 25 cents, and the maximum workweek at 44 hours.”  (Emphasis Added)

Many, if not most, industrial and post-industrial nations have followed suit with minimum wage laws, child labor laws, and work-week regulations.  What we assume to be fair and reasonable rights for individuals living and working in our own country we ought also to apply to all workers without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or nationality.  This, too, would also likely have the effect of lessening the appeal of outsourcing jobs by American-owned companies and corporations.

Well, this was my morning work.  Perhaps this afternoon I’ll tackle labor relations and minimum wage in the US, environmental issues, election reform and a few others!  How about you???

Supporting Romney and the Dangers of Politicized Religion

It’s an election year once again. And once again there are two, and only two, primary candidates for the office of President of the United States. And once again conservative, evangelical Christians largely back the Republican candidate. After all, he is (now at least) ostensibly:

  • Pro-family
  • Pro-life
  • Pro-gun rights
  • Pro-business
  • Pro-coal industry
  • Pro-Israel
  • Tough on Immigration
  • Tough on Terrorism
  • Tough on Islamism
  • And no threat to Evangelical American Christians (having alleviated concerns over his Mormonism)

So, the conservative, American Christian voter can proudly vote for Mitt Romney, confident that he will carry out the Christian, conservative, Reaganesque agenda for the United States with pure moral fiber and fortitude.  And all will be well in the Land of Liberty and Opportunity … right?  And thus the dangers of politicized religion or, more specifically in this case, a  politica christianitas that equates fidelity to faith with an exact political agenda.

You know, if you are really Christian then you will be “pro-business,” for example, without any thought of outsourcing jobs or unfair trade.  It is perfectly alright for Hobby Lobby to sell cheap Forth of July products made in China and Vietnam by grossly underpaid workers because Hobby Lobby is a good, profitable, “Christian” business employing  x-number  of workers to unload the trucks, stock their shelves and run their cash registers. Right?  And Mitt Romney made millions outsourcing jobs, but that’s o.k. too; after all, he’s “pro-business.”

And if you are really Christian then you will automatically be opposed to Islam and all Muslims because, as everyone knows, all Muslims are radical terrorists out to destroy the United States and Christianity … despite the fact that Islam has always considered Christians to be “people of the Book,” and for centuries coexisted (more or less) peacefully with Christians in predominantly Muslim lands.  And so, consequently,  you will not tolerate any official reaching out to Islamic countries in a positive manner.

And if you are really Christian then you will favor prayer in public schools despite the fact that prayer at the beginning of the school day has absolutely nothing to do with intellectual belief or orientation of the heart.  Not to mention how the whole issue really, effectively cheapens religion by turning it into nothing more than so much window-dressing anyway, which in turn renders the faith-religion of Christ Jesus quite unattractive, even perhaps ugly.

And, too, if you are really Christian then you will be opposed to welfare programs because,  as one blurb on Facebook had it,   “if you can afford to buy your cigarettes, beer and drugs you don’t need my money (or support),” which presupposes that all people on welfare are cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking, drug addicts. Of course, this is not true, but it also fails to take into account the multi-millionaires and billionaires who could honestly afford to ante up more to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless, as well as creating (or bringing back) viable jobs for the unemployed.

Somewhere along the line an insidious political agenda high-jacked Christianity in America. How that occurred is another topic for another time, but it’s happened before in history.  One may call to mind the Byzantine and Holy Roman empires,  Geneva and Holland,  Cromwell’s  England and other examples.  Where the Lord Jesus calls his followers (and the Church corporately) to be “salt and light,” and the positive “leavening” influence in society, (cf. Luke 13.20-21) those who call themselves by his name turn his “pure and undefiled religion” (cf. James 1.27) into the politica christianitas of the land.

Turning from the teachings of Jesus,  the politica christianitas largely substitutes its political agenda for the gospel and supports anyone and everyone who touts the same – or, in the case of Mitt Romney, alleges to – without question or reservation.  But what does the Lord Jesus say about the poor and suffering?  What might he teach about unbridled capitalism – i.e. capitalism with little or no control or safeguards, in essence valuing profits over democratic rights and freedoms?  Where would he stand on environmental issues such as industries pouring toxic waste into our waterways?

Did the Lord Jesus have anything to say about formal public prayer, i.e. prayer-for-show?  (The answer is, “Yes! He certainly did!”)  What words would he speak about borrowing money hand-over-fist, especially when much of that money is spent on weapons of mass destruction?  For that matter, what would he say about weapons of mass destruction?  What counsel might he offer the prime minister of Israel concerning Palestine?  What would he say to Palestinians … and to all people regarding how we ought to live with one another?  Would love be part of his admonition?  (Again, the answer is, “Yes!”)

We could continue the list almost ad infinitum but you get the picture.  And, no, this is not political recommendation or condemnation so much as it is an expression of frustration in general.  Why is it that so many conservative, evangelical Christians hang on every scripture condemning homosexuality and abortion, or (seemingly) promising prosperity without giving the slightest regard to scriptures condemning greed, economic exploitation, and aggressive militarism, not to mention what holy writ has to say about caring for God’s creation?

The term “cafeteria Christian” comes to mind, but again, this is the outgrowth of politicized Christianity, and it damages the witness and viability of the Church.  Would that we sit at the feet of the first century Jesus of Nazareth once again to hear, to learn, to follow faithfully without regard to political agendas, futile programs and empty promises made by cunning candidates!  In the words of U2’s October,  “And kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but you go on and on…”  And so it is:  America is not forever, nor was she meant to be,  and the kingdom of God is not political but it is everlasting.  Far better, then, to live as citizens of the celestial than disciples of demagogues.

God Destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah … But Why?

Surprise! Or for some, at least. Sex, it would seem, is not the only activity that interests God – certainly not as much as it consumes many fundamentalist Christians – and not the only compelling reason for divine judgment. In fact, the almighty just might be more interested in, say, the ugliness of pride, arrogance, greed, over-indulgence, indifference to the plight of the poor and suffering, etc.

Take for instance the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. The prophet Ezekiel has something very intriguing to say about why God judged these cities, and despite whatever sexual desires may have been indulged, he has God declaring:

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty… (Ezekiel 16.49-50a, ESV)

Or in a more “user-friendly” translation:

She and her daughters were proud because they had plenty to eat and lived in peace and quiet, but they did not take care of the poor and the underprivileged. They were proud and stubborn…” (Ezekiel 16.49-50a, GNT)

Pride and gluttony in an environment of material prosperity, with little or no concern for the poor and underprivileged. This enraged God so much he decided to destroy the two cities … completely wipe them off the face of the earth!

Not that I particularly relish the idea, but it is fascinating how much I’ve heard all of my life about how sexually perverse Sodom and Gomorrah were and that this was the reason God judged them. Nothing (to my sometimes faulty recollection, at least) was ever mentioned about pride, over-indulgence, greed, indifference to suffering, etc.

Why?

Hyper-fundamentalist religionists forever rail against the degradation of our society following the almost complete eradication of traditional standards of morality. In so doing you may hear them compare contemporary culture to Sodom and Gomorrah. Well, no argument here…  I believe we are very much like Sodom and Gomorrah, too, albeit for very different reasons.

As Christopher J. H. Wright notes in his commentary:

Ironically, the one thing for which Sodom is most famous in traditional Christian interpretation, the attempted violent homosexual rape in Genesis 19, is the one thing Ezekiel does not mention explicitly … even though the sexual colouring of the rest of the allegory would have made it very much ‘at home’ if it had been in Ezekiel’s mind at all. Rather, he lists four things which all fall into the category of social and economic wickedness. The people of Sodom and its whole surrounding culture and society were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. Sodom, then, was a culture of great pride, of affluent gluttony, and of complacent ease. It sounds familiar… The language is that of oppression and neglect, of prosperity for some and poverty and pain for others.  (The Message of Ezekiel, 147-148)

Yes, it certainly does sound familiar – sounds, looks and feels very familiar – for it is, by far and large, the picture of contemporary American society.  And I am not only thinking of the multimillionaire/billionaire proprietors of products cheaply made in countries with horrendous human rights abuses, where the workers are barely paid enough to subsist. No, this picture encompasses more than the most privileged few at the top.

My children and I decided to walk around the local mall the other day, mostly just to look and enjoy each other — and believe it or not, there are still people just that old-fashioned — and we decided to grab a bite to eat. Sitting at our table in the middle of the “Food Court,” we naturally saw a lot of people.  I must confess, I don’t get out a lot and the mall is not one of my favorite places anyway, but I was shocked at how many grossly overweight children I saw while sitting there munching on my chicken sandwich.

My kids quickly informed me, “Oh, that’s nothing! A lot of kids in our school are like that…” Then proceeded to tell me about some of their own contemporaries of gargantuan sizes.  I was inclined to believe they were exaggerating, and perhaps they were in some cases, but I swear to you I saw more than one elementary school age boy or girl so huge it looked like they were having problems walking. Just how overfed have they been??? Gluttonous? Hell, yes! My children concluded — bless their sometimes-totalitarian hearts — that these kids should be forced on diets and their parents ought to be punished. (They didn’t say exactly how they should be punished and maybe that’s best!)

At any rate,  I don’t think I’ve ever seen photos of children from other parts of our world that resemble so many of the children I saw in the shopping mall that day. Of course,  most parts of the world don’t have shopping malls either. And even if they did, the vast majority of people wouldn’t buy any of the self-satisfying, pleasure-oriented product offered in the typical American mall.

No, they probably would be more interested in simple durable clothing, nourishing food and clean water; basic medicines and household cleaning goods; perhaps books and school supplies, etc. But you know what is so interesting to me, too, in thinking about this is the startling fact that so many of these people are so very generous! The little they have, they share; I know this from experience. On the other hand, some of the stingiest people I have ever known are those who actually have the most to give, and not a few of them self-professing Christians, who rant and rave against “sexual perversities” of various kinds.  Hmmmmm … Fascinating.

But the Lord God also said through the prophet Ezekiel,

As surely as I live … Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters… Even Samaria did not commit half your sins. You have done far more detestable things than your sisters ever did. They seem righteous compared to you. Shame on you! Your sins are so terrible that you make your sisters seem righteous, even virtuous.  (Ezekiel 16. 48, 51-52, NLT)

When I reflect on the plight of so many millions of people here and around the world, then think back to my recent visit to the mall; when I consider the hunger, homelessness, strife and pain, disease and devastation of multitudes of invaluable humans and contrast that in my mind to the few multimillionaires and billionaires sitting smugly atop their fortunes; when I picture Americans so grotesquely huge they can barely squeeze their gluttonous carcasses into their Land Rovers and remember at the same time that there are tens of thousands of children starving to death…  I cannot help but wonder, do we not make Sodom seem righteous?

Sex?  I doubt very seriously that two women making love concerns God nearly as much as the sins we commit everyday as the most prosperous and powerful nation in the world.  And if I had to guess, the almighty Lord has a special burn against the arrogant greed, gluttony and self-centered indifference of people who actually claim to know and serve him.  And if the story we read about in Genesis — the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah — is true, then I can’t help but wonder, what in the world… Well, maybe that question is best left unasked.

More Miscelleny

Jesus, Capitalist?

Jesus was a capitalist? Hardly. He may not have been socialist, as some like to argue, but he was not capitalist either. (In fact, he defies our categories.) Jesus never advocated stockpiling and hoarding wealth.

He did say it would be easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He did tell people to store up for themselves treasures in heaven rather than on earth. He did make some rather acidic remarks about greed and cold-hearted lack of charity.

No, our Lord Jesus may not have been communistic, but one must wonder what he would say to the self-professed Christian businessman sitting atop billions of dollars largely acquired  by selling cheaply manufactured product made by poverty-striken people paid little more than pennies a day in death-trap factories where they practically live and certainly exist in misery.

Would Jesus simply shrug his shoulders and whimsically say, “Oh well, that’s just business.” Hardly! He did not shed his precious and most holy Blood for the wealth of nations but for the souls of human beings created in the image of God, according to his likeness.

A Little Balance, Please

Employee to Wealthy Business Owner:  Oh, yes, I certainly am grateful for the job you’ve given me! It is truly a blessing, and I am thankful … just as thankful as I’m sure you are for the good work I do; just as thankful as you probably are for all of the good, honest, hard-working men and women who have made your business successful and keep your business running and profitable; just as thankful as you ought to be for all of the blood, sweat and tears poured out to put you in your mansion, luxury cars and private jet airplane. 

Right?  Right.  So, yes, thank you and you’re welcome!

On Sale?

If something is always 50% off ~ everyday of the year, year after year ~ then is it really “on sale?”  Isn’t it, then, just a tad bit deceitful to advertise it as such?

Just business as usual?  Yep, unfortunately, but just smile and nod … just smile and nod.

The Rich Man and His Neighbor: A Parable for Our Times

There was once a very rich man, who had a very large and productive estate and a healthy, wealthy household. He had many servants and some of the best tools and equipment with which to work his estate.

His vast holdings included vegetable and flower gardens, fruit trees and pecans, hickory and oak trees, sheep and cattle. And because this man had been so industrious and his estate so productive, he had plenty of gold and silver as well.

The time came, however, when the rich man grew fat and lazy. He loved his estate and his household, but he grew tired of the work. He said to himself, “Why should I work so hard now? Should I not rest and enjoy the fruit of my labors? And why should I pay my servants so much for the work they do? They have grown complacent and greedy!”

Now this man had a neighbor, who also owned a great estate and many slaves, but who was much poorer. This neighbor came to the rich man and said, “Great sir, I see you have a large and very productive  estate, and that you have accumulated much wealth. Now you should enjoy the fruit of your labors, but your servants have grown complacent and greedy.”

“Look and see,” the neighbor continued. “I am a poor man by comparison, but I have many strong and healthy slaves. Turn away your servants from your flower and vegetable gardens, then, and let my slaves plow and sow and reap. They require far less than your own servants, and yet this will be good for me and my own estate.”

So the rich man agreed, thinking this a very wise and prudent decision. He sent away his servants, who worked in his flower and vegetable gardens, and his neighbor sent in his slaves to do the work. And the rich man was pleased with himself and his household rejoiced.

Some time later, the rich man again said to himself, “I still have much hard work here, but should I not rest and enjoy the fruit of my labors? And why should I pay my servants so much for the work they do? They have grown complacent and greedy!”

And again his neighbor came to him and said, “You have a large and very productive  estate, great sir, and you have accumulated much wealth. Now you should enjoy the fruit of your labors, but your servants have grown complacent and greedy.”

“Look and see,” the neighbor continued. “I am a poor man by comparison, but I have many strong and healthy slaves. Turn away your servants from your fruit trees and pecan orchards, then, and let my slaves harvest. They require far less than your own servants, and yet this will be good for me and my own estate.”

So the rich man agreed, thinking this a very wise and prudent decision. He sent away his servants, who worked in his fruit and pecan orchards, and his neighbor sent in his slaves to do the work. And the rich man was pleased with himself and his household rejoiced.

Some time later, the rich man again said to himself, “I still have much hard work here, but should I not rest and enjoy the fruit of my labors? And why should I pay my servants so much for the work they do? They have grown complacent and greedy!”

And again his neighbor came to him and said, “You have a large and very productive  estate, great sir, and you have accumulated much wealth. Now you should enjoy the fruit of your labors, but your servants have grown complacent and greedy.”

“Look and see,” the neighbor continued. “I am a poor man by comparison, but I have many strong and healthy slaves. Turn away your servants from tending your sheep and cattle, then, and let my slaves shear and milk and butcher. They require far less than your own servants, and yet this will be good for me and my own estate.”

So the rich man agreed, thinking this a very wise and prudent decision. He sent away his servants, who tended his sheep and cattle, and his neighbor sent in his slaves to do the work. And the rich man was pleased with himself and his household rejoiced.

Then one day the rich man looked into his treasury and realized he had not nearly so much gold and silver as once he possessed, for his estate was now far less productive, and this caused him great concern. But he looked and remembered all of the fine tools and equipment he owned, with which to work his estate.

“Ah, I have no more need for these,” the rich man said to himself. “I will sell them and make a profit, and then I will have plenty of gold and silver again!” And so he sold all of the fine tools and equipment to his neighbor, who had more need for them than he, and the rich man was pleased with himself and his household rejoiced.

Sometime later the rich man looked into his treasury and realized he had not nearly so much gold and silver as once he possessed, for his estate was now far less productive, and this caused him great concern. But he had no fine tools or equipment to sell. He was now in debt to his neighbor, too, for he had not been able to pay him in full for the work of his slaves each month.

“Dear friend,” the rich man pleaded with his neighbor. “What shall I do? You see, I have no gold or silver left with which to pay you for your fine work, but I still have need of your services. My household is large and we have many needs. How then may I pay you and continue to enjoy the fruit of all my labors?”

“Ah, neighbor, you were once a great man with a great and mighty estate, but now you and your household have grown complacent and greedy. Still, the work has been good for me and my estate, so I will extend you mercy. Only pay me now, not in gold or silver, but in fruits and vegetables, in wool and meat, in flowers and pecans; then shall we both be satisfied.”

Sometime later the rich man looked into his treasury and realized he had no gold and silver, for his estate was now far less productive, and he remembered that he had no fine tools or equipment to sell. He had no servants remaining to serve him and his household, and he himself was too old and weak to work.

And the rich man thought, “I now receive only a small portion of the fruit and vegetables, wool and meat, flowers and pecans of this my own estate, yet I am still in debt to my neighbor. Now what shall I do?” And the rich man wept bitterly, and went to his neighbor, who was now very wealthy and powerful.

“Dear friend,” the rich man pleaded with his neighbor. “What shall I do? You see, I have no gold or silver left with which to pay you for your fine work, but I still have need of your services. My household is large and we have many needs. How then may I pay you and continue to enjoy the fruit of all my labors?”

“Ah, neighbor, you were once a great man with a great and mighty estate, but now you and your household have grown complacent and greedy. Now you have no tools or equipment with which to work your estate, nor have you any servants to do the work, and you yourself are old and weak. 

“So shall you pay me now, not in gold or silver, for you have none; nor in fruits and vegetables, in wool and meat, in flowers and pecans, for you no longer have enough to satisfy your debt. Now you shall pay me with your very estate, and I will be merciful and allow your household to live and work in company with my slaves … and I shall be satisfied.”

On American Christians Feeding the Red Dragon

In June 1989, their army surrounded thousands of civilians ~ their own people ~ in a place called Tiananmen Square. Several hundred were shot dead during this bloody military operation to crush the mostly student-led protests for democracy.

Ten years later, in July 1999, their government officially outlawed Falun Gong, a peaceful religion that emphasizes truth and honesty, compassion, self-restraint and forbearance. Thousands of adherents were immediately arrested. State officials began (and continue) an all-out effort to eradicate the religion through propaganda, imprisonment, and “thought reform” of adherents. Untold numbers have been murdered.

For the year 2008, Amnesty International reported that “human rights defenders and their relatives, including children, were increasingly subject to harassment, including surveillance, house arrest and beatings by both government officials and unidentified assailants… An estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial, and millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances.”

We are, of course, talking about China. Meanwhile…

Amid shrill cries, many of them coming from church leaders, to boycott the state of Arizona due to its nasty anti-illegal immigration efforts, the United States continues to import over $300 billion in goods from the Red Dragon. It goes without saying this is business-motivated and profit-driven, but where is the church ~ the American church, that is ~ in all of this?

Well, the answer is obvious. Where are American Christians in all of this? Inside American stores buying the goods! In other words, to make it very plain, the church in America is funding the bloody, totalitarian regime responsible for the Tiananmen Square Massacre, repression and persecution of the Falun Gong, the arrest and beatings of human rights activists, detention of one-half million people for no stated reason … and so, so much more.

What makes this worse, perhaps, is that among the atrocities committed almost daily in China is the active and violent persecution of Christians. Not that believers are intrinsically worth more than human rights activists, members of Falun Gong, Buddhists or whomever else, but for Christians these particular people are brothers and sisters!

Imagine inviting the man who raped and beat your wife over for Sunday dinner. To add insult to injury, though, Christians spend millions upon millions of dollars on ceramic angels, plastic Jesus figures and other cheap-quality religious merchandise imported from this violently anti-Christian, officially atheist state! (Some of the “faithful” even prosper from these sales, having built their businesses almost exclusively on such imports.)

Persecution.org offers myriad examples of the kind of treatment Christians are subjected to in China, like the “brutal victimization they suffered in the hands of the ‘People’s Police'” on February 23rd. On that fateful evening, law-enforcement officials raided a legal study center, shot tear gas at the group of 20 and then proceeded to beat many of them with their batons, including two elderly sisters.

Not surprisingly, police also “destroyed video cameras, audio recording devices, cell phones, and any other equipment that might have captured evidence of the violent raid.” Interestingly enough, this small group of Christians were reportedly gathered to study the “relevant laws and rules of the Regulations on Religious Affairs promulgated by the State Council.”

Touche! Evidently “religious affairs” in China are rather bleak. In another sense, however, they’re no better in America, perhaps worse, as Christians here remain unashamedly insensitive to the suffering masses on the other side of the globe. In fact, they knowingly support it everyday without a whim of conviction while impertinently expecting God to continue blessing them and their churches.

And while evangelicals rail against abortion rights, they hardly ever pause to even consider how they are subsudizing the massive abortion “industry” in China with their annual purchase of products made in that country … made for American businesses, some of which are ostensibly owned and operated by Christians who never so much as blink at importing cheap product-for-proft.

And while liberals scream about the unfair exploitation of this or that group, they never seem motivated enough to even cast a glance at an entire nation of exploited people, millions of whom work 12 to 14 hours (or more) each day for less than our minimum wage manufacturing goods for Americans to gobble in feeding our insatiable, self-centered, materialist appetites.

Not much has changed, really. Over 50 years ago Dorothy Sayers complained about the same sort of short-sightedness and imbalanced perspective among Christians in England:

“The churches are justifiably shocked when the glamor of a film actress is assessed by the number of her love affairs and divorces; they are less shocked when the glamor of a man, or of a work of art, is headlined in dollars. They are shocked when unfortunates are reduced to selling their bodies; they are less shocked when jounalists are reduced to selling their souls. They are shocked when good food is wasted by riotous living; they are less shocked when good crops are wasted and destroyed because of overproduction and underconsumption. Something has gone wrong with the emphasis; and it is becoming very evident that until that emphasis is readjusted, the economic balance sheet of the world will have to be written in blood.”

Obviously (or it should be obvious!) this is not acceptable to Christ our Lord who, according to the second chapter of the Revelation, comes quickly to do battle with his two-edged sword. The imagery is striking but the judgment of Christ Jesus proves a heavier blow than that of any piece of metal, no matter how finely crafted (and whether or not it’s made in China … but, then who knows, the sword of judgment may very well be China!) Perhaps the church in America would do well to remember the warning given by St. Peter in his First Epistle:

“The time has come for judgment to begin, and God’s own people are the first to be judged.” (I Peter 4.17a, GNB)

This is always true, too, a “rule of thumb,” you might say. Yes, pagans and Communists and unethical doctors and pimps may be judged, but the church will have her turn first! Our very hedonistic society may now stand on the threshold of total collapse, but make no mistake about it, the church comes first!

Indeed, “let those who have ears listen to what the Spirit says,” and let those who parade the name of Christ think twice before making their next purchase. It’s down-to-earth common sense that if stores can’t sell particular product, then they will do one of two things: stop stocking that particular product, or simply go out of business. Money talks; lack of money screams…

Well, so do millions of Chinese people, for that matter. The question is, are we listening and willing to respond? Are Christians here willing to be Christian, stand with their brothers and sisters as well as so many other harassed and persecuted people, and say, “No! We will not condone such cruel oppression, and we will certainly not support it! Enough is enough!”

And, really, the question itself should be enough. Is it???