Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Churchhill, Jesus, and Glee

“If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”
-Winston Churchill

Last night I had a very interesting conversation with a very wise man. No, it was not Winston Churchill because that would be really odd, being that he died over 40 years ago.  We were discussing the possibility of deflation and the world economy.  It culminated in a discussion of how the church has so strongly influenced the ideology behind some of our politics and even the economy as a whole.  This morning a friend of mine laid down this sweet little ditty of a quote by Churchill on me which further goaded me to write and think more critically about this issue and the implications it carries.

Deflation is the new buzz word in the economist realm.  The idea at its most basic level is that as more and more globalized competitors arise that the price at which the wealthy operate will have to decrease or cease to have income.  A better stated definition and explanation can be found here. (  The supply of money goes down and the demand for other resources increases.  These other resources are people.  As the demand for supplies increase at the same time the economy is continuing to crash.  So supplies are needed yet capital remains aloof.  The answer to this problem is logical; continue to get supplies desired with less money.  Outsourcing is no longer a theory, but an inescapable reality.  Globalization and a world economy is truly putting our “American Dream” at risk.  The days of making a good living for doing a certain profession are in there dying stages. No longer can an x-ray specialist in America charge outrageous fees.  The demand to have these x-rays analyzed is not the issue though.  The issue is found in globalization and a world economy. With the rise of educational institutions and the ease of access we are now seeing an unprecedented world-wide educated population. With technology and the internet anyone with the motivation and money can get online and get the same degree we get in America. So you have doctorates in India, where the cost of living is super low which does not necessitate a high income level, able to do the same job as an American for a third of the price.    As the companies make less and less money they are looking for ways to create or maintain profit margins.  It makes sense that a company would want to pay less for a product or service.  If that same product or service can be offered at a fraction of the price and quite possibly be better quality then a sound decision is made.  The opportunity or scary part, depending on how you chose to perceive challenges, of this reality is that trades and professions that can be reproduced for a lower cost will eventually have to operate at the same costs of their overseas competitors or be forced to settle for government support. Government support is funded by taxing those who make all the money.  If those who make all the money no longer have the high income to tax in order to support these programs then how are they funded?  Seems like some kind of sick cycle to me.  I suppose this reasoning led Churchill to his famous quote.  As a young person who doesn’t make much money it makes sense to tax those who do to support the have-nots and such.  As the young person becomes the one getting taxed the ideology and passion becomes more practical and conservative.  That makes perfect sense to me!

Tax the rich to support the poor.  This is the way our government operates.  My question is why and when did this mentality begin. This brings me to the church.  This is not meant to say it is evil because obviously I am part of the church at a universal capacity. This is to point out what I think are the beginnings of a mislead thought process and theology deeply buried by years of practice.  In his ministry Jesus is always talking about the poor and how we should treat them well.  I think the direct application from Jesus speaking to a Jewish society to ours with no interpretation or translation of principle is dangerous though.  God does have a huge heart for the oppressed, but it is what we define as oppressed or poor that leads us down a path with a dim future.
The Christmas special of Glee aired last night (13-Dec) and inspired me to finish this writing I started two years ago.  Amazing how little things inspire you and connect old thoughts with new ones.  I had 2 reactions to the episode initially.  It was very ballsy of the directors to have one of the characters to read the Bible on the show.  Not saying I was offended.  I actually think that Christmas should be remembered for its original meaning and celebration.  I am sure many will cover the religion and outrage over the reading of the Bible from this episode on the internet this morning so I’ll leave that to them.  The second reaction I had was one of disappointment.  This reaction reminded me of my thoughts on the economy, poverty, and what helping the poor looks like that I started 2 years ago.  It is important to analyze our impulses.  Our reactions to external factors or foreign environments are direct reflections of what lies deep in our mind and soul.  In a touching move last night the Glee club met Ms Sylvester at a homeless shelter to give back. One of the many story lines in this episode was several characters reflecting upon the true meaning of Christmas in comparison to the consumerism they were experiencing.  I think it is nice to give back and essential to the world spinning.  I am moved to tackle this sensitive issue because every year I see this movement to give back to the poor and I am always left a little disappointed.  Disappointed in the assumption and general definition of poor or oppressed.  Yes, Jesus was all about the poor and oppressed, but that was in a very Jewish culture several thousand years ago.  Many well-intentioned people feel burdened every year around Christmas time to give back to those less fortunate, which is always reduced and limited to homeless folks.  I think it is very limiting to see homeless people in America, for the most part, as the only expression of poverty or oppression.  Homeless in a thousand year old Jewish culture, oppressed in that same culture are very different from those categories in our culture.  In my experience most on the streets of Indianapolis choose to be there.  Maybe I’m a bad person, but when I hear these “sad” stories on radio and news stations about the amount of homeless people sleeping in 17 degree weather I kind of roll my eyes and don’t feel sorry.  There is a winter contingency plan in place that demands any shelter make room for anyone when the temperature is under freezing.  There is no such thing as a full shelter during the winter.  I’ve spoken to many of the homeless in our city and asked why they do not use a shelter and a lot in my experience have just not wanted to deal with the rules. 

Poor isn’t a problem that can be fixed with money.  The government tries to throw money at poverty and we all see how successful these program are (note the sarcasm).  Money is a tool to be used mismanagement of the tool is behavioral and psychological.  Addressing the tool is a very shallow perspective.  The tool isn’t the problem, the use is.  Rather than being so concerned with helping someone one time with a tool handout wouldn’t it be so much better to teach them how to manage this tool?  As Christmas season continues to build and emotions are tugged, it is of most importance that we consider our impulses before acting upon them.  Is there anything wrong with showing up to make the poor smile? No.  Is there anything wrong with serving people in a homeless shelter? No.  Is there something wrong thinking that is the expression of poor in our society? Absolutely!  As the kids ran around smiling and singing in that homeless shelter last night I could only think that the rest of America was being inspired to reproduce these expressions of giving to those less fortunate, remembering the poor like Jesus, and my heart sunk a little thinking of how many other great needs go unnoticed and unaddressed because of how poor has been traditionally defined in our culture.  I challenge anyone considering giving back to truly reconsider their definition of poor, the poor Jesus addressed and had a heart for had much less to do with cash and more to do with cultural dilemmas.  I applaud all who seek to be generous.  I do not want to see generosity only lavished into one area when so many other needs exist.  Furthermore, how does this sudden stroke of inspired generosity carry on into the next day, next week, next month, etc.?

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