Friday, March 23, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Power of Suggestion

I really want a new Etch A Sketch.
And so, it seems, do a million other baby boomers.

Amazing, the power of a familiar image, in this case, a toy, being used in political speech. Ohio Art's stock value rose 100% today.

Oh, my familiars. We children of the 1960's. Would that we could harness all our collective nostalgia, work ethic and imagination for good! We could make this economy sing!

Instead, we are paying off our mortgages, paying our children's college loans, welcoming them back home after graduation, and helping our parents stay in their fabulous retirement communities as long as humanly possible. We are this nation's backbone. And I'm proud to be one of Us.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

So What

For all the talk in America now and forever about how spiritually diverse we are as a nation, it seems that many people have been lying to the researchers. Or just maybe have been trying to spare their mother's feelings and no longer feel they should.

Here are the surprising statistics I found as I was thumbing through my latest The Lutheran magazine (3/2012, p. 8):

  44% told the Baylor University (Waco, TX) Religion Survey that they spend no time seeking out eternal wisdom.

   19% said it was 'useless to search for meaning.'

   28% told LifeWay that it's not a 'major priority' in my life to find my deeper purpose.

One of the most striking trends in religion statistics in recent decades is the rise of the Nones, people who checked "no religious identity" on the American Religious Identification Survey. The Nones went from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2008. 

So, while America grows increasingly vocal on the edges of the religious landscape, there appear to be lots and lots of people, young and old, who are opting out of the conversation completely. Somehow the core issues of faith like belonging, meaning, forgiveness, renewal, love and compassion, have not been compelling or important enough to draw people toward the discussion.

So what? I'm not very excited about a secular culture. Despite all the problems that religiosity and diversity bring (and I could go on and ON about that), our life in America has been immeasurably enriched, challenged, and improved by the influence of faith on daily life. Just a few examples spring to mind, institutions and events that were driven by religious values: the establishment of colleges, the building and staffing of hospitals and nursing homes, the abolition of slavery, and the provision of food shelves, homeless ministries and chaplaincy to prisons. These are key aspects of American life may or may not ever have happened without people of faith sacrificing and organizing around the life principles of love for the neighbor, and compassion for the sick, poor and suffering.

If those of us who remain connected in some personal way to religious communities need to take anything away from these current statistics, it may be that we need to do a better job speaking, living and working out of our core principles. We may have been doing lots of stuff in the past 25 years, but it doesn't seem to have captured the imagination of our children, our next door neighbor or the college student across the country. And why should we?  So that these disconnected might have a real chance at hearing why we think faith is central to life in the first place.

That this is not all there is. That Love created the universe. That we're in this together. That we hurt each other, and yet we can repent, forgive, even start over. That we all belong to God. I don't want anyone to miss out on this 'eternal wisdom' because it saves lives from despair and emptiness. So what? That's what.




Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I'm a Moderate

When it comes to politics, each side of the American major two-party system holds certain beliefs about everything. Including, but not very explicitly, human beings.

Conservatives (Republicans, Libertarians, etc.) seem convinced of the power of the individual. In this worldview, people have unlimited possibilities if they/we just try hard, sacrifice, invest, produce, invent and risk. The human person is strongest as the independent "I" who may contribute to the general welfare, but only because of personal choice and acting out of personal moral or spiritual values. The conservative man or woman buckles down, works hard, and enjoys the fruits of their labor, contributing to the general welfare in limited (roads, bridges, national defense) ways. Success? Well, you deserve it because of hard work, luck, or some other feature of your life. At'a boy! Think Warren Buffet, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Liberals (Democrats, Green Party, etc.) are focused on the welfare of the whole, particularly those whose life experience, health, social status, age or race makes them vulnerable to fewer advantages in the classroom and marketplace. In this worldview, the whole needs protection from the individual run amok; the individual meaning someone Anglo-European, privileged, educated, and middle-class. The environment, exploited by industrialization, needs protection and renewal. Women, children, people of color, the sick, impoverished, and aged, perpetually disadvantaged by the economic system of the last 200 years, deserve legal protection and help from the government of the whole. Think Barack Obama, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and Ralph Nader.


Here's why I'm between the extremes: because human nature is imperfect, and both of these polarized views of people and communities are true. We are both ingenious and productive AND careless and profoundly selfish. We need all of us working at our personal best as well as joint efforts for justice, economic opportunity, education, and health care. The very best of American politics is an effort to balance out these perspectives on the human condition. Our extremist rhetoric of the last few years is an exhausting waste of all our time.

We need a government that is committed to hard work and effort as well as the common good. The vast majority of voting Americans know exactly what I mean, and can't wait for common sense to infuse politics. Won't that be a glorious day.