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my promised land 2

 

This month, I enjoyed reading the writing of Ari Shavit.  He generously doubles back over images and assertions about the development of present day Israel.  The result is one of memorable education on the subject.  One prevalent image used by Shavit is of orange groves that contributed to the early economy for the European Jews who engaged the Zionist program.  Like an orange is peeled and segmented, Shavit’s content is memorably organized roughly by decades.

His content is rich with historical fact and historical personalities.  In his content, one speculates about the life cycle of nations in general.  Though he sets Israel apart from any other nation of the world, the reader cannot help but think about their own nation.  Within their nation, the reader cannot help but think about those building projects which are specific to the reader.  Within our vocations and hobbies, Shavit invites us further to wonder about our own person, personality, and passionate daring that may help us do a psychological emigration.    If we cannot or will not emigrate in the direction of another, perhaps Shavit builds up in us the desire to empathize with the complexity of another’s landscape.

I commend the book to you.

my promised land

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Consumerism = Slavery

Very often, religion critiques excessive consumerism.  I am sure many a pulpit has done so with the help of many wonderful theologians.  One such theologian (and one that is quite important to me personally) is Walter Brueggemann.  His later works strongly critique American consumption without, to my knowledge, a substantive enough appreciation for what drives consumerism.  Perhaps what drives consumers is an intent to welcome the “newness” of life.  Perhaps consumerism is a form of communication of the deeper self.  Perhaps consumerism is wishing for something powerful to do.   Who knows for sure?  Not many.  Largely this is because consumerism is critiqued without first being appreciated.  And yet, it seems the only thing that diminishes consumerism is a lack of money.  Self deprivation cannot, for the majority, combat excessive consumerism.   If North American Christians should consume less (food, stuff etc.) how is the church going to honor and redirect what drives consumption.

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Corn male flower AKA corn tassel. The stamens ...

Image via Wikipedia

My mother remembers among her childhood memories, a time when her small family farm was anticipating a corn harvest.  The corn was ripe, mature with tassels promising a great yield.  As is the risk in the midwest, about this time, a powerful storm blew up with increasing intensity.  As hail began to patter against the roof and then drive against it, my mother remembers her parents watching the storm through the picture window of their modest farm-house.  With their arms wrapped around the small of each other’s backs, side by side, my mother read her parent’s faces:   worry…then sorrow and slowly….ever so slowly… resolve.

My sense of America and my sense of my own work ethic is grounded in such stories.  It is with a sense of my grandparents humility, creativity and self-reliance that I consider the future of our country.  When I think of my investments (material and immaterial) I think of the promise and vulnerability of their corn.  When I think of life, they remind me there is much that you cannot control.  So human beings need one another for strength at the base of the spine.

Chapter six, “Is Social Security Really Broken”  of Progressive Christian Uniting:  A Different Voice on Faith and Politics was written just as President Bush’s proposal for the privatization of social security was being anticipated.  I have included links at the bottom of this post that might allow individuals to think about social security reform in a more up to date way.

Despite its age, like the other chapters of this book, the in-depth analysis of this chapter can inform our decision-making today.  The central concern of the chapter is the way in which privatization of social security might privilege those who are financially sophisticated.  “But what about the less fortunate citizens, the ones who will need to live on their Social Security checks but who may not know the difference between a stock and a bond?  Is a freedom of choice a blessing for them?” (99).  There is a great deal of work in the chapter to do math on the projections for privatization or the status quo and I am quick to admit the economics is beyond me.

As a pastor and granddaughter of farmers is the way that our country reforms itself according to capitalism as opposed to community.   There is an undercurrent of scarcity amid our abundance.  Like a proverbial pea under the mattress of gratitude, scarcity whispers to us…”there is not enough for all get what you can while you can.”    Such whispering seems likely to break the back of social security which is not the security of some individuals over another but a security for the whole fabric of our society.

Even as I am concerned that the poor at risk in the reforms AND that there is a fearful undercurrent driving reforms, I agree with the authors and am not opposed to “…the restructuring of Social Security in ways that increase participant choices over how they obtain their social-insurance protections.   …Americans have come to expect choices over what they buy and do.  …a structure that offers participant choice may be less rigid and more capable of evolutionary change than one with unitary structure.  ….Alas, the search for more efficient structures usually ignores the economic security of those (usually the poor) who are unfamiliar with the risks and rewards of private investment decisions.” (102).

We in the church have a responsibility to think about social fabric beyond our individualism and even beyond our nuclear family.  (Zech. 7:10 and Amos 2:6-7)  So the security we imagined has been ravaged by economic weathering!  There is an opportunity, with resolve to clean up, dig in and sow a few new ideas remembering that property lines are not as important as good neighbors.

http://www.progressivechristiansuniting.org/Blog/Entries/2009/1/28_Restoring_Dignity:_The_Employee_Free_Choice_Act.html

http://socialsecurity.procon.org/

http://www.socialsecurityreform.org/ (updated as of 16th of February 2011)

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