Monday, February 15, 2010

Problems, Problems, All God's Children Have Problems...

There's been a lot of noise lately generated by people who are angry about the state of our nation.

The Tea Party seems to be typified more by people who are pissed off at the present and past politicians for getting the country into the terrible fix it's in, than by a single overarching principle. The main complaint is that the system has been co-opted by a bunch of incompetents, and they're running it into the ground. We need to take it back, and the sooner the better. Oh, and while we're at it, the less government there is, the better off we'll all be.

The Republican Party, for its part, is wooing the Tea Party loyalists, trying to tap into the anger with the present administration and make political headway using that anger. The problem for so many Republicans is that the Tea Party is just as angry with them as it is with the Democrats.

The Democrats, meanwhile, even though they hold a majority in both houses of Congress, and have the White House, can't seem to get their act together and behave as the majority party. There have been attempts at bi-partisanship, but those have been greeted with weak support from the Democratic core, and outright disdain by the Republicans. The Democrats, the party of "Yes, we can," have been quite effectively stalled in most of their big initiatives by the party of "No, you can't!"

And in the middle of all this rancor, those of us who just want to see the government actually govern, find ourselves frustrated again and again, as first one measure after another gets stalled, delayed, and finally either discarded or watered down to such an extent that we find ourselves opposed to the Frankenstein monster that remains.

The anger is understandable. After an election that saw Barack Obama come into office with what seemed to be a mandate for change, we find a year later that much of what was true in November 2008 is true today. We've still got an economy teetering on the brink of either a jobless recovery or a double-dip recession. We've still got unemployment that's far too high. We've still got foreclosures kicking people out of their homes, and those homes losing more of their value. Even worse than in the Bush years, we've got monstrous Federal deficits that alarm just about everyone. We've got no real health care reform, and that was the centerpiece of the Obama administration's legislative agenda.

And even more galling to those of us who will never be financial industry CEOs, we have a financial sector that gives its managers and executives what we see as obscene bonuses, after many of those same managers and executives actually brought about much of the economic difficulty that we're dealing with today. We see government expansion into areas of the economy where we hardly have ever seen them before. We see that we're still embroiled in two wars and we're looking at the possibility of new fronts opening in other areas of the Muslim world.

We have trained experts failing to be able to make things better in a way that we perceive as real, even as other trained experts are not held accountable for the mess they made of the economy. We don't trust our government, we don't trust our corporations, we don't trust our institutions, we don't trust our schools, we don't trust science, and we sure as hell don't trust (the other guy's) religion. We want simple, quick solutions, and damn it all, we want them now.

It's a hard message to deliver, but someone has to say it. There are no simple, quick solutions, and there never will be. Just as the policies that led to the subprime mortgage crisis developed over years, following other actions twenty or more years ago, the solution to fix the problems we have now will take years to implement. We may have something approaching the present level of unemployment for years as the entire economy undergoes some fundamental changes, and our behavior slowly changes to match new conditions. Our expectations will probably be different, and probably scaled down, from what they were even a few years ago, about things like retirement, our children's prospects, and such. Throwing all the incumbents out is a popular idea among many at the moment, but there's enough overlap in careers of those who are in government now and those who have been in government that the contagion of the status quo will not be eradicated by replacing all the usual suspects.

China is feeling its way onto the world stage as a possible future super-power. Russia is feeling a new and powerful nationalism and desire for a return to something approaching a Soviet-era prominence. The European Union is experiencing some problems right now because of their own dependence on our financial wizards and their creative debt instruments, but the EU will be a formidable competitor once they get past these issues. We've got Hugo Chavez and newly socialist regimes in Latin America to the south, Russia to the edge of Europe, China across the Pacific, the Middle East like a powder keg with a perpetually lit fuse, and groups like Al Qaeda all too willing to hit us whenever they can. Africa sits like the world's poor relation, so full of promise and so full of problems. Quick, simple solutions are just not up to the task.

Well, who do we have ready to tackle this laundry list of troubles? We've got Sarah Palin, a woman who showed what it really means to stick to the job until it's done, making noises that she might consider a 2012 presidential run. Whatever you think of her as a person, as a government official she failed to deliver.

We have other Republican luminaries, governors and senators, some of whom have run before, and some of whom are just waiting to get into the contest.

On the Democratic side we have President Obama, who has been in office just over one year and already has a very mixed record of accomplishments. On the one hand he's changed our reputation in the world, and on the other, his main initiative is now stuck in a limbo between the two houses of Congress where a single filibuster could kill it completely. In some ways he's been genius, and in other ways he's stumbled around like a prize fighter who's been hit once too often. Skilled oratory goes only so far, and he needs to deliver on some of the things that people care about.

In all that I've written so far, I haven't really addressed any spiritual concerns, which is the main subject area that this blog tries to center on. It's time for that now.

For those Christians who think that America is God's answer to spread the Gospel to a dark and needy world, I say it's time to open your eyes and start looking at the real world. We have a need to get our own house in order before we can be that "city on the hill" that will shine God's light on the rest of benighted mankind. Being a capitalist paradise will not accomplish that goal. Having the world's highest standard of living will not accomplish that goal. Being in debt to countries like China to finance our profligate living will not accomplish that goal. A consumer society will not accomplish that goal. The "gospel of prosperity" takes us farther from that goal by the day. Continuing to allow our financial institutions to get us all farther and farther into debt will forever keep us from that goal.

We are not bright enough to bring about paradise on earth.

We are not wise enough to bring about a truly just society.

We are not rich enough so that everyone can live like we've been living.

We are not powerful enough to keep ourselves from death's door eventually.

We need a savior, and that savior is not us.

The Bible talks about how the rich will fade away, and the poor will be elevated. Read James 1 to see what I'm talking about.

The best we can do at present is to get into the habit of working together, putting our differences aside to work for the good of all. We can begin to practice what it would be like to live in that paradise that we want to see. As I've said before, this paradise won't come in this world, with us as we are. New hearts and new minds and new bodies are required; it will be God's doing. Our part of the bargain is getting ready for it, and that requires surrendering who we are in all our pride and ego. The political battles that anger us and drive us farther from what God would have us be will need to end before we can do that. No one is righteous, none is good, says Jesus, save the Father. Get comfortable with that fact, and you'll be one step closer to being the person God made you to be. Embrace your mess, and own up to it. You're closer still. Even with a long way to go, you're closer.

God loves us. He desires us to know that intimately. We need to understand this to get on with dealing with our problems.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Dennis....

    your site is very good. I am in the process of writing a new piece for my blog. When I am finished, I going to put a link to NOTJ at the bottom of it.

    All the best,

    Tom Degan