Tag Archives: resistance

Four blue words about making the most of your money

The death of Antonin Scalia has people talking about his legacy. Most of the comments start with “love him of hate him, he made an impact.” An oAntonin Sclaiap-ed in the New York Times says: Justice Scalia’s most important legacy will be his “originalism” and “textualism” theory. But it also says his attitude of calling opponents “idiotic” or worse may also be as memorable. He often made a point that recycled a 19th century slogan about Native Americans:  “The only good Constitution is a dead Constitution” — that may also be the kind of thing history recalls.

Scalia and ReaganWhen Ronald Reagan nominated Scalia in 1986 I was not thinking too clearly about my legacy. I was creating one, but I was a bit in denial about being too responsible for it. I was the father of toddlers and in the throes of planting a church, so I had a lot to influence. But I consciously left the future in God’s hands and lived as radically as I could imagine. I am sure I also thought my opponents were idiotic at times. As a result, a lot of good happened and no small amount of bad. I think I could have used
some more consciousness about what I was trying to build that others might live in.

I always say things like “We’re not building the pyramids here,” meaning that we know we are being shaped by God all the time; what we do is temporal and subject to development, like we as people are subject. But that can be taken too far, since we are made to influence one another and what we do also has eternal value, or at least long-lasting ill-affect. So I am glad we have a seminar coming up this weekend that will teach us about considering our legacy a little bit. It is called The Color of Money: Blue. Blue is the color of water, the season of the Way of Jesus devoted to people who are exploring the depths of being a Jesus follower. What do mature Christians do with their money? What legacy will they leave?

Last year the Capacity Core Team did some good thinking about money. Some of it will be worked in to the upcoming seminar. They came up with four words that I think we all have to ponder when we are making decisions about what to do with our money and what our money might do for others.

Four words to ponder when making money decisions

Character. How we use our money is a sure indicator of whether we are acting out of our true self in Christ, or not. Our goal is to become a sharer, like God. Most of the time, if we have a twenty in our hand, a choice is being made. That might be why our creditors love paperless, automated systems, so we never see that money at all and can’t figure out what is going on! We like not knowing, too, since it is hard to be responsible and the machine makes us think everything is taken care of.

Community. Having a common fund with the other believers is such tangible faithing that it is irreplaceable. It might shape us more than anything else; sharing like that quickens latent discipleship. Not sharing like that is also shaping everyone staying on the outside, right now. Being a sharer implies that we have a personal connection with someone. Bill Gates is a sharer too, but mostly with spreadsheets, with masses. We are sharers with each other, first. Our common fund is the basic tool of our love since it is built with love. Building one makes us something even as we are making it.

Resistance. We learn a lot about money in our society that oppresses us. Basic money management rules never change: Spending less than you earn will always be beneficial. Investing your money will always be better than doing nothing with it. And planning for the future will always be better than blowing your paycheck as soon as you get it. But in the U.S. those management ideas are usually applied to becoming wealthy not pursuing God. Some of us resist the pursuit of wealth by refusing to seriously deal with finances. Some of us resist resisting and try to Christianize the pursuit of wealth, or at least avoid talking about our preoccupation with it. Alternatively, we want to have a godly resistance, not just resistance of some sort. We need to address the use of money (which is a subject often laden with taboo or fully enslaved to some godless philosophy) with love and in the presence of God.

Investment. This is a very “blue” word, since it implies that you have something to invest: a character that makes godly choices, a community that is worth your heart, a conviction that frees you from slavery to the world’s ways and an imagination about what might be growing. Investing money is about creating wealth for most people — that is the goal of capitalism, right? But investment should be about one’s spiritual legacy: What we are given to give to the world? What is our best shot at moving transformation along? Investment is about building something that is bigger than just our own wealth. Circle of Hope is our most immediate “something” that we build together. But that tool we have builds something bigger than itself, too. We can see what it builds when we explore what our investment in MCC does, or when we can dare to spend our savings to plant another congregation, or in how we invest in the lives of our leaders and staff and manage to maintain our properties.

Sharing money is where we answer two of the most important questions in life: “Where do I belong?” and “Am I important?” Sharing what we have expresses our unity within the body and in our common purpose. What we have matters because we each matter. We need each other. Without each other we wither.

Antonin Scalia spent his whole life trying to get the cap back on the societal bottle that blew its top in the 1970’s.  Most Christians have been doing the same thing, in vain, right alongside him — no doubt some with great motives. We, as Circle of Hope, have been trying to do something else. Like our song says, we like that “new wine.” It is not new like it is an innovation. It is new because the world is, like Scalia said, a bit “idiotic” and life with God seems new to us. Each generation needs its own taste of the new life Jesus is bringing to an ever-dying world. How we handle our money is a great test of the faith we bring to living in that world. How we share is one of the most tangible ways we get to demonstrate that something new in the world is not only possible, it is being built.

What does it take to make a church happen in your 20’s and 30’s?

Our church will be talking a lot about children for the next month or so. Not only do we love them, we know a lot of them. (They seem to be popping out all over like tulips). We want to strategize for raising them together.

Many people who have raised this generation of twentysomethings are second-guessing what they did. We can probably learn from them as we raise the next generation, since many of us are their children! A lot of Gen-Y/millennials (destructive labeling) seem a lot more helpless than expected, more than a few can’t work well enough or get along well enough to keep a job, and they expect a lot to be delivered into this very moment (like emotional delivery by drone). There may be reasons for this:

  • They may have been told they are special – for no reason. They didn’t display excellent character or skill, but were treated as if they had. Now they assume they are innately special and are frustrated if they have to prove it by doing something.
  • They may have been told to dream big – and now any small act seems insignificant.
  • Their parents may have made their happiness a central goal. Now it’s difficult for them to generate happiness — the by-product of living a meaningful life.
  • They may have been given every comfort – and now they can’t delay gratification. (Mickey Goodman)

Surprisingly enough, at our last Imaginarium, when we asked the question, “What is God saying to us?” we started talking about the same things. We are the “young” people who are learning new traits from God and one another that allow us to serve our cause. And yes, we think we are special and at the same time doubt anyone who says someone or something is more special than someone or anything else. We are often bumping up against the reality that we actually have to do something to live up to our ideals. A lot of what we talked about matches the quotes above. Here’s my summary of our rich dialogue:

Being and building the church is often hard — trust God

In the great scheme of things, we can’t instantly change the world. We have to take small, first steps – which seem like no progress at all to many of us.

One of us planted a tree in their back yard. Someone actually came into their yard, yanked up the tree and stole it! They had to figure out what to do with all their anger. They had bought the house, taken the step to plant something hopeful and now they had this irrational, cruel opposition. It was tempting to move out. Instead they managed to let it go and plant another tree.

stewingThe church has forces yanking on it every day. If it gets planted where anyone can see it, it might be  sitting duck for cruel opponents. We have to deal with that. The fact is, if it were easy to grow the church, that would probably mean we were doing it wrong. But easy is expected, nonetheless. The fact is, frustration might be good for us. We tend to think, “I don’t deserve this frustration. Look at how great we are!”  — sometimes we stew in that rather than acting in trust.

We need to risk being led by Jesus and leading people to Jesus. Even when we are ill, over-scheduled, or in the middle of chaos. We need to note how our distorted vision of our capability gets disrupted and take another step. We need to act on our few best ideas.  We need to admit that change = resistance — even our “second act” meets resistance although we all agree it needs to happen! We need to see that the domination system is likely to step on our sprout.

Encountering resistance to meaning is challenging — stay vulnerable

Happiness is not a commodity we can earn or deserve, really. It is a by product of living a meaningful life, a life for God, a life for others, a life for the common good, a life in line with with what we were given to be.

Nehemiah-wallOne of our leaders told the story of planting a tree in his sidewalk. He and the neighbors took a turn at sledging the sidewalk to bits. He saw it as undoing what true haters, the kind that paved his neighborhood a long time ago, have done. They got a tree in the ground. Two new people came to the cell meeting as a result. We are like Nehemiah and his allies re-building the wall around Jerusalem. The joy of the Lord is our strength. There is even joy in being able to suffer, able to sledge.

Unlike the domination system, we are killable. We are like sheep. We meet resistance with vulnerability.  A hospice worker talked about how vulnerable she feels whenever she enters a home where death is imminent. She has to let people know that if they trust her, she can do something. But it is not easy to trust, especially when the homeostasis is disrupted — as it so often is for us.

We obviously go through the same kind of resistance with God and others. Going through our internal resistance is much harder, even, than facing the outer. We do things in old ways and resist letting go of learned behavior.

The fact that it is bigger than just me is not always comforting — look farther than your reaction

Now it is time to relay the importance of waiting for the things we want, deferring to the wishes of others and surrendering personal desires in the pursuit of something bigger than “me.”

Our clean-up day T-shirts gave us a good example of doing something uncomfortable for the greater good. A surprising number of us are T-shirt resistant, even T-shirt phobic! If you grew up in a T-shirt-wearing youth group you may actually want to run from people on the street wearing matching shirts. They look like some kind of overbearing, coercive army.

One person told a story, however, about how he met his neighbor when he was working on his house. The neighbor wanted to know what his shirt was about, after a while of getting to know each other. He was kind of “trapped” into talking about something bigger than himself because he was wearing his earth shirt as a work shirt.

ghosts on grassAnother person said they wanted to be marked. They want to demonstrate solidarity. They want to be in the coalition. They thought our T-shirt redeemed bad T-shirts. We like the idea of adding a colorful part of the big story. We are not the beginning or the end, but we are happening.

Sometimes being part of something big can be really hard — like we might be like a tree that gets ripped out and transplanted. That can be good. But it is not comfortable. Multiplying a cell always feels something like that for someone — getting ripped up. One of us said it was like C.S. Lewis’ image of “spectres” becoming solid as they acclimated to heaven (in The Great Divorce). We might not even know what true comfort is until we obey the voice of God calling us into what is truest about ourselves and our place in the world.

We are God’s children. Perhaps we were ill-raised. But what a great parent we have to usher us into an improved adulthood in faith!

Screen-delivered consumerism saps resistance

emperors-new-clothesIt is a rare talent to be able to sell nothing. I have always admired the weavers in the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Emperor’s New Clothes because they had the talent. Selling nothing might be the most-valued talent in U.S. society today. Our industries for manufacturing tangible goods may have all moved to Mexico or China, but we are still #1 in making things that don’t really exist. I know this for sure because I was just in Orlando. The Disney Corporation (#66 in the Forbes 500) must be the best at selling things that don’t and probably shouldn’t exist. If Disney decided to sell us new clothes that were invisible, we could get them with mouse ears and see them parading on their umteen TV channels; we would be invited to parade them ourselves in their five theme parks.

Our taste for nothingness is fed by the powers who seek to control us. The Bible is frank about this fact:

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

We know that these powers are “nothings.” But, like the emperor, we have a taste for nothing. We tend to believe that if we eat enough of it, we will get something. The powers use that faith to lobotomize our resistance.

Screen time pacifies

We were in a bungalow at one of the resorts surrounding Disneyworld (and they mean “world!”). On our TV I think the first ten channels were Disney channels, the next seven belonged to their daughter company ESPN. Priorities. TV is one of the ways the corporatocracy eases us into compliance and herds us down their vision of main street USA.

Disney symbolism
Disney symbolism

There is not an agreement on how much media children are consuming, but the NIH and Nielsen seem to agree that young children watch up to 4 hours of TV a day. When you add on other screen time, they are spending 5-7 hours locked into the machine. My grandchildren just got turned on to old Donald Duck cartoons on the Disney bus from the airport; they are probably watching them on YouTube right now. Teenagers spend close to 45 hours a week in front of the screen. The fact that the content they consume is controlled by an elite group of corporations is horrifying enough. But the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent that teaches the next generation to comply. They don’t even think about whether to resist; they are zoned out on the screen. As evidence, note that private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards.

Screen time is a dream come true for an authoritarian society. For one thing, those with the most money own most of what people see. But more, fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; and TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities. Maybe most of all, regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, moving them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically. While playing a video game is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite.

We need to keep an ear open to the call of the scripture, which demands that we not cave in to the relentless pressure of the world to conform to what is passing away, to its illusions of reality. When we resist,

We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:14-16).

The screens deliver the invisible goods.

The fundamentalist religion Marx named the “opium of the people” was long ago superseded by fundamentalist consumerism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. George Bush was famously accused of telling the country to “go shopping” after 9/11. Maybe he did not exactly say that, but he did tell us to go to Disneyworld: He said, “Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.” Getting back to normal means consuming and doing more of it.

A belief in consumerism destroys self-reliance, creating people who feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities, the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see. A consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulation, including lies; and when a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulation, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and form alternatives. Belief in consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult to ever get a taste for solidarity.

The TV delivers the messages that create the consumer society, along with, forWall-E instance, an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity. It helps create the prisoners of tomorrow — the few who get out of line (after watching Wall-E, no doubt), who will be eagerly received by the prison-industrial complex. Can we stop the process represented by the Pennsylvania judges who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated?

My hope is that our message, and even more compelling, our demonstration of the message being lived out, will give the Holy Spirit many opportunities to expose how powers of the world are naked. There are seeds of resistance everywhere. They need to be watered. Without Jesus, many small acts of wisdom may do quite a bit to procure freedom and dignity. With their proper connection to eternity, they can offer transformation. Our mindset needs to match what Paul reveals:

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir (Galatians 4:1-7).

We are not slaves to the spiritual forces of the world. In Christ, we are children of God who should act accordingly. In Paul’s language, we are all as good as adopted sons in a Roman household, men or women, slave or free, Jew or Gentile. We should exercise our dignity.

My negative view of society was echoed by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1844 when he observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.” That was why he was a reformer. I hope to be more than that kind of realist. My hope is in the spiritual reality made incarnate in Jesus Christ. The fact that the powers that rule us are fallen and need redemption is a basic reason why I am a Jesus follower. The society, coming at us through all screens that have nothing more to promote than the economy, gives us Disney and its “magical” embrace, gives us Harry Potter escapism, gives our children these “entry drugs” for the vacuous Game of Thrones. But God has come in the Son, born under those very forces that seek to subjugate us, that we might receive our true selves in relationship with God and no longer be slaves, but the heirs of reality.

One final thanks to Bruce E. Levine published in alternet.org

They’ll Pathologize and Medicate the Noncompliance They Surveil

What might happen to you if you resist?

What if you said, “Taking on a load of debt in order to participate in normal economic life is foolish! I won’t do it and neither should anyone else!”? What if you said, “Creating an artificial disaster in inner city schools and then blaming it on the unions or the parents instead of the leaders who made the value judgments is wrong! I won’t stand for it, neither should anyone else!”? What might happen?

A lot might happen, and you are probably well-trained to fear it, by now. Here are two more techniques the powers-that-be are using to erode our desire and capacity to resist. You might want to note them.

For one thing, they might outlaw, pychopathologize or medicate your noncompliance. 

Ronald Reagan believed that under the Constitution the President has the inherent authority, as the commander in chief, to direct a military intelligence agency (such as the NSA) to intercept enemy communications during wartime or when necessary to protect the national security. The authoritarian snowball got rolling and got even larger when it proceeded into the snowdrift of Bush’s perpetual war on terror and Obama’s threat of a

Ever-growing psych bible
Ever-growing psych bible

drone to follow the surveillance trail.

At the same time Americans elected the increasingly authoritarian Reagan, an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) some newly-described mental disorders for children and teenagers. The “disorders” focused on disorder, such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

Had he lived in our era, Jesus probably would be medicated in a secret prison rather than publicly crucified. As one of His followers, you should consider what it means that our Bible says things like:

“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2-4).

Talk about oppositional and defiant! It is at least annoying to denounce the “god of this age” and it is probably against some homeland security regulation to suggest that a citizen should “renounce secret and shameful ways!”

The general population believes in the DSM, even though they’ve never seen one. Science is god and Big Pharma builds suburban temples like Merck just north of Philly to develop devotees to their vision of wholeness. Drug company revenues climbed more than $200 billion between 1995 and 2010. For every dollar spent on research $19 goes toward promotion and marketing. Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010). A major reason for this explosion in sales, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other “disruptive disorder” (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).

The government has created an omnipresence that must be obeyed. The medical establishment has backed it up with diagnoses and a vision of normality. Pharmaceutical companies produce the meds to make children compliant. Christians might like to specialize, like Paul, in saying things that begin with, “On the contrary…”

For another thing, they might drown you in the surveillance of your noncompliance

Everyone thinks surveillance is normal now. We can even spell it. The neighbors along Broad St. are talking about how the police want them to coordinate the cameras on their businesses so no one will be out of sight for very long, if ever. Here’s Mayor Nutter trying to appear “on top of” the matter (see what he says about cameras at about the 3-minute mark).

The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. The National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, but we’re over that. Employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States and people accept it. It is small wonder that young

Click for more amazement
Click for more amazement

Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check websites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, they monitor their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use GPS to track the kids’ whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes. These days it is not unusual to find that young people lack the confidence to pull off a party when their parents are out of town! How much confidence could they have to pull off a resistance movement below the radar of the authorities?

The Christians are in the same condition. You’d think they were still waiting for Jesus to rise from the dead. Before they met him alive after his crucifixion, the first disciples were locked in a room for fear the authorities would find them:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  (John 20:19).

I think many of the Christians I know are afraid of being psychopathologized just like the rest of the population and are definitely afraid of what the powers that be know about them. They are locked up for fear of the leaders, or just afraid of the unseen forces they sense all around them that are determined to keep them quiet and compliant. But the risen Jesus can still get in the room, despite the authorities and the fear they engender:

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:21).

From what we know of the first disciples, they received the Spirit even though they were afraid and doubtful. Will the young disciples of today do the same? I keep wondering if the next generation, in general, is already lost to their subjugation. Is resistance dead? I hope that is not true of the Christians, at least. If someone calls us crazy or criminal for following Jesus, that is a good thing. Let them see all they need to see. May we be found by every camera doing what Jesus would do.

Further voices and my previous posts:

Again, thanks to Bruce E. Levine published in alternet.org

Education Is the Bane of Resistance among Jesus-followers, Too.

Let’s talk about how the educators or, better, how the “education industry” have created indoctrination camps that have subdued young Americans and broken any spirit of resistance to domination they might normally have. I’m talking about the mandatory sentences handed out to young people from age five to twenty-two. I’m talking about having some dialogue in the spirit of James, who wrote to the people of his time:

Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others. If your heart is one that bleeds dark streams of jealousy and selfishness, do not be so proud that you ignore your depraved state. The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom; it originates below in the earthly realms, with the demons. Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule. Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace (James 3:13-18 – The Voice).

Somehow, the educators have convinced the young of this era that they can dispense with wisdom and becomes tools of the economy, that they can ignore their best instincts and submit to training that makes them little more than a part of a machine — and that includes a giant war machine to boot, that competition and ambition designed by the invisible hand and the national interest is their true destiny.

Education, as presently dominated, is the bane of resistance. And there is much to resist.

Schools Educate for Compliance.

Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award in 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance and has been quoted ever since, to no avail: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” Past generations discussed the problems of compulsory schooling that could make it a vehicle for an authoritarian society. But as the problems have gotten worse, the discussion has become more rare.

child_money_financial_after_school_programThe nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and to believe they are impotent to affect their situation. The essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

The essence of most Christian teaching is boiled down into the same kind of goal: compliant behavior. This is epitomized by Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten ( 7 million copies sold and counting) which starts with: Share everything, Play fair, Don’t hit people, Put things back where you found them, Clean up your own mess. That ends up being the extent of most people’s Christianity — nice behavior! Obviously there is some goodness there, but it is a far cry from the Apostle Paul claiming that the disciple’s goal is to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and…take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). That’s not too compliant and would probably get Paul kicked out of kindergarten.

One would think Christians would be educated to be anything but compliant — peacemaking, yes, nonresistant in a strategic way, yes, but never merely compliant. But they let the schools dictate what passes for wisdom.

Already authoritarian schools have been legislated into even more tyranny

With “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” the corporatocracy instituted the fear-inducing standardized-testing-and-perpetual-competition tyranny that torpedoes any free thinking. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of the test creators that judge the process and the grantors that fund the budget; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and certainly challenging and resisting illegitimate authority.

I have been instructed by many well-meaning elementary children to not have my aberrant, irreverent thinking on display because I will “get in trouble.” They are all business. The other day I was telling one of them why I did not fear death because the Lord would raise me up. That somehow sparked a thought in his mind about the boiled-down theory of evolution he had just been learning on the computer. He gave me the party line he’d been taught in response to my irreverent thinking. He will get to the top, but of what?

Meanwhile Paul continues to offer revelation that most Christian parents have totally forgotten, obsessed, as they are, with protecting their children’s capability to make it in the domination system.

For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool. But for those of us who are already experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, it is nothing short of God’s power. This is why the Scripture says:
          I will put an end to the wisdom of the so-called wise,
          and I will invalidate the insight of your so-called experts.
So now, where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the skilled debater, the best of your time? Step up, if you dare. Hasn’t God made fools out of those who count on the wisdom of this rebellious, broken world?  For in God’s deep wisdom, He made it so that the world could not even begin to comprehend Him through its own style of wisdom; in fact, God took immense pleasure in rescuing people of faith through the foolishness of the message we preach (1 Corinthians 1:18-21 – The Voice).

Any alternative to the education gulag is shamed

In 2006 a survey in the United States found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously did not say, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but that is not good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”

The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they seem to be of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. I know no one is nostalgic for the Populist Movement of the 1880s and 90s. But American farmers with little or no schooling organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative and formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892. Regular, uneducated people made a difference. In the 1970’s the Jesus movement upended much of the church. It was a young person’s movement, not a gift from their leaders. Where are those kind of people now, fully indoctrinated?

The high priests of the educational system eerily resemble the religious leaders who threatened the common people for feeling warmed by the new, real teaching of Jesus.

         No one was willing to speak openly about Jesus for fear of the religious leaders.
 In the middle of the festival, Jesus marched directly into the temple and started to teach. Some of the Jews who heard Him were amazed at Jesus’ ability, and people questioned repeatedly:
        Jews: How can this man be so wise about the Hebrew Scriptures? He has never had a formal education.
        Jesus:  I do not claim ownership of My words; they are a gift from the One who sent Me. If anyone is willing to act according to His purposes and is open to hearing truth, he will know the source of My teaching. Does it come from God or from Me? If a man speaks his own words, constantly quoting himself, he is after adulation. But I chase only after glory for the One who sent Me. My intention is authentic and true. You’ll find no wrong motives in Me (John 7:13-18, The Voice).

I think our education has made us afraid to speak lest we offend the new lawgivers who run it (quite poorly, in Philadelphia). It is time the Jesus-followers, at least, follow Jesus in his bold assertion that He has wisdom from God to give as it has been given him. Standing on that foundation could help us resist the domination of children by self-interested powers, and would give those blessed warriors who serve children as teachers the courage to keep up their struggle to give what they have been given in the Spirit and not just as abused lackeys of the system.

Thanks again to Bruce E. Levine and his article republished in alternet.org

Further links not necessarily recommendations, just further voices.

Debt Has Broken the Spirit of Resistance among Jesus-followers, Too

Let’s talk about how the ruling elite have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken any spirit of resistance to domination they might normally have. I’m talking about having some dialogue in the spirit of James who wrote to the ruling elites of his time:

“Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you” (James 5:3-5).

Somehow, the elites have convinced the latest generation that whatever corroded gold they have will be taken away if they don’t conform; their only hope is to hoard whatever little wages they are paid in hope of having a retirement of limited self-indulgence!

money = speechBruce E. Levine writes, in a very telling article, that young Americans “appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans ‘Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?’ Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them” (Bruce E. Levine, republished in alternet.org).

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans – and young American Christians? This might take a few weeks to answer. But let’s talk again about one big reason we have been considering for years now: student-loan debt.

Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. When I went to UC Riverside in the 70’s my tuition went up to $215 a quarter and I was upset. At that time tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. Those days are gone in the United States, but public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many other countries. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives depose Mubarak in Egypt, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War back in the day all had one thing, at least, in common: the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

obama teacherToday in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. And, like President Obama says, a high school degree is not enough:

Whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma….We have one of the highest high-school dropout rates of any industrialized nation, and half of the students who begin college never finish…This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.

One has to go to college to get a ticket into the economy. And that mandatory ticket will cost you. The median undergraduate debt is close to $25,000. Add on consumer debt and the typical twentysomething debt is close to $45,000 according to a study from last year. Increasingly, it is easy to find college graduates with $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.

The Bible has a lot to say about debt

But most Christians can’t listen to the Bible because their creditors might garnish their bank account if they did what the Bible says. Nevertheless, Romans 13 says:

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:7-8).

If you read this in an individualistic way, then whatever debt a person incurs is their lot. The debt industry would love to have us all feel that morality. It is ironic that the government and the corporations that own it (who are increasingly seen as individuals!), are not held to the same standard of individual responsibility. In fact they have special rights like limited  liability and, the big one, they can live forever.

When Jesus tells Simon a parable about the woman washing his feet with her tears, he at least suggests an outlook other than someone being endlessly responsible for their debt.

 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (see Luke 7:40-49). 

In the Lord’s story, the money lender forgives debts when someone can’t pay. That’s one thing. But the big thing, as in Romans,  is that love is owed. Love is the goal. Forgiveness is the prize. In contrast, the faithlessness of our society is enslaving people. We’re taught that we will ruin someone if we disturb their supposed self-reliance. Being taken care of by society is considered wicked. But the corporations are very well cared for! Even if there was a vestige of Christian morality as part of the conversation, we would be better off.

And let’s not forget what Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s prayer

Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Smack dab in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, obscured by old translations and otherworldly assumptions, is a radical cry for Jubilee justice. In this most stripped down form of Jesus’ teaching — the bare essentials of what a disciple should bring before God in prayer — is freedom from economic debt for all of God’s children. The prayer is not just about sins like “My mother-in-law said something mean about me, so I should forgive her ‘debt of sin’ against me.” The prayer is about real debtors — people who are enslaved by the rich and their deceptive systems. It is bigger than that, but not less.

How do Christians “fight back?”

Among the Circle of Hope we say, “We are birthing a new generation of the church to resist and restore with those moved by the Holy Spirit.” That means at least four things in relation to the debt that is breaking the spirits of twentysomethings, especially:

1) We prophesy. Even if you think the truth will get you in trouble, you “go James” at the proper time.

2) We do not conform. Even if love is illegal, we practice it.

3) We create the alternative. In our community we are all about forgiveness and sharing.

4) We demonstrate the alternative. We get people out of debt. Our debt annihilation team is an extremely practical example of this. Our compassion fund distributions are usually gifts and always no-interest loans. Our cell members take care of each other. We have thrift stores full of low-cost items. We hold baby-goods exchanges. We support relief and development and advocacy through MCC. And we sure don’t follow every lie the domination system dishes out – instead, we live simply in the freedom of the Spirit. We find a new way through the wilderness of the present age.