Sunday, November 11, 2018

everything we are and have is at stake

"This war must be waged - it is being waged - with the greatest and most persistent intensity.  Everything we are and have is at stake.  Everything we are and have will be given."  
~ FDR State of the Union, January 3, 1945, the last year of the war and just a few weeks before he died.

As he spoke, a furious battle raged in the Ardennes.  It took 19,000 Americans lives, wounded 62,500, and left 23,500 captured or missing.  We lost hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles, and 647 aircraft.  The battle lasted forty days and nights.  It was the last major offensive by the Axis powers on the western front.  

By war's end, sixty million had died; 20 million military and 40 million civilian lives. 

Of the war deaths, 85% were among the Allies.  The Brits and Americans lost 400,000 each.  Half a million in the Philippines were killed.  In France, 600,000 died.  In French Indochina (Vietnam), more than a million starved. Eighteen million died in China.  In the Soviet Union, one quarter of the population was killed or injured; about 24 million civilians and soldiers died.  

There were atrocities, the product of strange ideological wickedness.  
In Europe, at least ten million ethnic Jews, Poles, Slavs, Roma, and other minorities were systematically murdered.   It was genocide.

In the Pacific, eight million civilians were murdered by Japanese occupation forces. Rape and murder in the Nanking Massacre took hundreds of thousands of lives; it was a small part of the Sankō Sakusen (kill all, burn all, loot all) practice that took the lives of millions more.
It was a war we had to fight.  
The alternative was an unthinkably inhuman world.  
The Cost: 60 million lives
Your family and every person you've ever met, every person you went to school with, every person you've ever seen, ten thousand times over, their lives ended brutally and their towns burned to the ground.  That's what it was like.

The few can lead the many down a terrible path.  For complex reasons, they lie and distort moral values, and they justify deadly practices in the name of some goal or god; racial dominance and lebensraum, ethnic or religious superiority, economic advantage, or just plain selfishness ... hubris, greed, avarice, vainglory, from among the deadly sins.
The world wars of the 20th century were neither the beginning nor the end.  Conquest and empire have been and are still the norm for the wickedest among us, and Hitler was not the last.

The war to end all ...
and the few still lead the many. Today, it is economic warfare, the extraction of wealth from regions and populations by economic rulers.  It's a precarious balance between starving the ox that grinds the grain and continued viability.  Economic warfare, the pursuit of national dominance ... economist Michael Hudson explains:
Today’s economic warfare is not the kind waged a century ago ...
Finance has moved to capture the economy at large, industry and mining, public infrastructure (via privatization) and now even the educational system. (At over $1 trillion, U.S. student loan debt came to exceed credit-card debt in 2012.)
The weapon in this financial warfare is no larger military force. The tactic is to load economies (governments, companies and families) with debt, siphon off their income as debt service and then foreclose when debtors lack the means to pay.
Indebting government gives creditors a lever to pry away land, public infrastructure and other property in the public domain. Indebting companies enables creditors to seize employee pension savings. And indebting labor means that it no longer is necessary to hire strikebreakers to attack union organizers and strikers.
The 2007-9 Great Recession was a poker hand overplayed by Wall Street enabled by government, and it crashed the world economy with deadly consequences.  The government bailout paid billions in bonuses to the killers and continued the government sanctioned war.  Not a single perpetrator was prosecuted, but thousands of protesters were jailed.
The recession cost every American $50,000 to $100,000.[a][b]   In the developing world, food prices bounced, and hundreds of thousands died from starvation.  Around 500,000 died in sub-saharan Africa in the first year alone.  

Welcome to the 21st century.
The few lead ...  and the marketplace sets the pace.  Consumerist norms and materialism have reshaped the world.[a]  Pornography is a multi-billion dollar international industry.[b]   Narcissism[c] has become the character trait visible in modern culture and sanctioned by national leadership.  Economic advantage is now the national goal as established by collaboration between government and the finance industry.  Extractive economics within and between nations brutally forces a widening gap between the elite and everyone else, the lower 90% on the economic ladder.  This is the world in which we and our children live, and our goals may not fit well in it. 
It is a war that has to be fought.  Everything we are is at stake, as are our children.  
Exit wounds.  Wars always have a price and recovery consumes lifetimes.
Sixty million.  The death toll from WWII was followed by decades of displacement and rebuilding; the lost years.
Sixty million+.  The death toll among natives (Africa, south Asia, and the Americas), victims of the colonial exploitation.  Most sub-saharan countries continue in the mire of economic deprivation today, as do most indigenous peoples. The lost centuries; most still have no voice.
Sixty million+.  That's the infant mortality (under 5 years old) from preventable causes for the last decade in the developing world.  They were sidelined by the wealthy. Families lost their precious children; they had no voice.
Sixty million+.  U.S. census data shows that half our population now qualifies as poor or low income,[1] with one in five Millennials living in poverty.[2]  The trap of multi-generational poverty and the GAP[3] between rich and poor; they no longer have a voice in their future.
Academic contributors to The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States describe new forms of poverty in the U.S., a result of structural adjustment policies and globalization, which have rendered economically marginalized communities as destitute "surplus populations".[3a]
Child poverty has reached record levels in the U.S., with 16.7 million children living in food insecure households, about 35% more than 2007.[4]  A 2013 UNICEF report ranked the U.S. as having the second highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world.[5] According to a 2016 study by the Urban Institute, teenagers in low income communities are often forced to join gangs, take school lunches home, sell drugs, or exchange sexual favors because they cannot afford food.[6]

Things have changed.  Things are not like they were.
You were born into a world at war.  Everything you do matters.
  ~ C.S. Lewis

Are we to live our quiet, sheltered lives, insulated by what we have?   Or should we be training and equipping ... and fighting for what's right and just and good?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Long ago and far away

   before church had a name or a place ... 
     We are knit together by shared belief and faith, by shared principle, and by the bond of a common hope. We gather together, lifting up our prayers to God, as in our agreement we might engage with Him, and God delights in this strong interchange.  We pray, too, for the rulers, for their ministers and for all in authority, for the welfare of the world, for the prevalence of peace, for the delay of the final conclusion.  We gather to read His words . . . and with those, we strengthen our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast; and under His instruction we build lives worth living. 
There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God. Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money like some religion that has a price for recognition or favor returned. 

On the day, if one likes, each puts in a small donation; but only by choice, and only as each is able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary. These gifts are . . . not spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck ... But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us ...

They say of believers, "See how they love one another," while they themselves are driven by hatred. "See how they are ready even to die for one another," they say, while they themselves would sooner kill.
     ~ from Tertullian, Justin Martyr, and others speaking of Christians in the first and second centuries. The church was not yet defined or organized, but Christians were emerging across the empire.

They were strangers and sojourners, we're told, passing their days graciously and unselfishly here on earth but as citizens of heaven.  They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time, they far surpass the laws by their lives.  Just fascinating.

Do Christians and the church today impress the world similarly?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

American Politics: a process that serves the people ... or a business?

$2.8 billion -- that's the direct revenue to the parties in 2018, as listed here. Separately, corporate players spent $1.6 billion on lobbying the politicians in hope of gaining some advantage.
The two-party system of politics today is a competitive business focused on dominance, not on comprehensive progress for the benefit of the nation. Recent stalemates in congress with party-line votes in critical issues illustrate that one aspect of the dilemma. Demonizing has replaced debate, and there is little public awareness of factual material. Misleading and deliberately false accusations are what the public is offered. Need examples?
Do we believe this is good, or perhaps otherwise?

What we want:
  • Practical solutions that solve our nation’s most pressing problems
  • Legislation that advances through Congress
  • Broad-based buy-in from voters
  • Respect for the rights of all voters

Helpful changes we might consider ...
  • term limits
  • lobbying and corporate influence boundaries
  • again entrust federal agencies to research and recommend policy according to national priority and accepted standards
  • a published federal agenda listing issues, priorities, and goals objectively
  • prioritizing community security, education, and health above tax breaks for the wealthy
  • separation of news from propaganda would be helpful, as the former law provided 
  • accountability for false statements and misrepresentation, a standard we require of our children, would be appropriate as well
  • reigning in the finance industry and removing the 'transfer of risk' instruments, reasonable constraints abandoned in '97
Any others come to mind?

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Wonderful Economy?

We have a wonderful but boring economy ... the greatest economy in the history of our country ... true or false?

Statistics for household income gains over recent years suggest our economy is skewed toward benefiting the wealthy. Inequality in the U.S. is significantly higher than most developed countries. More than 75% live paycheck to paycheck, and the trend continues in 2018. What does the that suggest?

Note: there are separate numbers for household income and for household wealth or net worth.  The top 0.1% of U.S. households now own as much as the bottom 90%, continuing a trend that began in the 70s. American governance appears to favor the rich and influential. Despite previous failed attempts at supply-side (trickle-down) economics, the current administration continues the same path. Virtually all gains since 2000 have gone to the wealthy.
Net farm income is forecast to decrease $9.8 billion (13.0 percent) in 2018 (not including payments under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), announced on July 24, 2018 to assist farmers in response to trade disputes).

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Challenge Ahead

So there's this extraordinary challenge ahead. What will the living church look like in a decade?
When Christianity first began, it was an odd sub-sect of Judaism. Rome ruled the world, and pagan practices were the norm. Most citizens worshipped Zeus, Apollo, and others. Moral constraints were few. Lower status women and slaves were chattel for whatever purpose a man might choose.
Christians were ostracized (or killed) for their strange beliefs and that they welcomed slaves, treated women as equals, and demanded husbands treat their wives with respect and fidelity. Church funds were used to buy the emancipation of Christian slaves. When Romans left unwanted children out in the field to die, Christians would take them in and defy the social norms by adding them to their family.  Christians walked a different path from the mainstream and showed grace and love towards those with different beliefs. They sacrificed their own safety in the plague years to care for the sick and dying. 
They changed the world, didn't they.

So what will the living church look like in a decade? 

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Downhill Stumble ...

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition
Our brain is physically changed by what we see.  Neurological and social effects of sexually explicit media are now widely reported. While adult use can provoke problematic changes in brain function and relationships, pre-adults exposed to pornography risk limiting their development of cognitive analysis and ability to override impulsive behavior.

Victoria's Secret television advertisements
The pornography industry, however, is just one exploitation of 'synthetic sexuality'.  Others include movies, erotic literature, advertising, and more.

Culture and law say that porn is harmless free speech.

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition has the same allure and  effect as Playboy magazine.  Romantic portrayals with implied sexual intimacy trigger similar response, and it's all available instantly.  And the advertising industry -- magazines, television, and web media are increasingly using sexual imagery for marketing and storylines aimed at younger people.

The tipover point was a long way back up the line from online pornography.

What conversation is needed?

Parental half-century review ...  Development and mentoring goals of earlier generations have perhaps faded out of our plan for raising children.  The typical child has hard-working parents, and much of developmental instruction is left to the school system.  We all thought that would work well.
We were unprepared for the physical attraction that so surprised us in grade school.  It was thrilling, and we thought we were in love.  The overwhelming feeling we experienced the first time we held hands was magical and we were enthralled.  The first kiss was likely a heart-stopper, and the whole world revolved around our new found affection.  'Love' came and went and we were confused by it all.  We fell in love on a regular basis with whoever smiled at us.  Girls spent hours giving each other advice about 'love', I remember, but there was little conversation at home or at church on the subject that equipped us to follow principle rather than feeling, or to love unselfishly in any meaningful way.

Our out-of-church culture was rather unrestrained regarding physical aspects of relationship.  Some degree of physical intimacy was generally expected in the typical pairing while meaningful relationship was, at best, undefined.  Today's teens seem to have little preparation for dating beyond the generalized rules about things you don't do.  They're perhaps unlikely to have considered how their behavior will affect the one they believe they love so truly. 

In the absence of cultural constraints and peer support, many will cross the boundary into problematic behavior long before they're aware of it.  Many will skip learning about the person and go straight to gratification.   

It can be exactly the same downhill stumble for girls as for guys.
  • One young girl explains her turmoil, “At this age we’re always fighting with our parents, so we need to feel we’re loved.” She’s quick to add that while she and her boyfriend love each other, they’re not in love. “Whoa - we’re only 14!”
  • Most of our youth are influenced in their early years by explicit material, popular music, and sensual advertising.   
  • Physical intimacy is now likely in the elementary school years.  
    • A NIH study of students in the sixth grade -- 35% reported having initiated sexual intercourse before or during the sixth-grade school year.
    • Another NIH study found that 46% of fifth graders and 55% of eighth graders reported having initiated sexual intercourse, more common than other risk behaviors such as cigarette smoking and drinking. 
    • Alcohol usually begins appearing during grades 6 and 7.  Far more common than other drugs, alcohol gets kids past their natural modesty and social restraint.
  • The current average age for Americans to lose their virginity is 17.1 according to the CDC.  Nearly half will do so in high school.  
    • Most say they believed intercourse was the prelude to marriage, but only about 2% of those relationships survived. 
    • Nationwide, 12% of 9th-12th grade girls have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to.
    • Most sexually experienced teens wish they had waited longer.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done deliberately and in love.
With that practical advice, where do we take our stand, and how?  What's the first step? 🤔

Can a teen do that?  What does it look like to stand firm in this flood and not get swept along by the cultural decline?  Parents ... what's the best prep?
(If it isn't practical, it isn't helpful.)
see -- Covert War - decade seven

Material for students on dating from one of several universities 
... note this â is the secular, real-world conversation.

DATING TOPICS                                                                                 More Topics
Communicating with Your Partner                                       Putting Porn Away for Good
Having Fun and Staying Close                                              Biblical Dating: Principles for Drawing Boundaries 
Are You in a Healthy Relationship?
Coping with Problems and Challenges
Sex and Intimacy
Where Is This Going?
Dating for Teens and Youth
Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse