Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Wednesday
Jun222011

NO PARTY FOR THE TEA PARTY 

Let's look at the numbers.  For fiscal 2011 – which ends September 30 – the United States Government can expect to take in 2.6 trillion in receipts, with 3.8 trillion in expenditures, leaving a deficit of 1.2 trillion. (Estimates vary, but in every estimate the deficit is huge.)

We have a Federal debt of $14 trillion, with interest payments of $400 billion a year.  The Federal debt is funded by Treasury bills – Uncle Sam's i.o.u's – 24% of which are owned by China, with China now buying nearly half of the current issue.

Earlier this year, I saw a political cartoon that showed Chinese President Hu talking to a Chinese associate. President Hu said, "Come, I want to introduce you to the man who manages one of our Western provinces." At the edge of the cartoon was President Obama.

The cartoon dramatizes our situation, and all thoughtful Americans, of whatever party, are alarmed by our growing deficit and its international ownership.

Republicans want to control the deficit by spending our way to prosperity, while cutting some Democratic programs out of the budget.  Democrats want to control it by eliminating some Republican programs and spending our way to prosperity.

The Disenchanting GOP

Many Tea Party supporters' first concern is a balanced budget.  They also want to end earmark legislation and repeal Obamacare.   And if they are true to their principles, they must be disenchanted with the GOP, which has struck out in a big way with the extension of the Bush tax cuts – which increases the deficit.  Ironically, if they could repeal Obamacare, they would further increase the deficit.

My father died in 1997, but if he were still alive, he would be an enthusiastic Tea Partier.  He proved that in 1982.  We were on the phone, long distance, and were discussing the national situation.  Dad was a life-long Republican, and I valued our relationship too much to go head-to-head with him on politics, but I would tweak him from time to time on the issues.

I made some comment about President Reagan and was astonished to hear his tirade.  "Reagan promised a balanced budget during the 1980 campaign, and he's running up the Federal deficit faster than FDR did during either the depression or World War II."  He went on and on about Reagan's irresponsibility and mismanagement. 

Dad may have been a life-long Republican, but he saw realities straight-on.  As a result, he didn't believe in the Divine Rights of the Pentagon or in the Immaculate Conception of the G.O.P.  Unlike the current Republican majority in the House, Dad would have had no problem taxing millionaires. He has many allies in the Tea Party.

I have several friends who were active in the Tea Party during the 2010 Congressional campaign.  I respect their concern and their dedication.

Deficits Don't Matter?

Our Nation's problem was highlighted by Dick Cheney when he said, "Under Reagan, we discovered that deficits don't matter."  Mr. Cheney is far too savvy to mean that deficits don't matter economically.  They do; he knows it.  He meant that deficits don't matter politically.

And he's right.  Unfortunately.  Most Americans don't know the data in the first two paragraphs above.  To the extent that they do know the figures, they don't understand them or they don't care.  So, both the Republicans and Democrats can go right on being the parties of tax and spend, spend, spend.

Both parties are being reasonable.  They just want to benefit their backers by the way they tax and spend --and penalize the other party.  It's been thus throughout our national history.

But, we are on a tragic trajectory.  Until 1970, less than 5% of our national deficit was foreign owned.  It's now almost 50% overseas, with the principal owners being China, Japan and the Oil exporting nations.  And the value of the dollar is declining rapidly.

Here's a personal experience about the decline of the dollar.  In the summer of 1944 – a year before World War II ended – a group of junior high school boys were manufacturing M-1 rifles in a garage down the block.  They cut the stock out of a piece of 2 X 4, shaped and grooved it.  They put a length of ½-inch black pipe in the grove for the barrel.  The trigger was a finishing nail.  They stained the stock, and to finish the rifle, they bent a piece of black metal for the trigger guard and fastened an old belt for the sling.

$8 Waiting List

It was a handsome product.  They charged $8 per rifle.  And they had a waiting list.

I couldn't wait to get one, and I was crushed when Dad said, "$8 is a lot to pay for a toy rifle that you could lose in a week.  Better keep using a hunk of tree limb when you and the boys play war."

That was unreasonable.  My Dad had a good job.  He could afford $8.  And I wanted the rifle.

Was my Dad unreasonable?  $8 in 1944 is $99.29 in 2010 dollars.  Maybe my Dad was right.

That story illustrates the decline of our dollar, and with each year's huge deficit, the dollar's decline accelerates.  We're headed for national financial disaster.  (I discover that I'm sounding more and more like my Father.)

The Tea Party recognizes this problem, and they protest it.  We need that protest.

But do save some sympathy for Tea Party candidates who were elected to Congress.  They must have suffered major culture shock when they discovered what seasoned politicians know –

+  Our campaign rhetoric makes government sound like theology, but government is mostly routine, detailed housekeeping.

+  The GOP – and especially the Tea Party candidates – pledged to cut out all earmarks.  Hey, everything in the Federal budget is an earmark for someone.  Occasionally, a high-minded Senator or Representative will propose a program whose sole purpose is the good of the general public, but nothing gets into the tax or appropriations bills without a lot of backing from pressure groups with lots of votes or lots of money – usually both.

Can't Cut Your Base

+  Lobbies and pressure groups heavily impact legislation and Congressional votes, A new Senator or Representative may have programs he or she would love to cut.  But first-termers also discover that most of those programs are dear to their electoral bases.

A small example -- too small to be mentioned in the budget -- illustrates the problem.  The Army, Navy and Air Force only use butter.  No margarine.  They could save some money by using margarine, but the Military can't do that.  Why not?  Margarine is usually a by-product, but butter is backed by the well-organized dairy lobby. And so it goes.  [Note:  This was true in the '50s.  Is it still true today?  I'll have to check and report.]

The current Congress is no party for the Tea Party.

What can the Tea Party do in 2012?  Some will clamor for an independent third party.  But, if it happens, the split in the GOP ranks would probably hand re-election to President Obama.

The Tea Party needs a big emotional issue, because a balanced budget doesn't stir enough American hearts. What gets people out to the polls best?  Anger.  With a big emotional issue, the Tea Party could either (a) take over the GOP, or (b) field a third party that might win.  What issue?  I don't know, but stay tuned – American politics has more upsets than the NFL.

Or, the worst possibility -- the Tea Party might just fizzle out.

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And now from the other side of the planet, here are random thoughts to ponder --

My, how busy we become when we lose sight of how God loves us.

-  Lady Julian of Norwich

 

Frank Zappa, of the Mothers of Invention, said that he first fell in love with music as a kid after he had a kind of religious experience at his grandmother's funeral.

"The choir was singing, and I could see from the way that the candle flames were wavering that they were responding to the sound waves coming from the choir.

"That was when I realized that sound, music, had a physical presence and that it could move the air around.

"I realized that music is, literally, a recipe for sculpted air."

            -  That wisdom was delivered to us by Garrison Keillor

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2011 by Jack Towe

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