Personal and political decisions impact others

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week by Burton Carley

These are fretful times. The economy seems to be in another tailspin. We’re witnessing gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. Are these difficulties strictly economic and political, or are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes? How are these difficulties affecting the people you serve?

One cannot separate the life of the spirit from how we are bound together either economically or politically. Whatever ails the spirit will also infect how we are in right relationship in all areas of our common life together as a people in a nation, state and city. If greed becomes our god or individualism at the expense of others then we will find ways to justify our self-interest no matter how ruinous to the greater good.

Rigid ideology and demonizing those with whom we disagree lead to dysfunction. Right ideas become more important than people. Statesmanship that serves the common good is abandoned for a partisanship willing to sacrifice others for a cause or party. Arrogance than cannot imagine being wrong takes the place of a humility that comes with being a public servant. Power that is not accountable is tempted toward corruption.

People can bear almost anything if they have a moral reason. People will make sacrifices if they are fair in scale and provide concrete results. Clarity in bipartisan leadership that offers hope rather than polarization will provide a way forward. Understanding how our personal and political decisions have an impact on others is essential to our being in right relationship with one another.

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Much is required of one to whom much is given

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week by Albert Kirk

These are fretful times. The economy seems to be in another tailspin. We’re witnessing gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. Are these difficulties strictly economic and political, or are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes? How are these difficulties affecting the people you serve?

There are moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to every aspect of our lives. The role of the faith community is to do the hard work of discernment. To recognize what is going on in our communal lives, to name both grace and the presence of evil. The economy is not magic, even though its global manifestation is very complex. The economy is a human creation and we CAN do better. The finger of responsibility cuts across our usual lines of demarcation. Participants in every shade of political persuasion are called to conversion.

Two principles of Catholic Social Teaching seem to bear directly. One is concern for the most vulnerable. In some aspects the global economy seems weighted in favor of those who already have much. Should not the economy seek to bring others into this abundance? Another principle is the responsibility of every person to participate in communal life. Depending on one’s health and age, each person should share in the duties that we call “making a living.” At this moment, we need more jobs, so that all can make a contribution. Again, the Lord would seem to put responsibility on those already blessed who have the resources to create employment opportunities.
Much is required of the one to whom much is given.

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Stealing from the poor

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week by Val Handwerker

These are fretful times. The economy seems to be in another tailspin. We’re witnessing gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. Are these difficulties strictly economic and political, or are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes? How are these difficulties affecting the people you serve?

With a growing disparity between the very rich and the rest of the populace–in our own nation and abroad–the great saint in the early 400s captures the New Testament vision as regards economic woes: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.That’s guidance–for politicians and for the rest of us as people of faith!

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This world is not our home

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week by David E. Leavell

These are fretful times. The economy seems to be in another tailspin. We’re witnessing gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. Are these difficulties strictly economic and political, or are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes? How are these difficulties affecting the people you serve?

Living within your means is a moral/ethical value that individuals and governments must learn.  If there is any consolation, we are not the only country deliberating issues of this magnitude.  Ultimately, we must understand that this world is not our home.  After this life we are ushered into eternity.  Living life with eternity in mind gives purpose, meaning, and significance.  If this life is all there is, there would be much depression and hopelessness.  When one understands eternity and forgiveness in Christ, one can be hopeful even in the midst of difficulty.  In Christ, we are overcomers!

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Our nation is great because we take care of those in need

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week by Nicholas Vieron

These are fretful times. The economy seems to be in another tailspin. We’re witnessing gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. Are these difficulties strictly economic and political, or are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes? How are these difficulties affecting the people you serve?

Please forgive me for the following naive suggestion.

Why do people such as I who can’t balance my little checking account, are ready to give financial advice to the world? Of course the truth is, I can not.

But I can suggest something simple which no politician, for obvious reasons, would be ready to make. And that is this: Our Nation is in difficult financial straits. If some people on the low financial ladder, such as an old retired clergyman such as I, are ready and willing to have their taxes increased, why not all of us in a proportional manner be willing to support our Nation?

As a priest however, I would make this comment: Although history has shown that great nations, empires, have fallen, if we in this benevolent Nation which has been “the hope of the world” because of its humanitarian manifested efforts, continues to take care of those in need – for here is true religion: “to protect the
orphans, to embrace the widows, to feed the hungry….” – then we will eventually find ourselves liberated from this current financial problem.

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Blind absolutism is a sign of failure

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week by Mark Matheny

These are fretful times. The economy seems to be in another tailspin. We’re witnessing gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. Are these difficulties strictly economic and political, or are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes? How are these difficulties affecting the people you serve?

It is not enough simply to point out that we have been through hard times before and somehow we will make it through these. That might be true, but in many ways, we are in an unprecedented situation. Regardless, moral failure is rampant. One of the worst signs of that failure is in the blind absolutism of many politicians.

God help us! I believe God will, but we must embrace a unity borne of loving one another.

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Why the world still needs the empty tomb

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week, Spotlight Answers by Chris Altrock

Gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around.  The recent crises in our world turn my mind back to the tomb of Jesus. New Testament scholar N. T. Wright writes about the significance of the resurrection: “Jesus was raised from the dead to inaugurate the final chapter of God’s renewal of the cosmos so that one day heaven can come to earth.”  That is, God brought life from death and restored wounded flesh and bones at the tomb as the ultimate illustration of what he’s doing with the entire cosmos.  Jesus’ story is the climax of a much larger story that starts in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve and their rebellion throw the entire universe off center and decay and death and evil start to reign.  Ever since that moment, God’s been recreating and renewing us and the world.  He’s been taking dead things and breathing life into them.  This work climaxed at the resurrection.  And according to Wright early Christians believed that “God [is] going to do for the whole cosmos was he had done for Jesus at Easter.”  The resurrection was God’s announcement that this is what he intends to do to the entire world.

In Col. 1:20 Paul writes about this.  He says that through Jesus God is reconciling to himself all things.  One definition of that word “reconcile” is this: “to bring back a former state of harmony.”  In other words, it means to bring everything back to the way it was created to be.  To bring everything back into its right relationship with God and with others.  To bring everything back to its right function and role in the world.

Just think of this: There was an ideal way that governments were to function (the opposite of gridlock), an ideal way in which economies were to operate (the opposite of free-fall), an ideal way in which people were to relate to one another (the opposite of riots and looting), an ideal way in which families were to live, an ideal way in which marriages were supposed to thrive, an ideal way in which friendships were to be rich and rewarding, an ideal way in which work was to be fulfilling, an ideal way in which companies were supposed to operate, an ideal way in which churches were to function, an ideal way in which nations were to relate to nations, and an ideal way in which people everywhere related to God.

Through Jesus God is working to bring back everything to that ideal state.  And the resurrection was God’s way of demonstrating that even when things look dead and broken beyond repair, he has the power to breathe new life into them and restore them to their original and intended state.  That’s what the empty tomb was about.

The tomb thus comforts me.  It reminds me that although things look dead and broken beyond repair, God has the power to renew and restore.  God can fix what appears unfixable.  Nothing that hits the headlines is beyond God’s glorious Easter power.

Even more, the empty tomb calls me to action.  The story of Jesus and his people did not end with the tomb, as if we’re all just waiting around for God to do now what he did then.  Instead, the story continues with a band of Jesus’ followers spreading out across the world joining in God’s renewal efforts.  The story moves into its next chapter as the people of God partner with Him in repairing, restoring, and recreating.  The empty tomb reminds me to play my part in that work.  It calls us all—Congress, citizens, families, administrators, diplomats, economists, business owners, etc.—to join together and participate in the ongoing Easter activities of God.

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Will we place our hopes in government or God?

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week, Spotlight Answers by Sandy Willson

These are fretful times. The economy seems to be in another tailspin. We’re witnessing gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. Are these difficulties strictly economic and political, or are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes? How are these difficulties affecting the people you serve?

The major issues in the news this past month have caused all of us to be deeply distressed: the financial/political woes of our nation; the economies of some European countries; the tragic situation in Somalia, Kenya, and Sudan; the brutal deaths in Oslo, Norway; and the deaths of twenty-five of our finest troops in Afghanistan.

In all of these circumstances, there are significant moral issues involved. For example: Will we love and share with our neighbors, even when times are tough?

Will we discipline ourselves individually and corporately to live within our means?

Will we love and respect and listen to people from opposing points of view?

But most importantly, will we place our hopes and our ambitions and our dreams in the temporal affairs of governments and strong leaders and world events, or will we place our hope squarely and solely on the One Who governs the universe?  The last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, is an enormous encouragement to us all. In Chapters 4 and 5, we read that John saw in his vision that God is gloriously reigning on His throne and has given to His Son, Jesus Christ,  the authority to reveal and execute that great plan, which is now taking place.  We, therefore, must live lives of loving service and truthfulness in the here and now, but with a sure and certain confidence that God is working everything out for His glory and for the welfare of His people. Anyone who puts his trust in Jesus Christ can be absolutely assured of that.

That’s the really big deal behind all the news this summer.

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Entrusting ourselves to the hands of God

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week by Warner Davis

These are fretful times. The economy seems to be in another tailspin. We’re witnessing gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. Are these difficulties strictly economic and political, or are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes? How are these difficulties affecting the people you serve?

There is a definite spiritual dimension.

The great theological thinkers Kierkegaard, Niebuhr, and Tillich tell us that the psychological state of anxiety is part of the human condition, Tillich attributing this state to our finiteness, Kierkegaard and Niebuhr to living in the tension of our finiteness and freedom. Since every human being experiences anxiety to some degree, small wonder that the worldly-wise philosophy “You have to have it all now or you will never have another chance” compounds it and drives us to overreach our limits and play God. Hence, the compulsion to live way beyond our financial means. Hence, today’s economic woes at private, corporate, and national levels.

So, to speak as a preacher to our economic woes, I would call for everyone to remember the distinction between the Creator and the creature. And, with this distinction in mind, I would call for us to entrust ourselves, not to our own creaturely hands, but to the all-loving and all-powerful hands of the Creator God. I would preach for such faith because it would restore perspective, inform economic choices, and make us responsible stewards.

As for moral and spiritual guidance for our political and economic leaders, I would commend the example of the head referee making a call by taking into account the perspectives of others because he could not see what happened from all the angles. It illustrates the value of listening to diverse perspectives on great problems before acting to resolve or manage them.

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Is there no balm in Gilead?

August 12, 2011 in Are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes?, Question of the Week, Spotlight Answers by Stacy Spencer

These are fretful times. The economy seems to be in another tailspin. We’re witnessing gridlock in Washington, panic on Wall Street, riots in London, high unemployment and budget cuts all around. Are these difficulties strictly economic and political, or are there moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions to our economic woes? How are these difficulties affecting the people you serve?

The crops are in, the summer is over, but for us nothing’s changed. We’re still waiting to be rescued. For my dear broken people, I’m heartbroken. I weep, seized by grief. Are there no healing ointments in Gilead? Isn’t there a doctor in the house? So why can’t something be done to heal and save my dear people? ( Jeremiah 8:20-22 The Message)

I keep wondering if this intense heat will ever lift. Today there is a pleasant overcast with a promise of rain. I never thought I’d be relieved by an overcast. Many of us keep waiting for something to break while we sit under an overcast of dissension, political jockeying and economic uncertainty. All of the gains we made in the Dow Jones this year have been lost, our school system is closer to being consolidated but yet still divided, and people are still looking for work with threats of more layoffs. Memphis feels like Israel when Jeremiah said, “the harvest is past, the summer has ended and we are not saved. Since my people are crushed; I mourn and horror grips me.”

In the midst of all that is going wrong in our world, I’m still helpful that there is a balm in Memphis as well as the United States of America. Jeremiah asked a rhetorical question when he asked “Is there no balm in Gilead?” He knew there was a balm, that is a medicinal extract from a tree in Gilead, he just didn’t know why his people didn’t have access to it. We have the ability to create one equitable school system in Shelby County. Why are we still divided? We have the ability for every person to get healthcare. Why are we still arguing over Universal healthcare? We have the ability to bring our troops home. Why are we still fighting? We have the ability to create jobs by focusing our energies on rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Why are we sending more jobs overseas?

A house divided against itself cannot stand. The sooner we can come together for the good of the people, for the good of the children, for the good of the least of these we can see the balm or the healing we need for our city and nation. The way we see that relief get to where it’s need the most is to put into practice what God told Jeremiah for the people of Israel in Jeremiah 7:5-7: Change the way you are living and stop doing the things you are doing. Be fair in your treatment of one another.6 Stop taking advantage of aliens, orphans, and widows. Stop killing innocent people in this land. Stop worshiping other gods, for that will destroy you. 7 If you change, I will let you go on living here in the land which I gave your ancestors as a permanent possession.

The effects of healing in our city and our land have been blocked by self interest, partisan politics, and a lack of concern for the least of these. Whether it’s an unjust shooting by police officers in London, five million starving people in Somalia unable to get food and water, or unemployed teachers in Memphis, we must put our difference to the side and create an equitable school system, create jobs for our people, bring our troops home, and work together for liberty and justice for all. In short we must heed what God said to us in 2 Chronicles 7:14: 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. New International Version (NIV)

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