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You may have noticed lately that I’ve been “going in”‘ on the American church. Since evangelicals are the largest Protestant group in America, I’ve particularly taken aim at them. I’ve highlighted its indifference to human suffering, racist roots that helped foster that indifference and questioned how the evangelical church can act this way when it claims to be lead by and filled with the Holy Spirit. So why am I doing all of this? I haven’t written these things out of my hatred for the church but my hope for it.

The church might be the one institution that truly should and can do something about the miserable conditions on this planet. Whether it’s hunger and slaughter in Sudan or child molestation and homelessness in St. Louis, the church can and should have an answer. Full disclosure: I have very little faith in or expectation of the political system to do anything about the problems of the world. In the first place, politicians don’t control very much; the people who finance their operations do. Looking at a century of data, a political scientist by the name of Thomas Ferguson concluded that the best predictor of public policy is campaign finance. Whether Democratic or Republican, the primary goal is not to make things better but to stay in power.

I don’t think business will ultimately be helpful. Business has plenty of resources but they’re not intended for malnourished children or communities in distress. Rather, businesses exist purely to maximize profit. That simply means that if firing full-time employees who require benefits and replacing them with temporary/contract workers who are cheaper and don’t require a benefit package will increase the amount the company can return to stockholders, that’s what they will do (I vividly remember working for a subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance that fired an entire department before my arrival, replacing them with contract workers- right before the winter holidays). In fact, companies have gotten in trouble for not doing every ruthless thing possible to maximize profit. Just take a look at the Dodge vs. Ford Motor Company case.

As political institutions and businesses pursue their interests, the interests of people are tossed aside. While the great economist Adam Smith would tell us that individuals pursuing their own self-interest will ultimately benefit society, the question is, if everyone is acting in their self-interest, then who’s looking out for the interest of society? No one. Meanwhile, as politicians seek power, the church should heed the words of Dr. King and be, “not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

The church exists to, as Jesus said in Luke chapter 4, preach good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to those who are captive and set free those who are oppressed. People of faith are to, as the prophet Amos said, “let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” The people of faith are to, as the prophet Micah said, “do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.” In his sermon, “Guidelines For A Constructive Church,” Dr. King asserted that if the church doesn’t do these things, it isn’t the church; and I would ask, if the church doesn’t do it, then who?

13 comments

Duane Terrell

"You may have noticed lately that I've been "going in"' on the American church." – I haven't noticed this, what I have noticed is you going after the evangical church, there is a slight diffrence. It's like the KKK writing 3 articles about how bad black people are and then writing another about how they've been "going in" on people. It's disengenous.

"Rather, businesses exist purely to maximize profit." – Americans business have been doing this very thing for decades and as a result (in part) we have one of the highest standards of living in the world. You're the type of guy that will never tear down a house because people are living there, regardless if someone is trying to get you to understand they are going to build a better house. People like you infuse poverty in to socieities because you want to guareentee people don't have to go through hardship. If you don't let go of what you have, you'll never get something better. If it were up to you, we'd still have manual phone operators connecting calls. You just seem to not understand business or economics.

"if everyone is acting in their self-interest, then who's looking out for the interest of society?" Nor do you understand what "self-interest" is. I'll try to explain it to you so you can understand. This blog was written due to your own self interest. You work for a none-profit out of your own self-interest. This none-profit helps children out of its own self-interest. I made sandwiches for the poor because of my own self-interest. I also feed the poor because of my own self-interest. Peole go to church because of their own self-interest. Somebody made the computer you are using to bash businesses because of their self-interest. Al Gore wants to eliminate global warming because of his self-interest. If it doesn't interest you, you're not going to do it unless compelled. If you have a self interest in taking care of the homeless, that is what you are going to do.

Self-Interest simply means that a government entity of some kind didn't compell you to do whatever it is you did. When I go to Jury duty that is not my self-interest, that is government-interest which you seem to love. When I look at the countries that have the most self-interest activity, S Korea, USA, Canda, UK, France, Brition, Hong Kong, Japan, Isreal etc, I see less poverty than places that have a more government-interest, Cuba, Russia, N Korea, Vietnam, and China.

I use to read my bible and wonder how in the hell did the Jews not get what the prohets were trying to tell them. Why would they not listen to history? I would think people today would be smarter than that but the more I talk to people in general and liberals like yourself its becoming very clear, Ignorance is both deafening and blinding, but it doesn't stop people from talking.

T.D. III

The church is in a very unique position to be able to impact our country in a major way. Faith in the political system is certainly waning, but I don't think that the church should completely remove itself from trying to influence the political sphere of society. I like the quote of King that the church should be "the conscience of the state." It’s such a fine line to walk though, especially today when politics has infiltrated the church in so many ways. I immediately think of President Obama's affiliation with Jeremiah Wright and how that went down, and then I think of the instance of Mitt Romney doing the commencement at Liberty University (an evangelical Baptist university that happens to be my alma mater). The roles have been switched; instead of the church impacting politics, politics is impacting the church.

It is the ever present paradigm of the church and the individual believer; not being so spiritual that you are no earthly good and not being so worldly as to compromise your faith.

T.D. III

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T.D. III

If I may offer an opinion, self-interest becomes a problem only when it happens at the expense of the self-interest of others. For example, many people have a self-interest to go work, and provide for thier families but that self-interest has been brushed aside for the self-interest of businesses profits. As the author gave the example of getting rid of workers with benefits for cheaper contract work. Now, the self-interest of a person who has a family that depends on them, who has responsibilities they must take care of, thier self-interest means nothing!

Pursuing self-interest isn't a problem, everyone has the right to pursue self-interest, a right to work. Unless of course the company you work for can save money through a tax break by firing you and hiring people overseas for less.

Duane Terrell

"…, self-interest becomes a problem only when it happens at the expense of the self-interest of others." – I'm right there with you. This is why we have laws against theft, murder, rape, etc.

"…many people have a self-interest to go work…but that self-interest has been brushed aside for …businesses profits." – What the hell? Business are in business to make money, that's it. We would hope business cared about its employees and I think those that do will be better off in the long run. Companies do not get rid of workers they need that they can afford to pay. And just like you will use a product that is cheaper than the one you currently use if the price is lower and the quality the same, business have the same right to do that with people. Or do you think buying the cheaper product won't have an effect on the employment at the company who's product you no longer buy? Why do you get the pleasure of using a cheaper realiable product and the business doesn't get the pleasure of using cheaper reliable labor?

And what do you have against people oversea's? If all the jobs in your state went to the state next to yours are you going to not care? Only about 1% of the people in GA farm now. I don't hear anyone complaining about our farming jobs being outsourced to bread belt. Quit complaining about those poor people overseas getting a job, they are God's children to.

Duane Terrell

Get rid of the income tax and see how that changes. Long story short, the church sold its free speech down the river to keep its donations from getting taxed.

T.D. III

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T.D. III

"Companies do not get rid of workers they need that they can afford to pay." – They do get rid of workers they need…THEY REHIRE THEM OVERSEAS!!!! And as far as them being able to afford them, we may just have to agree to disagree here because I just don't think they are letting workers go because they are hurting for money but rather they are trying to make as much as possible at the expense of thier former workers.

"And just like you will use a product that is cheaper than the one you currently use if the price is lower and the quality the same, business have the same right to do that with people." – I don't think people should be treated like products. Furthermore, this is part of the point the author is trying to make…you are so focused on defending business and companies who is taking an interest in the people who are the victims of these practices? And as you said in our abortion debate, having the right to do something doesn't make it morally right. Companies have the right to do a lot of things, it doesn't make it morally right. I'm just sayin…its not right.

"And what do you have against people oversea's?" – I have nothing against people overseas. I am not hating on people overseas getting work. My complaint is not about poor people overseas getting jobs. My complaint is that big business is increasing the number of poor within our own country. Its a twisted tradeoff…you can say we are helping the poor get jobs overseas but with that we are taking jobs from people here and pushing them toward the very same standard of poverty.

Duane Terrell

"They do get rid of workers they need" – A need is when you can't do without something. Obvisously, if the company sent the jobs oversea's, they didn't need the workers they got rid of.

"I don't think people should be treated like products." –

1) I guess you believe when you go in to the store and purchase items it doesn't affect people or companies should ignore economic realities when conducting business.

2) Scenerio, you own a business. Your compeition is selling a product that is equal to yours in quality but at a cheaper price. In order for you to remain competitive you have to cut your expenses. Do you? a) keep doing what your doing (and go bankrupt) b) lay off some workers and make do with who is left c) reduce salaries d) find cheaper labor with equal quality to what you already have

"Its a twisted tradeoff" – According to this logic, the people in the following industries are destitute – Phone Operators, Cowboys, Horse and Buggy builders and maintainers, Candle Makers, File Clerks (you know, those people that use to get the files before computers took those jobs), typist, 80% of carpenters (ikea and prefabs), Mom and Pop who use to own the grocery store, 80% of the family farmers who were farming 50-60 years ago (if they are not dead (from starvation)), cassette tape assembly line workers, 8-track assembly line workers, floppy disk assembly line workers…

Need I go on?

T.D. III

LOL, if they didn't NEED the workers they wouldn't hire people overseas!!! The fact is they do need the workers, they want them cheaper so they send the jobs overseas. Its not like they hire people overseas to work some obscure job, they still work for the same company that put people out of work in America.

Not an economics expert, but its seems like expenses could be cut elsewhere in these major corporations rather than in people's jobs. I don't know, some of the ridculous bonus vacations and salary bonuses the higher ups get. Or maybe we can not reward these corporations with huge tax breaks for buying labor overseas and give them tax breaks for buying labor here. And I can't help but think, if jobs keep going overseas, no one here is gonna have a job or enough money to buy a product regardless of the price.

Didn't really follow your response to my tradeoff comment.

Duane Terrell

"Not an economics expert" – I'm not an economics expert ethier, I suppose that means you're not even an economics novice. lol And it shows.

T.D. III

Thats fine…but tell me, why is the idea of cutting expenses in other places besides people's jobs so ridiculous?

Duane Terrell

I didn't say it wasn't. I halfway expected you to come back and say you'd cut the marketing budget, and Of course I had a answer geared and ready to go if you had said that, but you went with a more general statement which, actually leads to the same answer. However, I just decided to let it go, but since you asked….

Because regardless of where you cut the budget, it is going to affect your employee's or someone elses. Everything cost money because of people, that's the only reason. All the wealth in the world comes out the ground. There are billions of metric tons of wealth on the plantet and trillions more in the solar system. Do you want it? Then you can either get it yourself or…..

You gotta pay someone to get it. Then you have to pay someone to forge it. Then you have to pay someone to think of what to do with it. Then you got to pay someone to come up with, build, and maintain the machines that create the components of the product and then the product itself. Then you have to pay someone to ship it, market it, and sell it. The list goes on and on.

Now, if you can do all these steps yourself, then have it. Then you can have everything you want in life for "free"… so long as you have land dig on.

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