Thursday, July 7, 2011

Christian Faith and U.S. Politics

Dear Folks,

I am not writing this post because I have the volatile dynamics of Christian discipleship and contemporary U.S. politics figured out. On the contrary, I am actively seeking input from other Christians who believe they comprehend what is going on within our government and society these days.

Here are some factors that seem relevant to me --

1) Jesus told us to honor all governments and their laws, as even ungodly ones are put in place and allowed to remain at God's discretion. This is already problematic when you consider places like Hitler's Germany, today's Egypt, Libya, Syria and many other countries.

2) Our Founding Fathers generally espoused Christian beliefs; yet, they made a conscious effort to allow for religious freedom in the new nation by "separating" government's role and authority from that of religion.

3) Today many Christians object to the culture that has resulted from implementation of this "separation of church and state." They feel crucial Biblical principles are being eroded; such as the traditional definition and terms of marriage, the right to life of an unborn child, scientific principles taught in public schools, and even their own Christian right to pray, worship and celebrate the birth and death of Christ in public.

4) However, those same contemporary Christians tend also to believe that government should not play a particularly large role in protecting or regulating the affairs of its citizens. So far as I am aware, this perspective is not a Biblical one.

5) What is more, "small government" Christians generally also believe it is up to private organizations and citizens, not governmental agencies, to care for the poorest members of society. Again, I do not see this belief as Biblically-based.

6) However, it is possible our society could function well relying primarily on such private charity, were it not for the fact that these same Christians also believe our society will function optimally if "the market" is allowed free rein to generate profits, which will eventually "trickle down" to those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

Here, in my opinion, is where the real problem lies. It appears to me that Satan has built up a gigantic stronghold in this area that not only undermines the "free market trickle down" theory, but actually seems poised to destroy our democratic culture and way of life. The name of the stronghold is Greed.

7) An "unholy alliance" among the nephilim of Wall Street, some members of our state and federal governments, and certain Christians appears to being taking place. The result is that, while a small number of individuals are growing exceedingly wealthy and powerful, more of the U.S. population than ever before in our history is falling into poverty. And this just as the previous "safety net" is being removed!

What I cannot fathom is how Christians can be front and center in this process. What has happened to truth in the face of professional spin doctors who simply want their side to win? What about integrity, humility, compassion, trust in God, submission to his will, and the other fruits of the spirit which demonstrate to God and each other that we are those who are called by his holy Name? And, where do we stand with respect to the greatest commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Please, folks, I truly am not a hothead out to point fingers or fan a revolution. I simply am bewildered and, yes, horrified, at what I see happening to our government, our corporations, and our society as a whole. Does anyone understand this development from a spiritual perspective? If so, would you please help me, because to me it feels like an accelerating descent into Ayn Rand-style individualism.

Specifically, if you are an earnest follower of Jesus and also a committed Republican, I need to comprehend how you unify these belief systems within yourself. I have tried repeatedly and simply cannot reconcile them. Thank you, brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Feeling Discouraged, Restless, Fed Up? Good for You!!

Like most of the rest of the country and much of the world, I listened to Barack Obama take the oath of office as our 44th President and address the nation yesterday. And yes, I was moved. The mess we have made of our planet, our economy, our educational and health delivery systems, and our way of relating to our global neighbors has seemed beyond repair to me. I have felt disheartened and alienated from much of the human race on account of these issues.

For any one man, even one backed by the power of the United States government, to stand up before the rest of us and pledge to give his all toward righting these ills got my attention. A little flicker of hope stirred inside me and, along with the hope, the desire to quit bitchin' and pitch in instead to do what I can to make things better.

Let me state one thing clearly: It is not inappropriate or neurotic to feel depressed or angry when your life sucks.

I wish the makers of Prozac and its littermates would get this message out to the public, and I wish our diplomats would apply this principle to their dealings with impoverished peoples and nations. What is inappropriate, though all too easy to do, is to give up. That is the wake-up call I received as I listened to President Obama's Inaugural Address yesterday.

And what better time for our nation to awaken than now, with its back against the wall, its narcissistic delusions of grandeur shattered, its fat cats exposed for the predators they are, and the specter of want a guest at many family tables? Historically, it is precisely at such times, when there seems less to lose and more to gain, that people are willing to face their fear of change and take up the challenge of creating a better life for themselves.

With a strong positive leader pointing the way and conscious citizens awakened from their "money zombie" shuffle, perhaps we will collectively be able to discern the way forward that is right for all of us passengers on "Spaceship Earth."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pray for a Fish and Get a Hook and Line

If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives that person patience?
Or does he give her the opportunity to be patient?
If someone prays for courage, does God give that person courage?
Or does he provide opportunities to be courageous?
If someone prays for trust in God's guidance,
Do you think God zaps her with warm trusting confidence?
Or does he give her the chance to deepen her trust?
--Evan Almighty

I already knew all that, of course, and I'll bet you do, too. But the reminder helped me a lot not long ago when, despite my daily prayers for guidance and trust in that guidance, it seemed every action I took turned out wrong. It felt as though I just couldn't get my bearings.

"Please show me the way," I kept asking the Creator of the universe, who surely knew. Yet, day by day my poverty deepened, with creditors growing fangs and, worst of all, the possibility of being unable to feed my menagerie of rescued cats and dogs looming.

Where did I go wrong? I wondered. Why should a person of reasonable intelligence sink so deep into this bog of scarcity? Will I be homeless next, like the stories you see on TV of former business executives collecting tin cans and sleeping on the sidewalk? Is there really no one who will help me? What shall I DO?!

Yes, I even had thoughts of ending my life -- although those were always short-circuited by knowing my animals depended completely on me and were no more likely to be taken care of by someone else than I was.

It really was a dark, tough time and I'm sure I made many mistakes. But as my sense of control lessened and the chaos and confusion grew, a tiny calm space opened within me that I found I could go to when circumstances were more than I could bear. It wasn't a rational place, where all the answers were suddenly before me. It wasn't a happy place, where I could forget my troubles. Instead, it was simply a place of knowing that, even in a world gone all dark and dangerous, a powerful and loving Presence was with me.

Disaster might still strike; I did not feel immune. But I had a core sense that my life would continue somehow because it rested in the palm of the one who placed my soul on this planet and who orchestrates the symphony of creation. I have a place in that creative work, and though I am often deaf to the guidance I need, I can relax into knowing that even so the way is being prepared for me to move forward.

And that is how trust has entered my life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tribute to a True Genius Marketer

I've been learning a lot lately about marketing from the current crop of gurus -- C.J. Hayden, Ed Dale, Mike Dillard, Seth Godin, Mack Michaels and Jay Kubassek, to name a few. And I am pleased and grateful to be soaking up what they have to offer.

But while most of them were learning to sound out the words "How can I help you?" a young man named Kevin Thyr (pronounced 'teer') was out there practicing attraction marketing, bootstrap marketing, niche market identification, scalable system design and, most important of all, sales as service.

Kevin was a sales rep and later sales manager and vice president for a few large printing companies in Minneapolis through the 80s and 90s when digital imaging and the internet were emerging technologies. It so happened I was a print buyer for an exercise equipment manufacturer during those same years.

What impressed me right from the start about Kevin was that he didn't launch straight into his pitch. He first showed a real interest in getting to know me and the company I worked with. He listened, he laughed with me, and he sympathized with my frustrations (in reproducing our logo colors accurately, for example). Then he went to work and came up with solutions for whatever I needed.

In retrospect, I consider him nothing less than a miracle worker. At the time, I took it all for granted. I was thankful, of course; but I just figured that was his job and he was doing it.

It wasn't until Kevin experienced some health and family situations that took him out of circulation temporarily that I realized how rare a bird he was. The guy that took his place looked and dressed like a movie star. As he began his presentation he winked and smiled at me, knowing how wowed a dowdy little matron like myself was sure to be by his credentials and -- well, let's face it -- just by his awesome presence.

But it turned out he was unable to deliver the very same product Kevin had been having printed for us on a regular basis for several months. Prices were going up, it seemed. We either had to cut a few corners or accept a scaled-down product. Oh, and this next run would take longer to print also. However, if we would consider doubling our order, then we would carry more clout in scheduling the job on press and he felt sure he could get us priority treatment.

Whereas, with Kevin we already were a priority because we were a customer.

It is only now, as I take on the role of marketing myself and some products and services to others, that I realize how much I learned from Kevin. Sales is a service profession and you don't achieve success there with flashing white teeth or manipulative teasers. As a famous salesperson once said, "Let him who would be greatest among you, become the servant of all." (Matt. 20:26)

Look for a need that someone has and learn how to fill it, so that he or she will be happy and you will end up with something to support your family as a result. That is the "right livelihood" definition of salesmanship that Buddhists have advocated for centuries and Kevin Thyr has embodied for decades.

Kevin, if you happen to Google yourself and end up on this page, here's to you, long-lost mentor and friend. Don't know how I could hold my own in this hustling internet marketplace without the lessons I learned from you. When you're ready for me to ghost-write your bestseller, I'm there!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Such a diverse community, this internet world! And how exciting to get little glimpses into scenes I have never experienced and likely never will. For instance, did you even know that some people play polo riding elephants? Now, there's a niche market for you -- elephant polo sticks. They must be pretty long.

As I was flipping through other blogs on Blogger (using the enticing little "Next Blog" tool), I found relatively few of them in English and many seething with a dark sinuous energy that fascinated me, like a small child peeking through the door at her parents having sex. I was glad, though, these blog personna were safely on the other side of my computer Looking Glass, rather than out here with me.

I wonder if someday we will, like Alice, be able to step through the Looking Glass created by the endlessly variegated content on our computer screens. There's a fascinating book about this (I just tried to find the author's name by Googling "mind computer merge;" it might have been Ray Kurzweil, but I'm not sure) tracing how the process could -- and in this guy's opinion, will -- take place. It was a very compelling argument, even for an old-fashioned theist like myself.

Well, if I could step through my computer Looking Glass today -- only briefly, mind you! -- I would walk into the world of a nearby blog with blacked-out background and white text in an unknown language with strong visceral-sounding words like "gar" and "jett." The photo I recall was shot looking up at a dynamic young woman dressed all in close-fitting black with microphone to her mouth and the inscrutable (for me) caption over her head, "mittmittmitt!"

If it could be arranged somehow, I'd gladly give that young woman a little tour around my woods and creek and introduce her to my animals, if I could stand in her audience for a few moments and soak up that thrumming alien energy.

Eventually, will we become whoever we visit in our computer Looking Glass flights of fancy? I think I agree with Kurzweil (or whoever it was); we surely seem to be headed in that direction.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Internet Jabberwocky

"Twas Brillig and the slithy Toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe,
All mimsy were the borogoves
And the momeraths outgrabe.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son,
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jub-jub bird and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
from Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Does this poem remind anyone else of instructions you may have read recently for installing a "widget" on your "blog," "search engine optimization," posting a "Squidoo lens" or a "reTweet," or deleting "cookies" from your browser?

Do they teach this stuff in high school now as a foreign language? Is there a dictionary for all these terms the internet gurus toss about like feathered hackie-sacks? And, most to the point, when will I become proficient in online insider-speak?

I believe I am at least well on the road to internet fluency these days. Furthermore, I hereby pledge to the entire listening internet community (I think that means you, Crysta) that once I do achieve the proficiency I am seeking, I will never flamboozle (my own jabberwocky for "confuse with needless sleight of hand") a newbie with undefined terms or procedures.

Now, if only I could get my BetterNetworker "badge" to upload onto this blog!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sometimes You Just Got to...


Still, this is not your traditional damsel and the Frog Prince fairytale. For one thing, in this photo it's not clear, is it, who is getting the better deal -- the human or the toad?

And that's how it is sometimes when you try something reinventing yourself as an online marketer, for instance.

Not for the faint of heart, let me tell you!

For the past two months I have been carefully threading my way through a minefield of internet hype and scams that are waiting to snare the careless or uninitiated. And though I can't say I have emerged unscathed, thanks to some excellent mentoring, taking my time, and having a mission (more on these later), I am learnng how to survive and eventually to thrive in this fascinating virtual community.

Bottomline for me is integrity. That is my anchor and my guide. If I can't keep this venture real for me, I know I will lose everything I am working for. So, here's me coming at you, warts and all, no disguises, with some lessons and resources to share, and hoping to hear about the dreams and schemes of others as well.