My senior year in high school, our football team had a plan that would help us win the state championship. I don't know whose idea it was, but it was brilliant.
The plan? We would all shave our heads. In doing so we would find unity.
Keep in mind this was the age when all of us looked like masculine Farah Fawcetts—with our feathered hairdos. Everybody was on board. Every player thought it was a fantastic idea. It would be sacrifice, yes, but that sacrifice would propel a spirit of unity; this spirit would be the impetus to win the state championship.
There was only one problem. No one would be the first to shave his head. We did not win the state championship.
I think what I'm about to propose will never work in government or politics, because I see no politician willing to be the first one to propose it. Nevertheless, I believe strongly in what I'm about to say. I reserve the right to grow.
California has been in deep trouble for a few years now. They owe too much money. One symptom of the crisis: at times, the state has had to give government workers unpaid furloughs—a difficult choice—due to a lack of funds.
Watching California through the years, I consistently thought: I have seen this before. I lived for 5 1/2 years in a country that was always on the verge of economic ruin (Argentina.) I have seen many of the same symptoms in California. Now, I am starting to see the same thing happening within the federal government of the United States.
Both major political parties are guilty. I want to address only two of the problems as I see them.
Number one. Greed. We want so much more than we need, and we're willing to borrow money that we do not have to get it. We are borrowing it from future generations. We're asking our future generations to pay for good things such as museums, statues, PBS (and an assortment of pork barrel projects that may not be so good.)
There is nothing inherently wrong with a number of things our government spends money on—if we don’t have to borrow money to pay for it. Therein lies the rub.
I had a friend a few years ago, who sold one of his cars and began riding his bike to work. Nothing wrong with having two cars, but his wife returned to college to get a graduate degree. They could not afford two vehicles without borrowing money. To stay out of debt, they sold a car.
Borrowing money can be presuming upon God—particularly with regard to things that are not essential. All financial experts I read discourage buying things on credit that will not appreciate in value. Although Scripture never condemns borrowing, it never encourages it either. It always encourages the follower of God to avoid debt.
Our government does not seem to remember this. Perhaps this is because we citizens typically do not remember this; therefore, our government reflects our values with regard to money. To fully address the national debt, the federal government must make cuts and/or fully eliminate the funding of many good things.
Number two: we need a strong theology of accountability. I recently did a study on accountability. What I am about to say, I realize, will also not be popular. Let me take some time to set this point up.
Aristotle viewed virtue as the mean between two extremes. That is a good rule of thumb in terms of viewing sin.
Often, sin can be visualized as two opposite poles, with the virtue lying in the middle. Mercy is the virtue. Cold, hard hearts are those that show no mercy. That is sin. However, showing too much mercy is sin as well. It prevents God from using discipline to help people who need to grow.
An example: the alcoholic who is enabled to continue in his drinking problem because no loved one will confront him. His loved ones will lie, cover up for the alcoholic’s mistakes at work, and conceal his brutality at home. A chief reason is the loved ones feel so much compassion for him. Unfortunately, in the end, the loved ones hurt the alcoholic.
One of the things I've learned from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah is how important circumstances are in God's work. God uses circumstances to get us to see the error of our ways. For example, when I was a young man, I believe God used circumstances to help me address spending habits that reflected greed and presumption upon God. (See point number one.)
Helping the poor is important. But the more layers of government and/or bureaucracy that are added, the harder it is to have someone come to grips with sinful activity that leads to poverty. And make no mistake about it; there are times when poverty is rooted in sin. This is why relationship is so essential in terms of a godly approach to ministry to those who are in poverty. Through relationship, one can better discover who is in need and who needs to face the consequences of his sinful lifestyle.
The genius of the free market, and of the freedom in our country, is this: it has held us accountable for our behavior in more ways than any other government in history. If we maintain a flawed behavioral pattern, typically, we fail. The free market plays no favorites; it is impersonal.
The more we try to remove this mechanism of accountability, the more people will be hurt. Without accountability, more money is needed to compensate people who refuse to address their flaws of character. Ultimately, society runs out of money. We are careening to that point now.
Few people like to be held accountable, including me. I DO want to be held accountable, because I know it is in my best interest. Even so, I don’t like it.
What I have written today will not solve the debt crisis alone. Much, much more needs to be addressed. Nevertheless, I would like to think that these two points are two pieces that are part of a larger mosaic that would, ultimately, help us move in a healthier direction.
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. I watched SOUL SURFER with my family Friday night. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It is based upon the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm at thirteen when a shark bit her while she was surfing.
What followed was an amazing testimony to her faith and fortitude. Clearly, Bethany had made a decision to be a disciple of Jesus. Somewhere along the way, she grew to the point that she could say, in effect, “If God can use my arm for the Kingdom, so be it.” She was literally prepared to present her life, and any part of her body, as a living-and dying-sacrifice.
This was not some cheaply made picture with a microphone creeping into the shot; it was a first class production. This movie also offered high quality actors and actresses. What I liked was that they clearly respected Bethany’s faith, and they did not shy away from depicting it.
The special features are also worth checking out. The documentary on Bethany goes into detail portraying her faith. Again, I am grateful the production company allowed this independently produced documentary to be included in the package.
I have never had a problem with Hollywood sharing stories that turned me off. This is a big world and this country is a free one; there are a lot of stories to share, no one should have to gain my approval to tell a story.
I have been concerned about Hollywood censoring the telling of a Christian’s story. In the case of SOUL SURFER, Hollywood told a Christian story to the best of its ability with respect and even affection. For this, I am grateful.
2. I finished the baseball book THE LONG BALL by Tom Adelman over the weekend. Adelman chronicles the 1975 Major League Baseball season, peaking with his account that year’s classic seven game World Series between Boston and Cincinnati.
Adelman’s work is detailed, funny, informative, and interesting. I particularly enjoyed his tidbits about what high school student Ricky Henderson and five-year-old Ken Griffey, Jr. were doing that year.
This book was not well publicized when it appeared in bookstores in 2003. That’s a shame; it’s a great read.
3. Sometimes I wonder if the Rangers simply get bored. They have won five out the last seven against the Angels. Strange how they seem to turn it on when they have to. I’m going to suggest to Ron Washington that Nelson Cruz have a designated runner from home plate on. Cruz pulled another hamstring on the base paths last night.
4. I don’t care if the Dallas Cowboys begin the season 15-0, with their defense, this year they would be lucky to win one playoff game.
5. Today, for the first time in 16 years, the Edge family is cable free. Long live the internet! And here’s hoping we can find an antenna that will televise signals on our vintage 1980s era TVs.