Right now, middle class parents are worried about the high debt acquired through higher education with low return. I am one of them. The evidence can be seen in how many jobless millennials returned home after graduating college in 2012. According to a Pew Research Study, there are 21.6 million of these boomerangs kids living with their parents. I understand that parents are just looking out for them assuming their children are saving, contributing to the household and looking for employment. I have 4 children (pictured left) so this idea of them ALL being at home scares me..but I don’t think it is likely. (Maybe a few of them will live with their grandparents!)
Why do so many people play the lottery even though the chances of winning are 1 in 1,000,000?
Spongebob’s concept of Opposite Day?
I know that I know nothing at all. (Thanks Socrates)
Paradoxes do exist and I am not talking about Bizarro World.
Dictionary.com defines paradox this way: A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
Well here’s my list:
1. Its frowned upon to kill animals for convenience but it is the law of the land to kill an unborn baby…for convenience.
2. We release people from prison who have paid their debt to society yet no one will hire them.
3. We say violence in the media don’t influence violent behavior yet we say Al-Qaeda terrorist videos do.
4. We have stricter regulations for getting a drivers liscense than obtaining a gun legally.
5. We celebrate Ellis Island but look down on today’s immigrants.
6. We treat cable/satellite TV like a necessity.
7. We scapegoat poor people receiving welfare but not the rich.
8. Celebrities want to consistently be in our lives to promote themselves but want to be left alone.
10. Churches want to reach people but won’t go outside their church doors.
11. People want good paying jobs that demand little work.
12. We like breaking rules but don’t believe we should suffer the consequences.
13. People believe that morality is relative not realizing that this moral statement is not relative.
14. Fairness should not mean abolishing all rules so all can compete.
15. A bigot is someone who doesn’t respect your person, not your views.
I am sad not because of who won and who lost. Maybe the political attack ads sapped my optimism about America. They were ferocious, brutal and unprincipled up to the very end with the help of superPACS.
President Barack Obama won a second term as president. Honestly, he would make a great entrepreneur. His seasoned ground game for getting out the vote is unrivaled utilizing traditional offices, social media and select celebrities. Republicans did not stand a chance and Clint Eastwood’s empty chair did not help them. Mitt Romney’s Republican machine looked more like a start-up business looking for a PR stunt that would catapult him into fame. Even when I went to my job (private high school) after the election, the students were walking on air even though most of them arent old enough to vote.
So I kept my thoughts to myself. I dont begrudge anyone for being excited that their candidate won or for the voting process. But our country seems to be losing the ability to be civil and congenial.
Here are my three reasons why I am still unhappy after this historic election cycle:
Love of Money: I am not a Tea Partier and if you call me that, you may get some choice words from me. I have a family of four so money is always an issue. According to NPR commentator Marty Moss-Coane, $6 billion dollars has been spent on this presidential election. Both camps are estimated to have spent $1.7 billion each! According to the Alaska Dispatch, that is $30.33 every second for this whole election cycle. According to the New York Times, superPACs spent around $522 million. Does this say that there are votes for sale? Four years ago, Obama and McCain spent over $1 billion. This is just…stupid. This says something very damning about America especially right now: Jobs are hard to find, spending cuts need to happen and this amount of money is being spent so politicians can try to look presidential without always being straight about our real issues. We are living beyond our means and no one will really gives us the straight truth. This is one reason why financial calamities (banks, auto bailout, housing bubble, etc) seem to creep up on us. As long as the money is flowing, we don’t seem to care where it comes from. I know this is America and you can spend your money however you please but when times are tight, prudence should rule the day. And don’t give me the partisan argument of how your group wants to cut this and that. Your political party may say that but they also have their sacred cows that they don’t want cut.
The Loss of Perspective: I give credit to Obama for being able to shut up the naysayers who says he was just a fluke. Some even suggested his first win was primarily powered by ‘white guilt’ designed to atone for historical racism and slavery. Well if that is the case, then white guilt is more wide spread than people think because he now has a second term. Voting is a great way to exercise an American right that many don’t even have elsewhere in the world. For those of us who are African Americans, voting becomes even more symbolic. However, voting is not…prophetic and we need to stop treating it as such. No one has said this but I suspect this is the mentality. To view your vote as prophetic is to say that the candidates and/or the election process have divine approval. Being prophetic from a Biblical perspective is to call people back to God’s truth. It may have been lost or simply ignored but this is what the Old Testament prophets did. Also, neither candidate is the Messiah and we need to stop treating the POTUS like a king. Presidential candidates cant save us and the church needs to maintain a countercultural balance towards the state.
Decline of Civility: More and more, elections are bringing out the worse in people. This was once said about religion. I have read comments all over the web for the last 4 years and many wish for the death of their political opponent. I understand that the internet emboldens some weak minded individuals. But you also have pundits and commentators who say absolutely stupid things. It seems like we are more interested in hubris (excessive pride; overconfidence) than reasoned dialogue. I don’t understand the extreme animus toward Obama and it definitely has a racial component. Some expected this to work in Romney’s favor and it did not. Are we so tribal? Evidently, we are. I have no interest in talking to strangers about my voting patterns who may threaten to do violence to me. This is why I bristle when total strangers ask about my voting patterns. These are probably the same people who have no interest in working with me to combat visible social ills in our neighborhood. They will say its not their problem or it becomes a racial issue. Stay out my face about voting if you are not concerned about what is happening right on our streets.
So, as a Christian, I am not dumping on anyone’s parade. I am suggesting that we still have some deep structural issues in this country that are not going to be solved through simply voting in our candidate. Something is wrong in Washington AND something is wrong all over America. We are becoming less civil, more hostile and tribal. I sense it in the air. Something is deftly wrong.
“The American people are angry,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a major Senate floor speech. I am one of those Americans. Some say the last 4 years have been disastrous for the middle class because of the Great Recession and President Obama. Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, authors of America: What Went Wrong? go even further back. They revisited this issue in a Philadelphia Inquirer June 2012 article series. Here is an excerpt:
“The real deficit issue that has been out of control for 35 years is the trade deficit. That’s the one that has decimated the American workforce, blocked the creation of millions of jobs, created millions more jobs for people in other countries, triggered pay cuts for millions of workers who still have jobs in theUnited States, and generally lowered the standard of living for many at the bottom and in the middle of the economic pile. Those at the top have flourished quite nicely under this policy.”
As I look back in the 1970s in Philadelphia, I remember working class African Americans and Caucasian Americans starting to lose their factory jobs. Many of them only had high school diplomas and were taking care of their families. But one by one, these factories were closing. This hit African Americans communities especially hard considering the covert and overt discrimination that was still being practiced. But I always heard that some Republican or Democrat was going to fix it. Instead, policies favored by both seem to make things worse.
As I graduated from college, worked professionally and matured in my Christian faith, my thinking started to change about political parties. Being married and having children also affected my views. I consider myself to be conservative in my understanding of the Bible but I also appreciate God’s Word on helping the fatherless, the widow and the oppressed. I was a recipient of Christian charity and mercy considering that I grew up fatherless and poor. I thought about aligning with fringe parties (Green, Libertarian, etc) but I just wasn’t activist enough to embrace them. Plus some of them demanded an ideological purity I did not support. I thought about not voting but then I felt I was still making the wrong statement to my children. Americans died so that we could vote. So I started switching parties based on the candidate. I have voted Republican and Democratic in past presidential elections but never told anyone. I still would rather talk religion than politics. I guess I am the swing voter that I hear so much about. (I am not even completely sure politicians perceive me to be in this category because I am African American.)
Here are my 5 reasons why I am an Independent and don’t adhere to political party loyalty:
1. Jesus did not belong to any political party.
Jesus opposed the Jewish religious teachers of his day because they held people to impossible standards that they themselves did not keep. Jesus was prophetic towards them forcing them to see their hypocrisy and he did this by being an outsider.
2. Winning isn’t everything.
Many politicians are willing to lie, fudge the truth and bully to win including Christians. This is unhealthy for our nation especially for children. Healthy competition has its place but so does respect, honor and good sportsmanship.
3. Mercy and grace should always be present.
God punished Israel and the surrounding nations for their disobedience and sin yet He still used Israel to bless all nations through Jesus Christ. Love should govern our actions.
4. The Christian faith and politics are not bedfellows
Today, too many Christians expect politics to do what the church and state once did in the past: legislate morality. We magnify certain sins over others in the public square to gain political advantage. We must be biblically consistent.
5. We need to stop exploiting wedge issues for gain.
Certain wedge issues always find themselves on the party platform: racism, abortion, sexism. These issues are often used to divide people yet once the election is over, they often take a backseat. Also the conversation around them has become increasingly coarse and media driven. This trivializes the real concerns.
My Christian worldview influences my life decisions. Some suggest this is wrong but you are deluded if you think you do not have your own worldview that influences your outlook and actions. But inside my worldview should not only be discipline, healthy competition and a prophetic witness but also grace, mercy, kindness and love. This should affect my politics as well. The world will live however it wants to live. But lies, slander and deception should not plague the people of God. Take that however you want. I dont expect everyone to like it or even agree with it. But it has a place in a country that believes in freedom of religion.
But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18
We live in age where free speech means saying exactly what is on your mind when it may not be necessary AND not saying anything when it may be necessary. Get it? You should be confused. I know I am. We have three scenarios that illustrate this problem.
Scenario #1: Phila. Police Officer Killed
100+K reward is being offered for any information in the murder of police officer Moses Walker Jr. He was slain during a stickup by two men as he walked from his north Philadelphia police precinct to a bus stop on the morning of August 18th. Video footage shows the murderers stalking him before they robbed and killed him. Mayor Nutter said appropriately in a news conference ‘somebody knows something.’ As the reward climbed, the news showed footage of citizen’s reactions to the murder and reward. It was shocking to hear people say that the money is not enough. But in a city where witnesses die, it is heartbreaking. I remember when rewards were placed on dangerous career criminals that the FBI wanted. Now, cities do the same. I remember thinking this was a bad precedent to set in a city that struggles with crime. My concern is that the reward amount might become synonymous with the person’s worth. The lower the amount, the less important the person is. Racial minorities have struggled with a similar issue because national news outlets may deem our lives are not ratings worthy to be broadcast around the nation. Typically you have to be a white girl/woman to receive that kind of coverage. Reward comes from city coffers but also from private donations. But it seems like even now, a police officer’s life is not worth 100+K. Neither is many other lives because those who know something are afraid to speak up.
Scenario #2: Valedictorian Denied Diploma For Raising ‘Hell’
The valedictorian of an Oklahoma high school doesn’t have her high school diploma because she used the word ‘hell’ in her speech. This is how she used it:
When she first started school she wanted to be a nurse, then a veterinarian and now that she was getting closer to graduation people would ask her ‘what do you want to do?’ She said, “How the hell do I know? I’ve changed my mind so many times.”
Supposedly, she wrote ‘heck’ in her speech and changed it at the last minute garnering some laughter from the audience. The principal said she will not receive her diploma until she apologizes. On a morning newshow, she said she will not apologize and that she was speaking to her classmates. Her father claims this is a free speech issue. Is it really? It seems today that free speech means being able to say whatever you want at anytime. But is that what it means? Celebrities sue tabloids for printing things about them that they argue are not true (slander). You cannot threaten the POTUS without a visit by the SS, CIA or FBI. Honestly, I do think that the principal may be going overboard. But I also understand that graduations are formal events that should involve formal speech. She may have been speaking to her fellow graduates but there were also children and families in attendance. We need to remember that things can be communicated in bad taste.
Scenario #3: Chick-Fila Controversy
The LGBTQ community and their allies boycotted the ‘Eat More Chicken’ franchise. In my opinion, they overreached but so did Christians. I understand the free speech issue inherent in this debate. But I would have been more open to participating if the conservative Christian community would have shifted the attention to other marginalized groups who are ignored such as the homeless. Why are we Christians quickly mobilized on a hot button political issue but cannot always be found at a soup kitchen? Why not buy a chicken sandwich and give it to a homeless person? The truth: we need to be careful of mixing a public Christian witness with commerce. The freedom of speech issue is an important one but imagine if we would have shifted the debate to not simply claiming our American rights but emphasizing the civil rights of others that tend to be ignored like foster children, drug addicts, etc. In Mark 2:13-17, Jesus’ reputation was called into question when he did not fully follow how the Pharisees interpreted the law. Instead he ate with sinners: people who were ignored, disrespected and sometimes corrupt…but in need of grace.
So looking at these three scenarios raises several questions for me: Do we want to invoke the First Amendment (freedom of speech) every time someone challenges something that we say? Do etiquette and civic virtues exist anymore? Should the First Amendment (freedom of speech) be connected to commerce (reward)? If so, don’t we run the risk of only participating based on our own selfish desires and not for the good of the community?
Words have consequences in our culture. There was a time when we learned this growing up when communities had some form of cohesion and expectations of its residents. Now, every special rights group as a mafia to represent their interests. Dark days are ahead when we have to invoke legal language (rights, freedom of speech), bribe and threaten people to do what is right.