This a good metaphor on how we are handling our national debt.

“It’s like you and your missus announcing you’ve set your new credit limit at $1.3 million, and then telling the bank to send demands for repayment to Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s kindergartner next door.”    Mark Steyn

That about captures what is going on. Aside from all the complications when economists get involved, everyone knows one should not spend money that is not there before it is spent. I actually lived before the days of credit cards, so this was quite an easy lesson to learn growing up. It was much harder to get into debt. It should be something that is hard to do, not easy to do. This year, the federal government borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends, a ratio that is unprecedented.  As Steyn notes, in the book, “Financing U.S. Debt: Is There Enough Money In The World – And At What Cost?”, the authors’ answer is yes, technically, there is enough money in the world – in the sense that, on current projections, by 2020 all it will take to finance the Government of the United States is for the rest of the planet to be willing to sink 19 percent of its GDP into U.S. Treasury debt. Which Kitchen and Chinn say is technically doable. Yeah. In the same sense that me dating Scarlett Johannson is technically doable. Unfortunately, neither Scarlett nor the rest of the planet is willing to do it. It’s not 2020, and we’re not yet asking the rest of the planet for a fifth of its GDP. But already the world is imposing its own debt ceiling. Most of the debt issued by the Treasury so far this year has been borrowed from the Federal Reserve. That adds another absurd wrinkle to the D.C. charade: Washington is negotiating with itself over how much money to lend itself.

Now we have figured out that we don’t have to pay it back at all. We can have future generations pay our bills. What an idea!!! Unless you are an adult and actually think that adults should take care of children. Stop me if I am wrong here, but humans are the only animal life on the planet that will actually take care of and raise grandchildren. There is a reason we have been given this DNA. But we are doing our best to go against the natural and instinctual.

If we have enough politicians that want to tell the truth rather than simply get re-elected, this kind of game is over. It is the same in the church. If we had enough pastors that simply wanted to teach what the Bible teaches as true, rather than keep their incomes rolling in, how much better off the church would be. Sure, lots of pastors would lose their heads. What’s new in that? Actually, what is new is that the numbers of pastors who believe it should never come to that is increasing.

Same-sex marriage, rampant divorce and multiple marriages among church leaders with very lost children, the doctrine of eternal lostness and Jesus Christ as the only way to God, the authority of the Bible, the confrontation with militant Islam are all topics that most pastors avoid like a third rail. And churches sit idly by while their pastors offer gruel for spiritual meals while the church anemically wastes away. The very consciences of the congregations get no spine-supporting, courage-building, conviction-stirring assistance from pastors.

No one wants to be professionally mean. And it can turn into that, if one is not careful. It is necessary to do that soul work, as a pastor, which keeps the heart soft with the miseries and ills that afflict us and which the eternity before us will seal. It is necessary to have a whole-hearted satisfaction in Jesus as glorious and most excellent. We are to go amongst the people not as their severest critics but with the greatest of good news, satiated with the awareness of what the gospel can do to someone who believes it.

Can America survive the diminishment of the church?

One of the courses I teach at college is Christian Traditions. This is a blend of church history, Bible, theology and western civ. The basic assertion I keep coming back to in the class is that much that we count as blessings and benefits in the USA have flowed out of church renewal movements spilling over into political movements.

America has become the place it is because of the hold Christianity, and particularly evangelical Christianity, has had on the citizenry. It’s not a matter of the church serving political ends but spiritual transformation impacting cultural and civic values. Religiously based political movements do not in and of themselves lead to true societal good. What does lead to societal good is a spiritually revived populace that by virtue of its own experience of God in Christ has a changed heart toward others.

One can draw a direct line between the Great Awakening and the American Revolution and the Second Great Awakening and abolition of slavery and even the willingness to persevere in a war that would spare this nation of the guilt of enslavement. Prison reform, the care of children, public education, suffrage, temperance, etc., were all rooted in authentic revival movements among the population. Of course, the civil rights struggle of the 60s was a church movement in large measure.

Now it seems that the Judeo-Christian tradition in and of itself is seen as transformative and a genuine alternative to put on the table in public sphere. So it is. But without a revived church it just lays there. It doesn’t do anything. Inert. Without taste. It is a changed church that is the missing part.

Now many are seeking a renewal of the American vision without church as a key player. Our history says this cannot be done. We have never really tried this before.

It is in this sense irrelevant whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation. People will debate that. What is not debatable is America’s constant renewal based on church movements. Take that away and the USA will be a different thing altogether.

I sure miss James Dobson at Focus on the Family

The recent kerfuffle at Focus on the Family as it “changes its image” and finds itself uneasy bed partners with leftists who turn on it just reminds me that playing the PR game in image projection has a boomerang effect. FOF looks weak and unfocused as it tries to position itself as MOR and household safe.

The amazing success of FOF is undoubtedly a function of James Dobson’s leadership. When it arrived at its omega point, of the course, the game changed. Now the Board of Directors was not willing to ride the train down the hill as the public increasingly distanced itself from the Bush presidency and the “rhetoric” of the right. Dobson had to go. The game he played got them there. Now the game he played threatened hard times and staff layoffs.

Now the “softer side of FOF” has its chance. Welcome to hardball, FOF!!!

I found Dobson incredibly brave and focused. The social issues threaten to create a sinkhole for the american family and Dobson was willing to identify those issues. FOF wants to fiddle a tune while the society burns.

Of course, it is rather natural for Boards to turn on the founders of a ministry. They see them as obstacles to all that the organization can be and will not be as long as the founder is at the wheel. This just isn’t news. The thing that troubles me at FOF is that they think they get to set the rules of the game that actually is being played. This is “big-boys-hardball” time and FOF doesn’t want to play that game. They want it all to turn to slow-pitch softball.

The social conservative base will pull away when a ministry ceases to fill the prophetic role it once filled. If it had not been there in the first place, it would be no big deal. But it did, and it is.  I, for one, am not applauding their “just be nicer” and “get back to family devotions” head-in-the-sand ministry philosophy. They lose and soon will be just another publishing house in the Oprahfied marketplace.

Liberals in Congress are starting to need Jesus

Charlie Rangel thinks the current deficit crisis needs a “What Would Jesus Do?” moment. Jesus is decidedly in favor of increasing our debt ceiling, according to the Rep. Well, as long as we are bringing Jesus into this, I think Jesus is against raising the debt ceiling. After all, as they say, Jesus saves. Get it? So where does that leave us? Other than that Rangel should do the moral thing like Jesus did and pay his own taxes. If he wants to fish for a tax payment and find it in a fish’s mouth, that’s okay with me, as long as he gets it in.

I actually do think economics is about morality. I have long argued that our tax system and tax credit schemes work against a moral life. Part of the reason, a substantial part of the reason, that almost all families now have to be two-income households has to do with taxes. With both parents at work, something has to give, and what has to give often is one parent fully available to the children during their first five years. Overworked, overtired, frazzled parents are bad for the next generation.

Of course, part of what our government does with those taxes is support single parent households in ways that two parent households can’t begin to imagine. This is an outrageous policy.

I actually don’t think we need to bring Jesus into this argument, though it is the final retreat of Charlie Rangel and Jim Wallis. Simple and direct moral argumentation is sufficient to address the morality of our economics. But at this level Wallis and Rangel lose the debate.  It simply cannot be moral to so adjust government spending and tax codes in such a way that intact families are destroyed.

Once again, this continues to be why Ayn Rand is such a draw for conservative evangelicals in spite of all the warnings about her anti-religious and brutish darwinian competitiveness. There is something noble about a family staying intact, relying on one another, sacrificing, supporting and not only earning enough for themselves but actually earning so that they can give charitably, all without government’s applause. (Yes, I know that government helps everybody through Social Security, etc., so that middle class evangelicals are as dependent on the tax system as, say, your average “gee, it’s too hard to get out of bed in the morning, I think I have a mental illness” tax money dependent!!!)

I do not think evangelicals give this enough press and whimp out when Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo say “Jesus”. What Wallis and Campolo mean is we must accept Jesus as Savior and higher taxes. They simply go together.