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Monday, March 26, 2012

What is the appeal of communism?

When I was growing up, communism was not looked upon with admiration.  We heard the horror stories of those who left communist countries like Russia.  Stories of people being jailed and tortured for their faith or their disagreement with the government.  Stories of people starving because there was a lack of food.   Stories of government waste and corruption were also common to hear (and joke about).   Even though our government had problems as well (Nixon for example), we still believed our system of capitalism and free enterprise to be far superior than communism.

   Today, however, our youth don't seem to be as concerned about communism and its problems.  In fact, communism is on the rise among our youth.   Even our own President in his book "Dreams of My Father", bragged about seeking out Marxist professors during his time at Harvard and looking at his record so far in his first term I would say he learned much from his teachers.

   So just what is it about communism that attracts people?

I think it comes down to the table below

People can be broken down into 4 different categories based up their level of productivity and their level of leadership.

The first quadrant is entrepreneurs.  Here you have people who are highly productive, but not interested in leading the country (though they do lead large groups of people at times in their companies).  The second quadrant is welfare recipients.   The want to follow, but are not interested in contributing to society in a positive way.  They are only interested in what is in it for them.  The third quadrant is labeled: congressmen.  Now this may seem odd, but I put that label on them for a reason.   While we don't think of congressmen as highly-productive leaders.... they should be!   They should be checking with their constituents on a regular basis seeing what problems exist that need addressing.   These people are willing to do the HARD work of understanding all the issues, debating the issues with their constituents, fighting for what is right and most of all willing to say NO to more power.   The last quadrant I have labelled: dictators.  The reason is because these leaders, like the welfare-recipients, are lazy and only care about "what's in it for them".   It takes really no effort to be a dictator.  All one needs is an adequate number of lazy-followers below you who you can keep pacified with enough beer  and entertainment, a set of government agencies to control the people and punish any who get out of line.

   So what is the attraction of communism?

   It all comes down to how lazy you are.

   As our society becomes increasingly lazy,  communism grows.  Congressmen (house and senate), grow tired of running for office and debating the issues.  They grow tired of reading angry letters and emails from their constituents.  They grow weary of visiting their districts and speaking at town-halls, schools, parks and retirement centers.  They don't want to spend time compromising on bills with others from the other side. They are worn out by having to deal with complex issues and an ever changing world.   They would rather be out on their yachts drinking wine than spending their time reading 3000 page bills.  They would rather have the government run by a 1000 anonymous government agencies who can write their own regulations at will without the need to bother them.  To them communism just makes more sense.

   The people also grow tired (hard to see how the lazy can grow tired, but they do).  They are tired of going to the election hall and pressing a button for this person or that person.  They grow tired of spending time reading about those running for office and listening to the debates.   They would rather have people like Oprah or George Clooney tell them who to vote for (if its good enough for them...).  Communism is attractive because it ends all that.   No more two-party system.  No more debates.  No more negative ads on the TV.  No more disappointment.  No more decisions. 

    They also grow tired of dealing with a world where some make it and some don't.   That is the ugly truth about our system.  Not everyone does make it.   Some become unbelievably rich and others become very poor.   For the lazy,  they are tired of seeing the productive drive by in their sports cars and talk about their trips to France.   They are also tired of helping the less fortunate.  They would rather hand those problems off to some nameless government agency rather than do the hard work of visiting the shut-ins or the homeless. They aren't interested in running soup kitchens or collecting food for the hungry. 

    Those on the edge between the lazy and productive, become weary of trying.  They see the lazy sitting in homes and not paying their mortgages and say: Why not me?   They see those getting free food, free health-care and say:  Why not me?   They see the lazy not paying back their student loans and say: Why not me?   They see their friends and family getting cushy life-long government jobs and where they can retire at the ripe old age of 55 with a padded fully-paid pension and say: Why not me?   Those who are tired of filling out countless government forms and begging relentless government bureaucrats for their signature to run their businesses, say:  Why bother!

   But what the lazy fail to see (probably because they are too lazy to think about it), is that none of this comes for free.  All the luxuries we enjoy come at the cost of someone elses pain and toil. The cushy government job is payed entirely by the taxes payed by the people in the NON-government sector.  The health-care you receive ends up coming from the health-care denied someone else.  The food you enjoy was grown, harvested, processed and shipped by those who chose NOT to be lazy.   The student and home loans you thought were free were from the savings of those who worked hard and saved their money.   The money did not come from "Obama" as some welfare people think it does.   It did not come from "his stash".  

   It came from us who were NOT lazy, worked hard , played by the rules and paid our taxes. 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The first Patriot.... Martin Luther?

    When we think of American Patriots, we think of people like John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson.  However, I would like you to consider another person in that list of names: Martin Luther ( the beginner of the Christian Reformation Movement ).  Of course he lived over 250 years before we even wrote the Declaration of Independence, but none the less I think he in many ways embodied the spirit of the American Revolution.

    First of all Luther led the way for us all in 2 areas of our 1st amendment: Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech.   On Oct 31, 1517 Luther famously penned the 95 theses (or statements) against the Catholic church and nailed them to the Wittenburg church where he was preaching.  These statements brought issue with the Popes selling of "indulgences" to pay for sins or souls from purgatory/hell.  These indulgences were no more than a way to "tax" the people so the Pope could pay for the building of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Luther held that we are saved by Christ's forgiveness by what he did for us on the cross and not by the paying of money to the Pope.  Luther also pointed out that the purchase of indulgences for the purpose of knowingly sinning was not in keeping with true repentance.   Luther's 95-theses were translated into German (originally Latin) and reprinted to people all across Europe.  Until this time, few had challenged the authority of the Pope.  Luther,  using the Guttenburg printing press, was able to reach more people than every before.    By the end of Luther's life he had penned over 20 books.  These included: "Freedom of a Christian", "On Good Works",  "The Large Catechism", "The Small Catechism", "Address to German Nobility", "The Augsburg Confession" and many more.   Through the use of the Small Catechism he was able to put into the hands of the common person teaching materials on how to instruct their children in the faith.  Through the Large Catechism he was able to teach pastors how to truthfully teach their congregations.

   For these writings, Luther was not treated kindly by the Catholic Church.  Pope Leo X referred to Luther as a "drunken german and will change his mind when sober".    For fear of being assassinated, Luther had to travel from town to town in disguises.  Luther was later called to a meeting with Cardinal Catejan and ordered to recant (take back) what he had written in the 95 theses.  Luther refused to do this and later said of the Cardinal that he was no more fitted to handle the case as "an ass was able to play a harp" (yes. Luther had a sharp sense of wit too).  In June 1520, the Pope issued a Papal Bull (statement) against Luther calling him a "wild boar invading the country side".  Luther publicly burned the bull in defiance.  In April 1521, Luther was brought to court (called Diet at Worms), and was presented before a table with all his writings.  He was asked by the Johann Eck (who was leading the proceedings), to recant their content.  Luther asked for a night to pray about his answer.  The following day Luther answered with a lengthy response on the different writings and ended with the following words: "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen".

   Therefore Luther was the founder of another right we enjoy but do not think about much:  Freedom of Conscience.   The freedom to believe what you want to believe and the right to not go against that belief.   This is what the Freedom of Religion is truly all about.  Its NOT the freedom to "worship" as the President has tried to insinuate in his speeches, for worship is just what is done inside of buildings on particular days of the week.   No. Freedom of Religion is to BELIEVE what you want to BELIEVE and to ACT UPON THOSE BELIEFS (note: as long as those acts do not harm others or take away their right to believe).  This is what Luther came to understand.  He understood that the INDIVIDUAL is more important that the GOVERNMENT.  What if they are wrong?  Should I blindly follow them to my own destruction or should I stand up for what I believe to be wrong and encourage others as well to change course?  If the Catholic church believes that contraception is wrong, then they have the write to believe that and act upon that belief.   If churches believe that abortion is murder, why should they have to pay for them? 

    Luther later famously penned the song, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" in which he declares the importance of God's word and God's protection in our lives.  Here are verses 3 and 4

Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none, he’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.

The Word they still shall let remain nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife,
Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

      The author of communism, Karl Marx, referred to religion as "the opiate of the masses", but he was wrong. It is not a drug that dulls our senses and turns us into worthless addicts.   No.  Instead its a fortress that strengthens the heart and stills the nerve and allows the individual to stand against evil.  A famous quote we have all heard before says: "The most dangerous person is a man who has nothing to lose".  Like Luther says, "And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife...Let all these be gone, they yet have NOTHING won, The Kingdom OURS remaineth", we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  We have nothing to fear.

   The spirit that propelled Luther to pen the 95-theses,  is the same spirit that allowed our American Patriots to stand up against King George  and sign the Declaration of Independence (what many felt was going to be their death sentence).   We need that same courage today as we write our blogs, our newspaper opinion pieces and letters to the editor, our passion-filled pleas to our friends and family to wake up from their slumber, and even our Facebook and Twitter comments.  Will we be called to recant them some day?  Maybe.  And when we do we must stand like Luther did and say: "Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me. Amen"

Saturday, March 17, 2012

We need RELUCTANT Leaders

     To understand what is wrong in our country and with our leaders you need to understand Jesus' words to his disciples about leadership. 

    Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

     You see the problem is we have have inverted the pyramid in our country.  We have all the power at the top and not at the bottom.  If you look at our past leaders, who stands out as our greatest leaders and what quality did they share?   Two that come first to mind is George Washington and the second is Abraham Lincoln.    Both of these leaders understand this principle and applied it to their lives.   I am not saying they were not "ambitious" but they were able to contain that ambition for the common good.   They truly saw their job as being a "servant" to the many.   Washington went back to being a farmer after the war.  When the Articles of Confederation failed, he did not go rushing off to Philadelphia to "fix the problem" or offer a solution with "himself at the center".   No!    They went to him to urge him to come back and fill this role.   His answer to those men was not "What's in it for me?" instead he responded "Have I not already given enough for my country?"   When Washington had finished two terms HE decided that he was in office long enough and stepped down.  He could have run again and probably won.  But he knew HE was setting the bar for all future Presidents.  I think Washington followed Jesus' words on leadership.   He could have been made a king after the Revolution and he even had to go and show his frailty to a group of soldiers who were planning to take over the country and make him their king.   

      We need to find leaders like Washington today.  They are still out there, but you won't find them on the golf course or sailing a boat to Martha's Vineyard.   Most likely they are out their harvesting their corn or baling hay.   We just have to keep looking!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Living a life of appeasement never ends well

You've probably heard the phrase:  "If you don't stand for something, you will will fall for anything".  I was listening to Ronald Reagan's famous "Destiny" speech in which he makes the argument against "accommodation" saying that accommodation is really appeasement and that by appeasing the enemy you eventually have to answer the "final ultimatum"... and what then.  He gave this speech at the height of the cold war with communist Russia and in the speech says that the path to true peace is not backing down, but instead standing up to our enemies and telling them "there is a price we will not pay, a point at which they must not advance".

I started to look at this speech at a more personal level in my own life and our children's lives.  It began when I heard of a girl in a Minnesota high school who was forced to hand over the password to her laptop and Facebook account to her principal under the threat of dismissal (there was also a police officer in attendance as well).  She was "broken" by her masters and ended up complying with their demands (while in tears).   Like that girl we are all called upon to "accommodate" the government and their demands on us and as a Christian, I can agree with that for the most part (Paul tells us "if taxes, then pay taxes, if honor , then pay honor") but that does not mean we need to appease them and their demands.

We all just want to get through life.  I can hear the parents now telling their daughter, "just give them the password and move on.  You will be in college next year...don't make any waves".   Then their daughter will go on to college and there too she will be forced to accommodate the college and their beliefs.  She again will be told, "Just give them what they want ... you will be out of there soon and working on your own".   Then later she will be out of college and working (maybe for the government) and she will be pressured to accommodate the workplace and make unethical decisions so she can make her way up the ladder.   All the time, accommodating, retreating, backing down and losing more and more of her soul until there is nothing left.

I find it interesting that in Reagan's speech he talks about how the Russian leader said that when the final demand is made on the USA, "our surrender will be voluntary because by that time we will be weakened from within: spiritually, morally and economically".   What does that have to do with accommodation?  The answer is everything.   If you go back to my first paragraph, I say "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything".  You see, living a life of appeasement never ends well. By accommodating EVIL in our lives, the GOOD in us shrinks (never the other way around).  By appeasing we give evil a base to work from in our hearts and souls and in the end we must face the final demand:  total and unquestioning control of our lives.

Going back to the girl in Minnesota, what would happen if she refused to hand over her PRIVATE information to the school principal (who has no legal authority to request such information in the first place).   Well, she might have been suspended for a time, maybe even have to leave that school to go to a different school.  Maybe that mark on her record would keep her from going to the ivy-league college she dreamed of and would have to live with going to a state-school instead.  Because she went to a state-school she might have to take a less prestigious job and start on a lower rung of the corporate ladder.

But she would have maintained her soul intact.

Jesus showed how priceless one's soul was by using hyperbole when he said, "If you eye causes you to sin, cut it out.  For it is better to enter heaven with one eye than to burn in hell with two".  He also said, "What does it profit a man to gain the WHOLE world and yet lose his own soul".   He said this to get across to us the importance of not accommodating evil in our lives.  Reagan spoke of "not believing that life is so dear and peace so precious that it should be bought at the price of the chains of slavery".   To paraphrase, "there is no price that evil should be accommodated... it's just not worth it!"

We all need to stand together and reclaim our rights as citizens and stop appeasing the government and handing over our rights.  Whether its our right to not be searched and seized without warrant, or our right to privacy or our right to say what is on our minds and in our hearts, or our faith in God, or our right to protect ourselves and our families or even our right to a speedy trial by our peers.  We all have this constitution in common.  We may not agree with each other on other matters, but we all need to fight for each others rights to be free citizens. 

To end, I would like to finish with Reagan's final words in his "Rendezvous with Destiny" speech.  "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.  We will preserve for ourselves and our children this the best hope yet for mankind on earth or we will sentence them to take the final step into a thousand years of darkness".