Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Declared Affection for Caesar

A whole lotta Christians of some renown have gathered to issue an official proclamation of their desire to continue to do things their way no matter how much the federal government hints that they comply with them. It's called the "Manhattan Declaration," and it says three key things.

One, we won't refuse to yell against abortion. Two, we won't refuse to yell against same-sex marriage. And three, we won't refuse to keep yelling. That last one was really an insistence on religious freedom, but what it really means is that they want to keep doing their thing and at the same time keep getting nice tax breaks for being otherwise good obedient tax-exempt non-profit congregations.

Sadly, if these people were truly heeding Christ's words they wouldn't have to make such a proclamation.

All they'd have to do is live out Christ's words.

They'd then blow away so many people that seen in all His glory would be Christ, instead of a batch of official looking fancy suits sneering about how against bad things they are.

At the very same time as all this churchly stuff is happening, the United States Senate is continuing to slam universal health care into legislation. Never mind that so few know how many more novel forms of human sacrifice will be accomplished with this, even fewer comprehend that as much as so many conservative libertarian types screech about how gruesomely socialist it is, they are actually revealing how much they put their faith in Caesar to do precisely what he is doing.

"Huh?" you may certainly scream from every orifice, "Are you saying those who say the most loathsome things about Obama and Reid and Pelosi for ramming this down our throats actually like those guys?"

Indeed I am. The fact is, after the shouters are all finished getting paid nicely to shout down all bad things they will go home and from the privacy of their own office they will cheerfully send Caesar a nice big check for checking their own sinful proclivities. If they didn't extend generous tribute to Caesar, they would be in gross violation of their signed contract, or perhaps... perhaps...

They might just be authentic followers of Christ.

Those who are abandoned to Christ form communities in which all are taken care of, everyone using their God-given gifts to the fullest including those of providing optimum medical attention to any who need it. They would not only be extending that kind of vibrant mercy to others but the love they would have for one another would be so profound that all would live with the greatest, deepest, most magnificent joy and from that would many others be drawn to Him simply because they want that.

It is even better.

Those kind of people cannot die.

Sure their bodies may give out, yeah, got that.

But because they are held by Christ they will never die. So they have nothing to lose. They've also already gained everything. So...

No need to sign up for or have anything to do with Caesar's medical plan in whatever form it is presented.

No need to shout down abortion because anyone beholding the way they love would know the truth about nurturing the preborn.

No need to shout down same-sex marriage because anyone witnessing true love in action would be wholly convinced of its rich verity, and live accordingly.

No need to cower and spittle platitudes about "religious freedom" because freedom from sin by the blood of Christ has already been granted and no other piddly freedom means anything. God then fully empowers one to live to love no matter what happens, and that is the most bountiful adventure of all.

I see and read too much about whiners who wag their fingers at Caesar for infecting them with more socialism when that's exactly what they want. I see and read too much about pusillanimous "Christians" who pound their chests about how great they are at shouting down bad things when they just want others to see them and their flowing robes shouting loud pious prayers in the middle of town.

I so revel in seeing and reading about those who just want to love Christ by loving others right now, right there, right really...

Oh, it doesn't have to be just a glass of water for a thirsty man--it can be an eloquent treatise at a top university.

Just something that's real, and Christ.

That's all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Look at 100 Years of Weather in Antarctica and You'll Find the Meaning of Christmas

I recently read an economics piece about the opportunity cost of a certain Christmas tradition. The writer--some young financial wonk somewhere--lamented the abject inefficiency of gift-giving, going into great detail about the real value of the practice. His argument went something like this.

Aunt Gladys gets you a $50 sweater when she really could just hand you the $50, at which point you could get what you really want. But because she gave you something you really don't want, the value to you is no higher than $30, graciously considering that even if you don't really like it, it may be serviceable for having on when picking an avocado off the tree on a mildly chilly morning. So it's not just $0, let's grant that it is something.

Making a valiant attempt to think like an economist, he concedes that there may indeed be a value to the simple fact that Aunt Gladys got you a gift, and tacks on another $30 for that, making the value $60. (If he were to be even more proficiently econ-esque, he'd add even more for the consumer surplus you'd get by having the $50 and presuming you'd get something that is even more valuable to you than what the $50 means, but that's a bit more advanced.)

He concludes, however, by saying the $60 item is still not as much as the $80 it would have been if you'd had the $50 to get the thing you'd like in the first place. Answer to the value equation: minus $20. Multiply that by a zillion for the zillion times throughout the world that people do this silly gift-giving thing and you've got quite a value deficit.

On the face of it this sounds reasonable, but as always, people trying to be value assessors, no matter how erudite their economics sounds, never get it.

There is indeed a value not considered here, and it isn't exactly the same value he affords to Gladys merely getting the gift at all (remember his grudgingly added $30?) It is the fact that Gladys had some idea of what you liked even if it was wrong. This may seem like it is just a pointless, but the fact is Gladys actually knew you in some way, some how. (Me personally, I actively try to avoid letting people know what I want because I take much greater pleasure if they get me something they think I'd like because they know who I am.)

Even if you know in your heart that Gladys hates your guts and gave out of the most selfish compulsion, her doing it at all and you being able to participate in the beautiful experience of having a wrapped present which you get to eagerly anticipate opening simply because someone thought about you has much greater value than the thing you yourself would be able to get that would be a tad more useful.

In other words (for the more exacting economist), the value of being loved in such a way is an added, oh, say, $200, making the surplus value to you $120--far above and beyond the maximum $80 value of whatever thing you could have had otherwise.

The point is that anytime we measure things by the World's standards, there will always be a deficit. In fact, there must be because those without Christ must engage in human sacrifice. Gladys must give me $50 because I must be served.

I've been peeking around a bit at Michael Lewis' book Panic, which is just a number of essays regarding the ways contemporary human sacrifice is carried out. That is, it is about the myriad ways exploitive people have exploited markets in recent years to do their value extraction. You've got the 1987 stock market crash, the 1998 Long Term Capital Management debacle, 2000 dot-com bubble burst, the 2007 housing market collapse, and of course a few snippets of the 2008 financial meltdown.

A vast panoply of hand-wringing and head-shaking and eloquent rationalizing on behalf of human sacrifice.

One of the pieces is about how the ratings agencies came to be so revered and ultimately so disgraced. Because value extractors became so ravenous it was very difficult to figure out precisely what they were doing, and many once respected institutions allowed themselves to get carried away with it all so they could stay in the loop.

It was pointed out that eventually Moody's used what was called the "Monte Carlo" method of rating bonds, a formula that essentially encompassed all the considerations of the ways that things have been valued in the past. But because more novel and exotic "innovations" made things so much different, one now-former Moody's exec likened it to "observing 100 years of weather in Antarctica to forecast the weather in Hawaii."

This struck me.

That's the World's value assessment philosophy right there.

Really, what is your value? What is the value of the things you treasure? The people around you? The things you like to have and to do? Your work and your leisure and your fine wholesome charitable contributions?

No, I'm not saying you have to be any kind of scholarly economist, though everyone does economics. The question is whether you do economics well or poorly. But then, you don't have to be a genius to do it well. You just need to understand a couple of things.

The World does its value assessment the way it does, and World inhabitants look to all Caesar's minions to see what that is. Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, all the top executives of the banks and rating agencies and all the rest of them, these are a few of the more prominent ones.

But all they do is use the "100 years of Antarctica weather" system for value assessment. Want to know your value? Guess how many candy corns are in the pumpkin at the harvest festival. Want to know the value of those around you? Keep up with how many points the Lakers scored Saturday night. Want to know the value of what's really meaningful? Divine what Obama is trying to say in yet another speech.

You'll always have a deficit.

The Kingdom does its value assessment one way. Or rather, One Way.

That is by Jesus Christ and His blood.

This is not the Jesus of chuches sold out to Caesar with their incorporation contracts--they live just as much by the deficit as any other World institution. Ever hear a 501c3 church talk? "We're so poor and you've got to give so much more to keep us afloat."

Jesus was never about any of that. He gives His entire Kingdom to His heirs, and those people are merely anyone who chooses to make him Lord exclusively. It comes with our response to serve others from His love, and out of that authentic sowing happens.

Then you've got rich, fulfilling abundance.

So yeah, wow. What an overwhelming joy to value things the Aunt Gladys way--that I am thankful God put her into my life to even remotely give me a single thing that I may wholly praise Him for.

Ironically, at the end of the ratings agency piece--after all of the foolish, deceitful value extraction methods are exposed for what they are--the question is asked, "Whom can you rely on?" While in the text the writer asks "What can they [the investors] rely on?" the title of the closing section is indeed "Whom Can You Rely On?" The key is that it is whom.

The answer is not given, because even in this small moment of brutal honesty the World inhabitant cannot answer it. Oh they search feverishly for it--Antarctic weather, candy corns in a pumpkin, Obama's's gotta be in there somewhere!!!

All you need to do to really get it is look at the One Who Loves You.

But again, He is nowhere near the World.

Some more about why Jesus is here. Some other stuff about the reality of contemporary human sacrifice is here. The ratings agencies piece in Lewis' book was by the New York Times Roger Lowenstein from April 27 2008.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The 2012 Factor

Last night I finally went to see 2012, the film with the boffo special effects of the utter destruction of the earth. There has been lots of water cooler talk about whether or not the world will actually end in 2012 like the Mayans supposedly said it would. I'd even noticed a number of books on the shelf at Borders all about how justified the concern should be. Whatever.

The one book I read about all things significant is the Bible, and it pretty much has everything right there. It categorically says that the world as we know it now will indeed end. When that is only God knows. Sure he gave us some hints, but none of them amount to enough for anyone to say things like, "Yep, there it is, it'll happen on December 21st 2012 yessiree..."

The one thing that is for sure is that God will hold on to those covered by the blood of His Son, and whatever value that has for anyone depends on whether or not they simply put their faith and trust in Him.

When you watch this film it is flat-out harrowing to behold millions of people dying right there in wide screen brilliant technicolor. Interestingly it did show a lot of people praying or preaching about what's really going on. It also had a kooky conspiracy theorist (aren't they all kooky?) played by Woody Harrelson, who as googly-eyed as they portrayed him, he actually said stuff that ended up being true. Huh, you mean some of that stuff those kooky spooky conspiracy nuts say could actually have some merit? Huh.

As I watched the movie I was more and more convinced everyone should see this. They should be exposed to the horror of a world falling apart which the Bible says is a result of the sin that has infected it. As I looked over the reviews on Metacritic, it seemed to me that those who reviled the film didn't pan it because it had flaws but because they just don't like the idea that this could actually happen at all.

What? There's actually something called sin? Pshaw. A fallen world brings about this kind of end to all that we know? Puh-lease.

The film did have flaws, but the huge holes in the plot progression were merely an accepted product of the dramatic effect. Some of the more presposterous moments included for expressly illiciting a visceral response were actually kind of comical, so it made the movie kind of fun in that sense.

I must say, however, that while I do believe the Bible says the end of the world will be something like what they showed through most of the film--just read the Old Testament book of Zephaniah and revisit the Revelation to see why--the ending was probably the most frightening thing of all.

What? You mean the heart-warming part when the massive tectonic violence ends, the arks get their bearings, and they all eagerly set sail for the new landforms and renew civilization? How on earth can all that be so horrible?

It is simply because of the following simple question.

What will the people who arrive there do to protect them from themselves?

It is one thing for the earth to open up and swallow people whole. Horrific. It is no less horrific when people do things to swallow up other people. During the film there were lots of profoundly stirring moralizing about how we must stick with one another. But there was also lots of cutting, conniving, callous, and plainly wretched behavior.

When they make landfall, will all that just go away? I just don't think so. They'll have to begin yet another arrangement where someone with enough force to constrain sinners must be enthroned in some sense. And with it will come the same old body of death, the rebellion and the retribution and all the Sun-Tzuan machinations to keep the game going.

What will really happen when there actually is the biblically described end of the world? Oh yes, again, all that destructive stuff will happen, but the difference between the movie and real life is that in real life--

The destruction will be complete.

That is, the end of the world will indeed be the end of the world. All of what is physically there, including our very bodies, will be thoroughly destroyed. All of it, all of the universe even, will be totalled. Dust. Gone.

And a new one will be put in its place.

What of the people? Again, the Bible cannot be more clear: those covered by the blood of Christ are His. Their very souls are held in His hands and they will have new "resurrected" bodies. Check out the 15th chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians to see more of how this plays itself out.

The only reason I mention all of this is because, yeah, I am kind of a kooky conspiracy guy, but that's only because like the Woody Harrelson character I just see what I see and I'd like to share it with others.

And like those holding up the signs "For God so loved the world..." I want people to know about the One who they can put their trust upon, and in turn be fully protected from the effects of a completely destroyed earth.

The movie 2012 just tells you that even after the fall, there will be more of the same. Lying, cheating, murdering... Yuck. The Bible tells you that all the yuckiness will go away, albeit quite dramatically, but that there will be a brand new and truly wonderful place to live in by His love, His joy, His exuberance for life shared by all...

And God's ticket to that place has already been bought for you. All you have to do is get it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Jimmy Stewart is Not Dead

I was recently amused by a headline in the Los Angeles Times, but it was certainly not surprising considering the media are simply the spokesholes for Cain, indeed themselves a vibrant part of the World System's decision-making processes. Sometimes, though, your attention can be drawn to the folly revealed in their pronouncements.

It seems that all the money used to bail out important people "appears" to be paying off. It appears that things are getting rosier for important people. The article does mention a lot of things that are not going well with the bailout plan, but hey, it's best if things appear to be going well.

But this is the World speaking. Treasury Secretary and once New York Fed President Tim Geithner once said that the appearance of a powerful financial institution and its activity is most important for sustaining confidence, calling it "theater." At least it's entertaining!

Never mind that it is actually real. Never mind that people's values are actually respected and even enhanced instead of shorn for the purposes of important people's human sacrifice. Oh, and I don't necessarily just mean rich people's human sacrifice -- very poor people can be experts at value extraction. Everyone living by the World System's program of value rearrangement is guilty of human sacrifice.

Recently uber-pundit of finance Niall Ferguson and author Laurence Kotlikoff wrote a piece in the Financial Times about a plan for banking that they say is truly on the up-and-up. It was titled "How to Take Moral Hazard Out of Banking." Hmm, didn't know bankers lied as a matter of practice for there to be a suggestion that they don't, but what do I know.

What they suggested is something called "limited purpose banking," which is really just a nifty prescription of banking that recommends tape be wrapped around parts of the huge sieve that is its often comical attempt at capital movement. And really, the "tape" is just plain old honesty, integrity, and transparency.

Things the World knows nothing about because it is too busy keeping up appearances.

In fact, Kotlikoff is about to release his new book, Jimmy Stewart is Dead, all about how the days of the kind and caring Bailey Savings and Loan are long gone.

Come to think of it, that classic scene with the bank run reveals much more of what's real than anything, particularly about what's been happening today in high finance.

Remember when mean old Mr. Potter offers George Bailey's depositors at least something for their shares? Most of those nice but clueless folk were about to jump all over it, but George (the Jimmy Stewart character, for those who've lived in a cave and have never seen It's a Wonderful Life) boldly gets very truthful. He implores them, "Don't you see? Potter isn't selling he's buying! And that's because we're panicing and he's not."

Don't you see that this is precisely the same thing the World System led by the Federal Reserve is doing? They haven't just dangled $700 billion in TARP money to rescue poor dumb scared important people, they've shelled out several trillion to do the buying. It doesn't matter for squat that oh-golly-yay!-how-fortunate some of that money will come back, the fact is

You're still bought.

You're bought by the agents of Cain whose job it is to manage more ways of doing human sacrifice and put on a terrific show to make it all look like it's a-ok.

The only meaningful thing you can do is to let them continue to do that for the devout World inhabitants who demand that service, and get out yourself.

But that also means going over to the One who's bought you with the most valuable thing ever, His blood. After you do that, seek out others who've done that too, talk to one another, behold the amazing gifts He's given you to do wonderful things for your community, and for cryin' out loud don't sign up with the institutions of Cain! All the non-profit incorporations and undue tax liabilities and excessive debt obligations and all of those things seriously compromise what you'd otherwise do through a God who can do anything!

Really, you can want what's real, or you can settle for what's theater. All the stuff you believe that the World System is selling you is all about its purchase of you and your soul. They can get their hands on trillions if they want to do that. It's a lot, yeah.

But Jesus gave His life.

A bit more about how churches sell themselves to the World is here. The LA Times front page piece was from this past Friday, December 4th, 2009. Those trillions used for World purchases amounted to over $7 trillion early this year, the latest I saw it was up to almost $10 trillion.