The Glass Darkly

Saturday, February 07, 2009

An Email from a Relative:

I got this forwarded email from a relative who claims to be a Christian. I usually just delete them immediately, yet something begged me to take a chance and read it. I knew it would make me want to respond, yet I knew I had better not. So I recorded my response here and am still mulling over in my mind if my silence is really condoning such attitudes:

A Boss Who Tells it Like it Is..... (an awful lot of truth)

To All My Valued Employees,

There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges. However, the good news is this: The economy doesn't pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is the changing political landscape in this country.

However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interests.

First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story. This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Mercedes outside. You've seen my big home at last years Christmas party. I'm sure; all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life.

However, what you don't see is the back story.

I started this company 28 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living apartment was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you.

My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I didn't have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business -- hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting the Nordstrom's for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the discount store extracting any clothing item that didn't look like it was birthed in the 70's. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.

So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5pm, I don't. There is no "off" button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to my hip like a 1 year old special-needs child. You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden -- the nice house, the Mercedes, the vacations... you never realize the back story and the sacrifices I've made.

Now, the economy is falling apart and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail-out all the people who didn't. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for.

Yes, business ownership has is benefits but the price I've paid is steep and not without wounds.

Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why:

I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don't pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes. I have to hire a tax man to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him. Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time. On Oct 15th, I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my "stimulus" check was? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check? Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country.

The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your paycheck you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? That's nuts. Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy.

Here is what many of you don't understand ... to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had suddenly government mandated to me that I didn't need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now.

When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don't defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you? Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. Suddenly, the power brokers in Washington believe the poor of America are the essential drivers of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change you can keep.

So where am I going with all this?

It's quite simple.

If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your SUV, and your child's future. Frankly, it isn't my problem any more.

Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire. You see, I'm done. I'm done with a country that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.

So, if you lose your job, it won't be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country, steam rolled the constitution, and will have changed its landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about.. ..

Your boss

My "response:"

I find the attitude of this writer arrogant and think he is totally missing the point of what makes life important. This writing makes it sound like what makes life important is how hard you work and how far up the ladder you climb. While I respect people who have worked hard all their lives, I do not believe it gives them the right to look down on those who have not accomplished the same successes.

I do not measure success in life by how much I accomplish, rather what kind of person I am and how I treat other people. While this person sounds like he cares about this country and the people he has been able to hire over the years, in the end, his motives are exposed. His hidden message is what matters is not the people – really – it is the bottom line. Part of his bottom line is that, when the government doesn’t do business like he thinks they should do business, he throws the towel in. He labels a government good or bad based on who they care about. If it is not him, they are reckless or misled. Don’t be fooled by his “worries” for the employees. His words are telling. He is not really worried . . . for he has accumulated enough luxury to live the rest of his days on. And based on this writing, it seems that is all that is important.

I think the real problem with the world is not how poor or rich people are, rather how willing/not willing we are to live in cooperation with our neighbors across the street and around the world. This man prides himself in the fact that all his life he was busy, busy, busy, sacrificing all for his business. His goals? Good old American independence and self-sufficiency. That’s what this country was built on and aren’t we proud! Some American Christians nearly equate these values with godliness.

Well, I’ve always been taught that pride comes before a fall. My faith has taught me that how we love and sacrifice for our NEIGHBOR – not worrying about ourselves – is what makes life valuable. I value interdependence and interconnectedness that is willing to sacrifice for the betterment of those AROUND me, not looking at people as ABOVE or BELOW me on a ladder of false promises.

I admit, mine is a different view on life than this man’s and a very different view on the world. For while I have certainly benefited from it, I don’t put my trust in the market economy. While free-enterprise is part of the back-bone of our market system, I don’t judge my freedoms based solely on what the government allows or doesn’t. While I have enjoyed the security offered by my U.S. passport, my safety is ultimately not based on military might, how nice my neighborhood is, or how much money I have in the bank. I could live in a democracy, within socialism, under a dictator or respecting a monarch. My government could take everything from me, yet it would not change my right to happiness or ability to find success in life. For my success is not based on what I can do or not do, rather who I am and how I treat others around me. I have seen friendships and relationships sustain humans through a host of difficulties and suffering. Where the global economic structures could do nothing, the hands and hearts of neighbors could.

So, ask me? If I’m going to brag about what I’ve been busy, busy, busy doing all my life? It will certainly not be about the money I’ve saved or invested, nor the luxury I expect from all that hard work. It’s going to be about the people I’ve come to know through sharing life together and working to bring peace to a world torn apart by greed and hate. For, ultimately, it is love that is possible through following Christ that is going to make the world a better place.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Biblical Interpretations of Time

I was doing some reading lately on the following topics:

Biblical Interpretation and how it applies to the Creation account

10 majory differences between Calendar-day creationists and Day-age Creationists

I thought back to my first semester of science at my Christian liberal-arts college -- zoology. I remember clearly my professor cautioning us in our studies. Most of us in that class were also training to be teachers. He said that too often Christians, in their pursuit of literal interpretations of the Bible often stumble and misrepresent the intentions of science. He believed, they also end up, in many cases, misrepresenting the intentions of the writers and even that of God as we see the story unfold from Genesis to Revelation.

I remember my professor saying that in our zeal to keep science and faith separate, we end up putting God in a box. We make irresponsible claims about how God did the things we see in the Bible and even go further to speculate why He did them. Some do this with such an assurance, that they completely eliminate both the reality and the necessity for the Mystery of God. That semester I barely kept up with my zoological studies, but I did begin four years of a healthy look at my views of Biblical accounts and how it impacted my faith.

In that first class, however, we were about to enter a study that, in part, not only looks at the types of animals that exist on the Earth,
but also their morphological characteristics and relationships to one another. Inevitably there would be some chapters dedicated to ontology, how things began or were created or evolved. That was one place our professor expected some debate and conversation. He encouraged us to trust science, for it is measurable and observable. But it is not the end-all in truth. He also encouraged us to think outside the box, for that is how God works -- outside the box of our human understanding and reason.

For example, what about the possibilities that each day of Creation was not a 24-hour block of time . . . what if each day started with God speaking into existence another aspect of the Creation, but the fulfillment of it, or the maturation of it took "time" like many years? Does not the Bible teach that our sense of time and God's sense of time are not the same? Or what about the possibility that God created an old Earth right from the start? In both of these examples, the age of the Earth could be much older, as the scientific method has measured. And the changes that have been measured or theorized based on observable data and extrapolated data by science may have happened, if not in "real time" (longer than 24 hours), at least in the instant it took for God to speak the word that brought Creation into being.

Through this whole discussion I kept coming back to the mystery of God. My professor's main caution, as I have written about before, was that we never use the Bible as our science textbook. The Bible teaches us WHO did WHAT and may give some
clues as to WHY, but it does not explain HOW. He said that anytime we try to use the Bible to teach how God did anything, we are walking on thin ice. For that usually requires a literal interpretation of what we read and it is considered impossible to remain consistent in that approach. And most tragic, it seeks to remove the mystery of God that makes Him God. When we claim we know exactly how God did anything, we are mistakingly elevating ourselves to diety-level.

While the new theories related to the Creation were certainly interesting for me to consider, I soon realized they were not discussable in typical groups of Christians. Neither were the theories of evolution or Big Bang. Immediately I would get looks of suspicion or even the "knowing" looks by those who were convinced I had traded my salvation in for the wiles of education and knowledge (more likely considered heresy). I wondered why scientists couldn't ask these questions? And more importantly, why weren't Christians willing to engage these questions or ideas.

I added my theories of Creation to a long list of views related to other ethical challenges in the science field, as well as those debated within Christian apologetics classes. This argument over how God created has dramatic implications on how we test our faith views on a whole host of topics: studies of reletivity, cosmic activity, scientific tests on animals, global warming, abortion, capital punishment, war, stem-cell research . . .

I found an account of this remarkable interview with Willian Jennings Bryan (1860-1925). He was born in Salem, Illinois and became a lawyer and later a congressman in Nebraska. He was a devout Christian but was also a philosopher, writer and famous speaker. At the 1896 Democratic convention, he mesmerized delegates with his famous "Cross of Gold" speech and ended up the party's presidential nominee three times, though did not win the elections. He served as Sec. of State under Woodrow Wilson. Bryan spent his later years campaigning for prohibition and against the teaching of evolution. Though he stood against evolution, he was not a literal Creationist. He was a known proponent of the day-age theory of creation.

In 1925, Bryan served as prosecutor in the infamous "monkey trial" of John Scopes, a Tennessee teacher arrested for teaching evolution. Yet I find his testimony interesting in how he frames his understanding of how God created the world. I wonder what most Christians would have to say about this:

Clarence Darrow (the ACLU lawyer) [D]: ‘Mr Bryan, could you tell me how old the Earth is?’

Bryan [B]: ‘No, sir, I couldn’t.’

[D]: ‘Could you come anywhere near it?’

[B]: ‘I wouldn’t attempt to. I could possibly come as near as the scientists do, but I had rather be more accurate before I give a guess.’

[D]: ‘Does the statement, “The morning and the evening were the first day,” and “The morning and the evening were the second day,” mean anything to you?’

[B]: ‘I do not think it necessarily means a twenty-four-hour day.’

[D]: ‘You do not?’

[B]: ‘No.’

[D]: 'Then, when the Bible said, for instance, "and God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day," that does not necessarily mean twenty-four-hours?’

[B]: ‘I do not think it necessarily does.’ ‘I think it would be just as easy for the kind of God we believe in to make the Earth in six days as in six years or in six million years or in 600 million years. I do not think it important whether we believe one or the other.’

[D]: ‘And they had the evening and the morning before that time for three days or three periods. All right, that settles it. Now, if you call those periods, they may have been a very long time.’

[B]: ‘They might have been.’

[D]: ‘The creation might have been going on for a very long time?’

[B]: ‘It might have continued for millions of years.’

Source: The World’s Most Famous Court Trial, Second Reprint Edition, Bryan College, Dayton, pp. 296, 302–303, 1990.