Archive for June, 2008

Global Warming

“Waste not want not.”
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Our predecessors beat us to those practical insights. They are indeed words of wisdom.  I believe in conservation. The first paying job I had was with the conservation department in our state. I believe in thrift. I am not as thrifty as the woman who puts her used paper towel on the kitchen sink faucet to dry overnight for reuse, or the man who rinses and saves his dental floss for reuse. However, I am provident and at best frugal. One of the most popular movements of our time advocates a worthy means to an impossible end. The means involves but is not limited to reducing atmospheric pollution, conserving energy, when possible using biodegradable products, conserving water and reducing greenhouse gases. I’m a believer who does those things. The intended end is to stop global warming. To help determine if this is possible, consider the history of our planet. To do so take into consideration the various climate changes in the past and in light of them consider if there were human activities that caused them or if they were simply endemic and cyclical. When visiting the Sahara
Desert, I was shown evidence that it once was a vast forest, verdure. Herbage abounded. Today it is the largest arid land mass on earth. Fossils of animals that were foragers and grazers reveal it was once a vegetative area. Fossil remains of trees are found in vast areas of the desert. What could have been the conditions created by human beings to cause this dramatic change? There were no fossil fuels or greenhouse gases produced by humans in such quantities as to have caused it. In Switzerland we visited the Jungfrau where a contrasting climate to the Sahara exists. On this mountain summit you are above 95% of the atmospheric pollution of the earth.  The snow and glaciers cover the mountains all year. The Ice Palace has been carved in the glacier. Long corridors and spacious rooms are made the more interesting by stunning ice sculptures.
Snow flakes that fall on the Jungfrau flow through the lower Grindelwald Glacier in the form of ice crystals for 200 to 250 years before melting and becoming part of the streams in the valleys.  This is a marvelous place to study global warming. A 10,000 year record shows a rapid change every 2,000 years from colder to warmer or warmer to colder. That is earth’s history.
None of our current cultural “culprits” to which global warming is attributed, existed 10,000, 8,000 or even 2,000 years ago to cause the change. The conditions that caused these periods of global warming exist today and existed throughout history. The conditions that caused change yesteryear exist today and they are beyond human kind’s capacity to stop it. Our ancestors had to adjust and so must we.
Let’s join in conservation and preservation and not make things worse, but don’t expect to reverse historical cycles inherent in creation.

Pride In America

Do you find it hard to be proud of America?  Like all other nations it isn’t a perfect country.  As a stimulus to your pride, consider the Iwo Jima statue.  A friend shared some of these insights.

How could any American stand before the memorial in Washington depicting the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima and not have pride?  Those six boys, and they were boys, that raised that flag typify all American youth who have kept us free. As a result of our national TV ministry, I corresponded with one of those heroic boys in his latter years.

John Bradley, from Antigo, Wisconsin, typified those six after the war.  He would never give an interview.  Bradley was a medic who held over 200 boys as they writhed in pain and screamed as they died without medication to midigate their pain.

Harlon Block, high school all-state football player, was the first to put the pole in the ground.  At the age of 21, Harlon died holding his intestines in his hand.

Rene Gagon was an 18 year old from New Hampshire who kept a picture of his girlfriend in his helmet.

Sgt. Mike Shank was known by his colleagues as “the old man”.  He was 24.  He was known for saying, “Let’s die for our country.”

Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona, was one of the few who walked off Iwo.  President Truman called him a hero.  Ira said, “How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?”

Franklin Sousley was a fun-loving country boy from Hilltop, KY.  Franklin died at the age of 19.

Consider this in light of our Iraq casualties.  Over 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima.  Those who walked off never tolerated themselves being called heroes.  They considered those who didn’t walk off the real heroes.

Three of the six depicted as raising the flag were among those who didn’t walk off Iwo.

It might offend Michelle if she took a close look at that statue of the flag raising by those 6 boys.  A close look reveals there were thirteen hands on the flag staff, not twelve.  when asked about it, the person responsible for the statue said the thirteenth hand was the hand of God.  Deal with that you history revisionists!

I was the interim pastor of Lee Greenwood for a year.  He has one song that is his signature achievement, “God Bless the USA”.  In that song are lines that we should all sing with gratitude for these 6 boys and the thousands like them.

“I am proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.

And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave they right to me”

There is a bumper sticker that reads: “America, she ain’t perfect, but God ain’t through with her yet.”

Pride should produce gratitude that should solicit a commitment to helping make America a more perfect union.

A New America

When President Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote his memoirs of the crucial years following the Second World War, he entitled them, “Present at the Creation.” Little did he know how true that was. So much of our political world of today was brought into being during the days of the Roosevelt administration. A new national mentality was created by the two Roosevelts who were president. What Teddy set in motion Franklin accentuated. That generation of Americans was present at the creation of a new interpretation of the role of government.
When President Franklin Roosevelt signed what we now call the death tax bill he said, “This is the beginning of the redistribution of the wealth of America.” It ushered in a new creative way of interpreting the role of government. All of today’s entitlement programs are an outgrowth of that philosophy.
Economic stimulus checks, government support of businesses facing potential bankruptcy, federally funded programs that were once part of the business community were not the intent of the founders of our nation. The government cannot give the public anything costing money that they don’t take the money from the people to give. The government has no money. Their money comes from the tax paying public and the government determines how much the tax will be.
As a Congressman Davey Crockett, the lion of Washington in his day, said, “We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity, but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.”
It was part of his speech when Congress proposed to give a subsidy to the widow of a navy man. He felt it unconstitutional for the government to give support so instead he offered to personally give a week’s wage to the widow and urged his colleagues each to do the same.
Later in explaining his reasoning he offered this sockdolager, “Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it.”
A new America was created in the 1930s and 40s. Now another new America is being advocated by some proponents of an even more benevolent government who are poised for election. The new America will be more dramatically different from our present one than ours is from the one of which Crockett spoke.
It will involve government getting more involved in public life and giving away more than ever. To do so they will have to take more than ever from the people. For example there is a proposal that not only will income off savings be taxed but the savings themselves.
One of our founding fathers warned against the day when an unproductive element of society would discover they could vote themselves benefits by electing those disposed to provide them. Thus we were warned of a potential implosion resulting from the more productive element of society being over taxed.
Like Acheson, are we present at the creation?

Democracy In America

Alexis de Tocqueville was an eminent French representative of the liberal tradition of the mid-1800s. As such he was very active in French politics. He came to America to study the penal system but stayed for some time to study the nation from the perspective of a detached social scientist. His book released in 1835 entitled, “Democracy in America” is considered a classic early work in sociology. It reveals his perspective on the developing nation. These insights into our heritage are worth considering.
His observations led him to conclude America had not embraced socialism or feudalism as in Europe. It was the different attitudes regarding money. In Europe the common people had no hope and therefore no aspiration to gain it. The privileged felt it was their right to have wealth. Their inherited entitlement resulted in lethargy regarding trying to gain it. The ethos in America was different. In America money was an object to be sought. Here the people all felt they could gain wealth through industrious hard work. This resulted in a productive people.
He also wrote of the character of our society.
“Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things.”
“I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion …. But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.”
“I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in the democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.
“Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.”
“America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Today there is a correlation between the diminution of morality in our present society and the flickering flame in many pulpits. The popular health, wealth, and prosperity version of the gospel has replaced calls for a faith commitment resulting in morality, virtue, and integrity. Personal gain has replaced an appeal for a culture of responsible ethics that benefit all of society. A moral world is rarely addressed.
de Tocqueville wrote of the interrelation between two phases of American life. “In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.”
His belief that the two were mutually dependent resulted in this conclusion:
“The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.”

Whatever Became of Sin?

“Whatever Became of Sin?” is an intriguing title of a book worth noting. The author is not a right wing evangelical. Rather it is Karl Menninger, M.D., founder of the prestigious Menninger Clinic (psychiatric) and the Menninger Foundation.
 Menninger is a prophet and a good one. He warns us of a social sickness in our midst and diagnoses it well. There is  a long standing problem however. People since the Old Testament era tend not to believe even the best of prophets. At best they are ignored.
 Menninger quotes Dr. Daniel J. Boorstin, director of the National Museum of Science and Technology at the Smithsonian Institution regarding our current malaise: “…we have lost our sense of history….lost our traditional respect for the wisdom of ancestors and the culture of kindred nations….we haunt ourselves with the illusory ideal of some “whole nation’ which had a deep and outspoken “faith’ in its “values.’”
 In attempting to answer how this deterioration has occurred he says one word is missing from our analysis and that is “sin.”
 It is still very present and influential but unidentified. In answer to the title of his book he says sin is still prominently responsible for our situation but we have renamed and often dignified it. We no longer call it sin.
 A classic example is the circumstances involving the girl in the case of Governor Spitzer of New York. Such a person was formerly called a whore. They are sometimes called hookers. The name was derived from the group of women who followed General Hooker’s forces in the Civil War. Now they are referred to as call girls or preferably escorts.
 Menninger makes a connection between sin, guilt, and not only social ills but psychological sickness. The name of the act has changed but the consequence is still the same.
 A foreign observer of our society describes our values as being like a display window of a store in which someone has secretly gotten into at night and changed all the price tags. The valuable items have been made to appear cheap and he cheap ones given value. Our values have been inverted. The “faith” and “values” spoken of by Boorstin have been denigrated.
 Who is to blame? Menninger says the responsible person is identified by the central letter in the word “sin.” No one sins today. We appear to have officially stopped sinning about twenty-five years ago.
 The clinical mind of Dr. Menninger connects sin and guilt. He postulates that regardless of what sin is called on a personal basis it still erodes one’s emotional and psychological being. On a national scale it corrupts culture and leads to moral decay.
 Imagine a prominent political figure doing as President Lincoln did and calling on the nation “to confess our sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon.”
 An Old Testament prophet said if people will do that God will “forgive their sins and heal their land.” What a novel concept! God? What ever happened to Him? Oh, yes, He has been replaced by karma, luck, good fortune, fate, and Mother Nature.