Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Balancing the Federal Budget

Prominent in the news has been the issue of balancing the federal budget. I do think the federal budget needs some balancing. However, in doing so I’m not opposed to having some debt. Most families have some type of debt. For example, we’ve gone in debt to purchase a home and automobile. Too many have gone into debt to purchase things that are needed for their self-image rather than realistic living. Their self-image needs a certain size and location of house, make of automobile(s), children in certain schools and colleges, clothes, etc. Debt must be managed but, not by propping up an unrealistic self-image. Our nation's debt has been incurred because too many of us wanted more than we could realistically afford and there were systems that would loan us more debt than we could afford. In addition to being careful about the nature of debt we incur, I’m also concerned about how our national budget will be balanced. In Deuteronomy 10:17-19, we are taught that God carefully notices how a nation cares for the orphans, widows and strangers or foreigners living among us. In Matthew 25, Jesus clearly says that we are judged by how we treat the hungry, thirsty (those without clean drinking water), strangers, poorly clothed and incarcerated. These scriptures tell us that those who fail to take care of people in these situations have failed in being God’s people. If this is true, then how we encourage, pray and hope, not only for our elected officials, but also their decisions about balancing the budget may be a defining time in terms of national identity as a nation under God. I think we also need to recall that Jesus said to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48.)

The Malaise of Violence

I’m finding less and less to watch on television or in the movie house. Even some music feels like as assault, yes, and even some church music. Violence is done to the earth in the seductive name of progress and a better life. I think violence is the malaise of our society and culture. Certainly I know that there is violence in our society. However, I suspect that with an attention to violence, we are helping to create the atmosphere in which it flourishes. In David Ford’s book, The Shape of Living, Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life, he writes, “The violence of our times is horrendous—physical violence, verbal violence, economic violence, institutional violence, spiritual violence. It is intensified by being vividly presented in the media, so that violence often dominates imaginations as well as behaviors.” (page 130.) The remedy for violence is a loving respect for all humanity as well as the created world. That is my prayer and hope.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Keeping Up Is Essential But Not Easy

I've just completed reading a book about being a pastor. It is an excellent book written by a well-known pastor-scholar. In a very honest reporting about being a pastor in the mid-1960s, he tells of a physician's advise to a young boy who had been sexually abused. That advise was "forget it." Maybe that is how mental health workers were trained to respond in the mid-1960s. However, to offer that advise today would probably begin a process resulting in having your license to practice revoked. Today, you call in the "authorities" who are trained not only to investigate but, also, to get an abuser away from children and, hopefully, to some help. Keeping up with how to do one's job is essential but not easy. There are always changes which require continual study and on-going supervision. In my mental health field, i.e., Marriage and Family Therapy, I'm required to have Board-approved 15 hours of continuing education each year. I usually fuss about that because the Board doesn't necessarily approve the seminars that I want to count. Nevertheless, I know that those continuing education units are essential. I wish ministers were required to have some continuing education units each year in order to keep our Ordination valid. I believe that keeping up is essential but not easy.