Sunday, January 24, 2016

Who would want Socialism?

From the time you were a small child, you were told to share.  You might've even been disciplined for not sharing as a child.  From what some in the media tells us, Capitalism rewards the rich & greedy, while it abuses the disadvantaged in society.  Following this logical thinking then, wouldn't socialism be the solution to most of our modern-day inequality and cure all of our poverty?

And, if we had free healthcare, free college -- like we already have free public schools, and free everything else, wouldn't we be a healthier and happier culture.  Let's come back to this question.

Most of the people I talk with who favor Socialism do not really seem to know what they are in favor of.  It seems that most of the people in favor of Socialism think that all of the "free" stuff comes from a limitless supply of abundance, but they don't stop to ask from where would these resources flow.  

Socialism is an ideology, it's a perspective that endorses the government's control over the production of goods & services, and the distribution or redistribution of said goods.  Socialism, really is about a collective ownership where no one really has personal property, and it removes the need for individualism, giving the government total control over all material wealth.  And, it's a system that generates the highest taxation of its people.

One of the disadvantages of Socialism is the government has to increase exponentially to take over control of the private sector.  This is interesting to me since most of the younger voters who are on the side of Bernie Sanders do not embrace the idea of the government telling us the people what to do.  One of Bernie's platforms is legalizing marijuana, a removal of governmental control over it.  This is interesting, because on the one hand it seems like the voice of the people wins, but in reality, it's just another way to increase tax revenue on a commodity that people who want to consume it will consume it regardless of its legality.

Another disadvantage to Socialism is the reality that it removes the incentive of hard work.  In the real world, people do enjoy the fruits of their labor, not someone else's labor.  Yet, if you lived under the control of a Socialistic government, there would be people who simply would not be motivated to work hard, because they would know that the benefits of all of their hard work would be shared with the many able-bodied people who have never had to work for anything (who in turn, aren't motivated to work at all...).   Think of this example, if you could receive a college degree just for enrolling in college, but you didn't have to attend classes, would you do it?  Who wouldn't?  But, what would that do to the value of higher education?

But what about generosity and philanthropy, wouldn't those ideals override the weakness of character that would demotivate the hard worker who didn't want to give away his spoils?  Generosity only works on a volunteer basis.  If you can't willingly give from the heart, but you are made to share anyway, then it means what was yours was forcefully taken from you.  And, the only people who can't understand this, are people who have never had to work for anything, they've had everything handed to them already.

Margret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, once quipped, "The problem with Socialism is you eventually run out of other people's money."   Maybe that's not entirely accurate, maybe the problem with Socialism is, you run off other people who would work hard to earn money.  Instead of a redistribution of wealth, what we need is a redistribution of a healthy work ethic.

I'm not saying Capitalism is perfect, nor would I say our world is perfect now, not by a long shot.  We have a long way to go towards improving equality in our culture, but Socialism isn't even close to the answer.  I would say with confidence that Socialism has failed everywhere it's been tried.  More people starved to death in the 20th Century under Socialist governments than those who died fighting in wars during the same time period.  In present-day countries under the control of socialism, the middle class has been taxed so heavily, there is almost no middle class, thus leaving a wider gap between the wealthy and the poor, resulting in the bankruptcy of several European countries.

Now, back to the question of Socialism increasing our happiness through giving us free stuff.  Please go and ask people who work hard for their for the money how happy they are, and then ask someone who lives off of welfare how happy they are, preferably asking someone who is a second or third generation family member that depends on welfare.  Please let me know who seems to be the happier of the two to you.  Better yet, ask a refugee from a Socialistic country who has fled their homeland to come to the land of opportunity how happy they were under Socialism...

You see, Socialism isn't really about sharing, it's ultimately about taking.  It's legalized confiscation and a bureaucratic method of deciding who gets what, not based on sharing your own sweat equity or how well you contribute to the whole, but it's based on what the government deems appropriate for you to consume and enjoy.  In the end, the only thing Socialism is good for, is for providing material for dystopian stories.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Truth, freedom are relationship musts

Research confirms what common sense tells us about the key to living longer, being healthier, and being happy -- it’s having quality relationships in life.  There are two habits we might want to reconsider if we hope to improve our relationships.  These two habits can either enhance or harm every relationship we value.  And, these two habits will make or break the way we are remembered and accepted by those around us.

The first habit to consider, is the way we respond to others around us when we are confronted.  How defensive are you, when someone brings something up that you don’t want to hear?

I know, I do know, it’s not easy to accept “constructive criticism” without reacting.  In fact, I’d venture to say the term “constructive criticism” rarely ever feels constructive at the time; when we are on the receiving end of constructive criticism, it feels rather destructive.  What I’m recommending instead, when people offer an assessment on our performance or attitude or behavior or they simply make a suggestion, let’s pause and be more open to what they have to say.  

Several years ago, I was terribly wounded in spirit by a manipulative, abusive, antagonist in a church where I served.  To this day I lead “with a limp” from that experience.   As the years go by, like miles adding up on an odometer, I realize that the methods/intentions of my antagonist were wicked and malicious, but, many of their observations about me were nearly spot on.  Also, some of their unsolicited suggestions would’ve helped me.  This acknowledgment is both scary and liberating for me all at the same time.

We really have nothing to lose by listening to people who seem to be attacking us.  We can grow from these interactions one way or the other.  At times we do need to establish healthy boundaries to guard our hearts, which means a limited interaction with harmful people.  If in the end you still think the other person is way off track, you can always end the conversation with, “Well, you’ve given me a lot to think about.  Thank you.”

The truth is not our enemy, and in life people who bring the truth to light are not our enemies because of the truth.  Realistically, most of the reasons we become defensive can be based in our insecurities, and our insecurities are based in lies not truth.  We feel less confident than we ought to many times in life, and when someone raises a touchy subject or calls our character into account, we build a protective wall emotionally around our heart, and sadly we seal our ears to whatever truth might be being revealed to us.    

A true measure of maturity is the ability to hear what someone says, and like a prospector panning for gold, to be able to separate reality from fantasy.  Just because someone says something about you, that doesn’t make it true, and just because you don’t like it, that doesn’t make it false.  Filter what you hear through the lens of truth, but do so cautiously since the easiest person you will ever lie to is yourself.  For example, Jer 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Now, to the harder habit.  This second habit is perhaps what ruins or saves more relationships than any other single factor.  What I’m focusing on now is whether or not you try to control other people. I’m not dealing with how to cope with controlling people, what I’m addressing here is corralling the control freak within us.  

Why should you try to tame the control freak within yourself?  Nothing wounds those you love more than when you try to suppress them.  And, being a controlling person is often times intergenerational, meaning, when we are controlling we unintentionally pass this trait onto the next generation, thus hurting our future family members.

Often times, a control freak is really a person who feels weak inside.  I don’t know if you’ve thought about it or not, but when we make “demands” of others, we are really exposing our own weaknesses.  And, people who can’t control themselves are typically the ones who try the hardest to control everyone else around them.  

At its core, the ultimate danger in being a control freak is we take a stance not even Almighty God will take.  God Himself never removes or withholds your freewill.  God, who could take away everyone’s freedom, does not do so.  God could completely control people, but He doesn’t.  Therefore, when you control others, you do what God could do -- but refuses to do.  That should get our attention.  

So, to grow healthier relationships in 2016 and beyond, let’s tune our ears to hear the truth from others and let’s give the people around us more freedom.  Yes, we are talking about choices here, so may we make the best possible choices as we reflect God’s influence on our lives.  “[17] Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. [18] And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (II Cor 3:17-18 ESV)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why men need to see The Revenant

I went with several guys from church to see The Revenant today.  I was a little uncomfortable with the gratuitous language, but it was such a powerful movie, I have to recommended it, especially to the men.   Ok, from here on out there might a plot spoiler or two.... you've been warned.

Here's why men need to see The Revenant:
There should be a powerful bond between fathers & sons, and in this movie the bond between Glass and his son Hawk drives the whole plot.  For some reason, whether it's work or plain being lazy, too many dads today lose out and their sons suffer the loss because we've neglected the most powerful resource for a healthy society, that being, strong relationships between fathers & their sons.  This movie really does a great job of showing the power of the bond.

Next, The Revenant reminds us how weak manhood is these days.  The tough as nails character of Glass who is mauled by a grizzly and then treks through the mountains in the winter after being left for dead, suffering unimaginably, highlights how we've emasculated men in our culture.  Men aren't taught how to be tough, in a healthy way, and we've raised a generation of wimpy men.  You don't have to brawl, abuse others, be a philander, or be mean to be tough (None of which describes Glass's character, he is gentle and loyal, and an honorable man).  But to survive what Glass did, you have be tough. We simply don't value masculinity in our culture.  Not one single sitcom, or movie (shaping our perspectives culturally)  in recent decades encourages men to be men.  

Next, The Revenant reveals how wicked and evil bullies are.  The antagonist, Fitzgerald, is a bully driven by greed and selfishness.  The group of trappers Fitzgerald is contracted with allow him to push Glass around before he's even injured, and once the group leaves Glass in Fitzgerald's care, things get even worse.  When any group tolerates a bully, the whole group will pay.  There is power in community, and people need to band together and reign in the bully in the group.   

And, The Revenant offers a good reminder of the bankruptcy of racism.   The avenue we see this played out through is the relationship between the Native Americans, and the corruptness of the French fur traders, and the way that Fitzgerald demonizes Glass's son who is biracial, half Anglo-Saxon, half Native Indian.  I don't think we can have enough reminders of the deficit caused by racists in our culture.  

So, the movies is bloody, violent, and raw, and yes you need to see it, it will do wonders for your character to see it.  Why?  The final point I'll make from The Revenant is the fact that revenge never will satisfy.  When Glass finally catches up with Fitzgerald who has killed his son and has left him for dead, right before Glass is about to kill Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald says something like, "You came all this way to get your revenge?  I hope you enjoy it, because it won't bring back your son."  I won't spoil the scene and tell you what happens next, but the movie does a great job of reminding us that revenge isn't the path to travel.