Think about it

Cherie shared something with me from her reading lately that I found thought-provoking.

Here are the three main problems in the developed First World:

The effects of obesity
The effects of an aging population
The challenges of dealing with immigration

These problems just do not exist in the undeveloped Third World.

Think about it.

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Cardinal Virtues

From a class I’m taking:

In the history of the study of virtue, the “Cardinal Virtues” emerged in ancient Greek philosophy:

Prudence:  the ability to judge the appropriate action needed for any situation.
Justice: the ability to moderate between your own rights and the rights of others.
Temperance: the ability to practice self-control.
Courage: the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, or intimidation.

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The Gospel of Wealth

THE GOSPEL OF WEALTH

by David Brooks

Maybe the first decade of the 21st century will come to be known as the great age of headroom. During those years, new houses had great rooms with 20-foot ceilings and entire new art forms had to be invented to fill the acres of empty overhead wall space.

People bought bulbous vehicles like Hummers and Suburbans. The rule was, The Smaller the Woman, the Bigger the Car — so you would see a 90-pound lady in tennis whites driving a 4-ton truck with enough headroom to allow her to drive with her doubles partner perched atop her shoulders.

When future archeologists dig up the remains of that epoch, they will likely conclude that sometime around 1996, the U.S. was afflicted by a plague of claustrophobia and drove itself bankrupt in search of relief.

But that economy went poof, and social norms have since changed. The oversized now looks slightly ridiculous. Values have changed as well.

Today, savings rates are climbing and smart advertisers emphasize small-town restraint and respectability. The Tea Party movement is militantly bourgeois. It uses Abbie Hoffman means to get back to Norman Rockwell ends.

In the coming years of slow growth, people are bound to establish new norms and seek noneconomic ways to find meaning. One of the interesting figures in this recalibration effort is David Platt.

Platt earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. At age 26, he was hired to lead a 4,300-person suburban church in Birmingham, Ala., and became known as the youngest megachurch leader in America.

Platt grew uneasy with the role he had fallen into and wrote about it in a recent book called “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.” It encapsulates many of the themes that have been floating around 20-something evangelical circles the past several years.

Platt’s first target is the megachurch itself. Americans have built themselves multimillion-dollar worship palaces, he argues. These have become like corporations, competing for market share by offering social centers, child-care programs, first-class entertainment and comfortable, consumer Christianity.

Jesus, Platt notes, made it hard on his followers. He created a minichurch, not a mega one. Today, however, building budgets dwarf charitable budgets, and Jesus is portrayed as a genial suburban dude. “When we gather in our church building to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead, we may be worshipping ourselves.”

Next, Platt takes aim at the American dream. When Europeans first settled this continent, they saw the natural abundance and came to two conclusions: that God’s plan for humanity could be realized here, and that they could get really rich while helping Him do it. This perception evolved into the notion that we have two interdependent callings: to build in this world and prepare for the next.

The tension between good and plenty, God and mammon, became the central tension in American life, propelling ferocious energies and explaining why the U.S. is at once so religious and so materialist. Americans are moral materialists, spiritualists working on matter.

Platt is in the tradition of those who don’t believe these two spheres can be reconciled. The material world is too soul-destroying. “The American dream radically differs from the call of Jesus and the essence of the Gospel,” he argues. The American dream emphasizes self-development and personal growth. Our own abilities are our greatest assets.

But the Gospel rejects the focus on self: “God actually delights in exalting our inability.” The American dream emphasizes upward mobility, but “success in the kingdom of God involves moving down, not up.”

Platt calls on readers to cap their lifestyle. Live as if you made $50,000 a year, he suggests, and give everything else away. Take a year to surrender yourself. Move to Africa or some poverty-stricken part of the world. Evangelize.

Platt’s arguments are old, but they emerge at a postexcess moment, when attitudes toward material life are up for grabs. His book has struck a chord. His renunciation tome is selling like hotcakes. Reviews are warm. Leaders at places like the Southern Baptist Convention are calling on citizens to surrender the American dream.

I doubt that we’re about to see a surge of iPod shakers. Americans will not renounce the moral materialism at the core of their national identity. But the country is clearly redefining what sort of lifestyle is socially and morally acceptable and what is not. People like Platt are central to that process.

The United States once had a Gospel of Wealth: a code of restraint shaped by everybody from Jonathan Edwards to Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie. The code was designed to help the nation cope with its own affluence. It eroded, and over the next few years, it will be redefined.

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Whiteflint News

Yesterday I planted garlic.  Depending upon how you look at it, it’s either the last planting of the year or the first.  Either way, hopefully early next summer we’ll have a fine crop of garlic.  

Sometime in the next week (before the first frost) we’ll get up the sweet potatoes.  I’m expecting a great harvest.

The turnip greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard and kale are just now starting to grow.  Whether we’ll be able to harvest much remains to be seen.  The spinach never came up, so I tilled that garden, planted the garlic there and sowed the rest in clover.  The weather is different every year, of course, and this year’s extreme heat just didn’t favor Fall crops.  But the hot dry summer made for a great year for blackeyed peas and (I believe) sweet potatoes.  Too bad we didn’t grow okra this year, since it loves hot dry weather too.

The broccoli is just now starting to head up.  It too is a race against Jack Frost. 

We have just a few tomato plants still producing.  Once I’m sure we’re going to get frost, I’ll pick them all and bring them inside to ripen.

The peppers (sweet and hot) are still coming in strong.  We’ve put away lots of them and I made my own crushed red peppers for the first time ever this year.

We also still have eggplant.  Way more than we can eat, but we’re trying.

Six nannies are due to start kidding in the next few weeks.  Our oldest, Nellie, is huge.  Hard to believe she’ll make it a few more weeks.  She had quads the last time and that may be what she’s carrying again.

I still haven’t managed to get the groundhog who’s been feasting in our gardens.  And now I also have a  beaver in our pond to worry about.

The fields are mostly mowed and the leaves are changing.

It’s a stunningly beautiful time of year.

Love Wins

Sabbath

When I was a kid nothing was open on Sunday except church and the hospital.

Things have changed.  Now it’s business as usual on Sunday. 

I don’t favor forcing businesses to close on Sunday, but I do wonder what happened to our idea of Sabbath rest.  Has it been tossed aside in favor of capitalism, like so many other of our traditional values?

Instead of going over to Grandma’s house for lunch after church, now many (if not most) churchgoers head out to a restaurant after church.  Maybe they’re “resting” from having to cook and clean the kitchen, but what about the cooks and wait-staff at the restaurant?  Are we really honoring the Sabbath by paying someone to cook for us and to serve us, and preventing them from being able to go to church and spend the day with their families?

Is the Sabbath just a relic of the past now?  Should it be? 

On the one hand, observation of the Sabbath is arguably a cultic legalism eliminated by Christ.  On the other hand, a compelling case can be made that observation of the Sabbath remains important both as a matter of piety and because of the benefit of periodic rest.

I haven’t yet arrived at fully satisfactory answers to those questions.  But I can’t help wondering if the irony is obvious to those who leave a church service in which the preacher complains about the lack of respect for the Ten Commandments and insists they should be displayed in schools and courthouses, then head to Wendy’s for lunch before returning home to watch the NFL and NASCAR on T.V.

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