Saturday, May 31, 2014

Report On May Trip to Ethiopia

Why do I go to Ethiopia? It’s the children.

There are ten’s of thousands of children suffering from malnutrition and with diseases to which they were left vulnerable, because their autoimmune systems have shut down.

Holding a 2 yr-old child who is barely the size of a newborn and whose skin is falling off her boney body tears at me.  

Walking onto a compound filled with scores of babies who are listless, unable to even hold their heads up, and too weak to cry, is heartbreaking. No matter how many times I have done this over the years, it never seems to prepare me for these encounters.

Every distribution center I walk to, before I even lay eyes on the people, I hear the murmuring of weeping mothers, smell the diseases, and hits me in the gut: Children are suffering and dying.

What always holds me together is the very next thought: And we are here to stop this from happening.

This last trip, while kneeling down beside a weeping mother who is begging me to hold her suffering baby, the smell of the child’s disease and decay floods into my lungs so quickly that I instinctively cup my hand over my nose and mouth, and will myself to not puke.  The smell and taste stay with me all day. This mother and child … this is why we are here.

As is our mission, we went to four villages in the Sidamo Zone where the people are receiving no aid or relief from any charity, agency, or ministry.  You’d think after decades of aid coming into this nation that there wouldn’t be any such places, but you’d be wrong: 80% of the children here in Ethiopia who are undernourished and suffering with related pathologies go untreated.

These children need our help. Thanks to your care and support, we were able to distribute 30 tons of wheat to four villages, while I was there. Our team distributed another 60 tons of wheat, the week after I left.

How do we decide who receives a bushel of wheat? Dr Henoc (pictured above) and his teams visit these villages before hand so as to ascertain who are the most needy: mothers who are so malnourished they cannot nurse their newborns and families with children who are the most severely malnourished and diseased.

And what will they do with this wheat? They make a loaf of bread that, out there, constitutes a full meal for a family of seven.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Jesus' Parable of the Talents and Income Inequality

The power to tax is the power to destroy.  -Daniel Webster

The government cannot love you, and any politics that works on a different assumption is destined for no good.  –Jonah Goldberg

In Jesus’ Parable of the Talents he tells the story of a master who is about to take off on a long trip. The master sits down with three of his servants to delegate responsibilities. He gives one servant $5,000, another $3,000, and the third gets $1,000: “each according to his abilities.” Servants Number One and Two doubles their master’s investment and, upon the master’s return, were made partners in his business. Servant Number Three, having buried his master’s money in the ground, is castigated for not at least having the wisdom to put the money into a savings account. The master kicks him out and casts him off, but not before taking his $1,000 and giving it to Servant Number One. (Matthew 25)

Yes, Christ’s parable is about far more than money and speaks to eternal realities. But stick with me here because this Parable can help cast some light on the realities of a Socialistic (Power concentrated in the State) v a Free Market Economy (Power dispersed): the latter being largely based on the presupposition of private property and one of God’s Big Ten: Thou. Shalt. Not. Steal. This Commandment applies to individuals and to Governments.

It is a fact of life that we each come into this world with differing gifts and opportunities for investing those gifts for our “master.” Such things are in God’s hand’s alone. It is a waste of breath and a demonstration of a severe lack of gratitude for me to whine to God, begging Him for the gifts and opportunities of another. What is in my hands, however, is what I will do with the opportunities He gives me for investing my gifts for His sake.

Many people today don’t like the Almighty’s arrangement. So if God won’t be manipulated by our bellyaching about what we are “entitled to” then maybe the State will have pity on us. But, however god-like the State seeks to become, it cannot relegate or redistribute gifts, capacities, opportunities, character, or wisdom. What it can do, however, is a reverse on the Parable of the Talents: it can, through a confiscatory tax-system, take from the two faithful servants and give to the servant who choose to bury his gifts in the ground. This is called “income redistribution” for the sake of “income equality.”

You may call this “fair” or even “compassionate.”  I call it an infringement upon my stewardship before God, an injustice, and thievery. The men and women who founded this nation would say the same. *

On the other hand, if a politician wants the authority to arbitrarily define Fair Profits, Just Wages, and Social Sensitivity, and to secure his political party’s base, this is a most awesome model. Come on now: who doesn’t like to see the State as Robin Hood stealing from the greedy rich and passing it out to the poor? “You got my vote!” And if some unenlightened business owners speak out against such foolishness, well then the State can punish or destroy their businesses with taxes, fines, and increased regulations. Need the votes of more Servant Number Threes? Increase taxes so as to increase social programs. Win. Win. Win.

Of course, if you own a business in the Servant Number One category, you can collude with the State (“Master”) to excuse you from paying the taxes Servant Number Two’s business is most assuredly going to pay and, thereby, rid yourself of your competition. And to get this spiffy deal all you have to do is donate huge sums of money to the appropriate politicians and their political party. “Wow, Monte, where do I sign up?” “It’s easy. Dial 1-538-442-8426. That’s 1-538-442-8426 or just remember: 1-Leviathan.”

“But Monte.  What does this all have to do with the poor?” Nothing. It has always been about the State’s insatiable thirst for ever-increasing control and power, never about the poor or the “disadvantaged.” When a politician starts waxing eloquent about the compassionate and fair redistribution of wealth or increased taxation to redress some aggrieved identity group (“social justice”), or of how compassionate it is for the State to begin managing our medical insurance and relationships with our doctors, what you are most always hearing is a Machiavellian obfuscation that has nothing to do with the poor, with justice, or with compassion: only power.

You still doubt me? Then ask yourself this:

If the State’s intent for taking from Servants One and Two and giving to Servant Number Three is that there will be income equality (something no State has ever achieved in all of history) but the results—over a period of seventy-five years here in the US—have been an ever-increasing number of Servant Number Threes, don’t you think that any sane person with even a double-digit IQ would see that redistribution is not working? Wouldn’t people who truly cared for the poor want to ditch these policies and try something else, anything else? Sure they would: if that was their intention.

* I am not suggesting that all taxes are evil. But when you see a State requiring more from its citizens than God does from His (10%) you have to admit that there is a distinct possibility that it is developing a Messianic Complex.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Gracelessness of Bitterness

...every one a drum major leading a parade of hurts, marching with our bitterness. -John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. -Hebrews 12.15

Bitterness is the spawn of anger and resentment. It is God-defying and Grace-denying. Bitterness demands that the person who committed the injustice against me be cast into the Prison of Rejection until they have paid every penny owed me, with interest.

He cheated me/ failed me/ abused me/ knifed me in the back

She abandoned me/ lied about me/ kicked me when I was down

They rejected me/ kept me from getting the promotion/ laughed at me

“You could have prevented this”/ “If only you would have…”

It’s one thing to be disappointed or even angry over an injustice. Anger can propel us forward and get us up on our feet to stand for what is True, Just, and Good. But once we allow anger to begin using us we have opened the doors of our souls to resentment, which is soon followed by bitterness. This is why St Paul said, “In your anger, do not sin.” Once anger is in the driver’s seat of our emotions there is no way not to sin: to lash out in cruelty, to harbor feelings of resentment, to be infected with bitterness.

My experience is that we usually handle the unexpected disappointments, upsets, and perceived injustices far better than the daily load of tolerable ones. That we were robbed of a happy childhood by clueless parents is endured because “It wasn’t their fault, such-is-life, and I need to move on.” The fact that we have been reciting this same sentence for 20 years says that we really have never moved on. So, all these years, the tolerated disappointment and its accompanying low-grade resentment have been draining our souls of life, love, and joy—of God’s grace for us—and slowly but surely bitterness began seasoning our every experience.

Paul, again: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor (shouting matches) and slander (defamation, spoken or written) be put away from you, along with all malice (the desire to cause harm).” I think the fact that these breaches of the laws of love are placed together is very telling. They all feed upon each other, each egging the other on.

Gratefully, he tells us how to resist or, if need be, to rid ourselves of these debasing attitudes and diseased behaviors.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” “But I have every right to…” “Didn’t you see what she did?” “Do you know what he cost me?”  “I deserved …” “They didn’t do what they promised to.” “He needs to pay…” All swallowed up in: Uh, excuse me. Let’s go back over all that God in Christ has forgiven you. Now. Go do for others what He did for you.

Forgiving others means that we tear up the IOUs we are holding against them

Forgiving others keeps us from bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander, and malice

Forgiving others keeps our souls open to God’s grace and healing

Forgiving others has within it the memory of all that we were forgiven

CS Lewis wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”  True enough. However, isn’t it interesting that when we are the ones standing in need of forgiveness it is, once again, a lovely idea? But Christ’s lovely idea of forgiveness insists that we pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Bitter people are graceless because they cannot receive what they will not give.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014