Archive for June, 2008

Tolerance Redefined

June 30, 2008

For most of my life I have believed that tolerance meant basically “Live and let live”  “You do your thing and I”ll do mine” or something along those lines.  The primary idea being that we are each allowed to make our choices within the boundaries of the law, without fear of punishment by those who disapprove of our choices, especially in the field of religious expression.

There has been some movement towards a redefining of tolerance in recent years.  There are some who say that it is intolerant to attempt to try to persuade people to change their views, their lifestyles or their religious beliefs.  In fact, some would say that we need to recognize, accept, and celebrate our different views.

Certainly we recognize that differences exist.  For those activities that are not illegal, we should allow them to be practiced without fear of reprisal.  However, we do not have to accept as proper, nor do we have to celebrate, things that are contrary to our personal religious convictions.     

We are, and should be, free to argue for,  and attempt to advance our particular religious concepts of right and wrong.  What we should not be allowed to do, is to use force to coerce others to accept our positions.  It is possible to have passionate, spirited, debate without lapsing into hatred or bloodshed.  Tolerance is not accepting all views as right, but rather allowing those who disagree with us, to live at peace among us. 



June 29, 2008

While flipping through channels I recently came across the movie “Flubber” starring Robin Williams.  I remember the original movie coming out in my childhood and when the remake came out we rented it to watch with our children.  There was one enormous difference in the new version.  Flubber was a life form. 

This is important because it portrays life as an accident that can be recreated in a test tube.  I believe that God is the creator of all life, and it was no accident.  Scientists have tried very hard to create life, but have failed.  “Flubber” presents it as a possibility to all of the young minds enjoying the show.  Of course, this fits right in with evolutionary theory, which suggests that life began, and continues to develop by accident, rather than by the intentional act of a Creator.  This teaching removes the need for a creator God, and undermines a belief in both God, and the Bible, which states “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”  (Genesis 1:1)

When to Question Authority

June 26, 2008

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of respecting authority.  I do believe that this is an important principle to maintain in our lives.  The question becomes “Should we always do what we are told to do by those in authority?”  The answer, of course, is no… but how do we decide when to submit, and when to resist?

I believe that the key words are: Illegal, immoral, and unacceptable risk.

If we are being told by an employer, or teacher or other authority to do something that is illegal then we should chose to disobey.  Our responsibility to a higher authority becomes the issue.

In the same way, if we are being told to do something that is opposed to our religious or moral convictions, then we need to follow the higher path.

If we are being told to do something that is unacceptably dangerous, we can choose to disobey. 

The difficulty comes in knowing when these conditions apply.  Also, if we choose to disobey, we need to be willing to accept the consequences of our decision.  We can, if it is warranted, appeal to higher authorities for justice, but that may or may not work out in our favor.

There is also the decision to remove oneself from under a particular authority.  You can leave a job, move to another location, attend a different church, etc.  Ultimately, we are autonomous beings and are responsible for our own actions and who we choose to follow.  There is a tension between the obligation to be a responsible part of a group, and our opportunity to follow our own path.  


Attitude Towards Authority

June 25, 2008

Our attitude towards those in authority begins in our childhood and continues throughout our life impacting how we view a wide variety of relationships.

Americans have sometimes glorified the image of the rebel.  That it is somehow glamorous or praiseworthy to reject the direction of those in authority.  “Nobody is going to tell me what to do!!!”  I have often heard that statement made over the years by a variety of individuals. This attitude can have terrible consequences.  The truth is that many people can, and should, tell us what to do; our parents, our teachers, our employers, our political leaders, among others.

“Honor thy father and thy mother, that it might be well with you, that you might live long upon the earth.”  This commandment is taught to children, and it is a lesson that will impact our lives.  If we honor our parents, life will go better for us.  If we learn to accept that there are people who can “tell us what to do” it will help life to go more smoothly.  We don’t have to do what a teacher tells us, but if we don’t our grades will suffer.  We don’t have to do what our boss tells us, but we might be fired.  We don’t have to obey the laws, but we may have to pay the penalty.  Get the picture?

I believe that our attitude towards those in authority will even impact how we look at God.  Can God tell us what to do?  I believe that the lesson of honoring our parents, respecting authority, will serve us well throughout our lives.

Maximum Wage

June 24, 2008

I have just finished responding to a lengthy comment on my previous post on the minimum wage.  I suspect that financial matters are indeed a concern that is close to many peoples’ hearts. 

Instead of raising the minimum wage I would like to suggest something more radical.  What would happen if we initiated a maximum wage?  

 I remember reading a while back about the Home Depot executive who retired and was given about a two hundred million dollar retirement deal.  Who is worth that kind of money?  For that matter, I understand that in sports, entertainment, business and other fields there are salaries that are beyond imagination.

It is the gross inequality in distribution that is so unfair.  What makes anyone worth so much?  It is not that I don’t think that some jobs should pay more than others, or that a person should not be rewarded for good work, even exceptional work, but when is it too much?  I believe that money could be distributed in a manner that is more equitable.  It is not that our lowest wage earners earn so little, it is that what some people make is so obscene.

Minimum Wage Mistake

June 23, 2008

When the Democrats took control of congress, one of the first things that they did was to make substantial changes in the minimum wage.  I was surprised that it was accomplished without much opposition.  At the time, the economy was straining, but managing to maintain a minimal forward progress.  At least it seemed so to me, I am not an economist, at least not on the national scale. ( I know about personal finances and church budgets.)  I remember at the time hoping that it would not lead to economic troubles.  I was concerned for primarily three reasons.

1.  Companies that pay minimum wage to their employees would have a substantial percentage increase in their labor cost.  This increased cost would either be absorbed by decreased profits or passed along by increasing prices, or making cuts in other areas.  For companies that could not absorb the changes, there would be some closings.  So increasing the minimum wage would result in less profits, higher product cost and fewer jobs.  

2.  When the minimum wage is increased, everyone else that makes more than minimum wage does not automatically get an increase, so that where a person was making two dollars more per hour than the minimum wage, now, if their wage is not increased, their pay is no longer so favorable in comparison to the minimum wage.

3.  In raising the minimum wage, what has actually happened is that a basic hour of work which used to be valued at a certain price, now costs more.  What you have actually done, is lowered the value of the dollar.   It takes more dollars to get the same unit of work. 

I know that national economics are affected by much more than the minimum wage, but I thought that it was a mistake at the time and I have not seen anything to change my mind, it has only been reinforced.  As the next stages of raises are put into effect I believe that it will continue to negatively impact the economy. 

Is it too late to stop the next raises?


Pedal Power

June 21, 2008

When I was a freshman in college my car broke down and I began riding my bicycle everywhere.  For about a year, I went everywhere on my bike, even going home for the weekends, which was about a twenty mile ride.  I rode through heat, rain and even snow.  Lately, when I have been in Minneapolis, I have noticed that they actually have a bicycle lane on the city streets.  I wish they had had those back in my days of riding around.  I think back about it now, and it was the grace of God which kept me from injury or death.

Lately I have started riding my bicycle again.  The advantages finally outweighed the disadvantages.

   1.  It is good exercise.

        a. It will be good for my cholesterol

        b.  It will be helpful for weight loss.

        c.  It is good for my cardiovascular system

  2.  It is good for the environment.

        a.  less green house gas emissions

        b.  less oil consumption, less supply needed

  3.  It will save me money.

Now I realize that many of you will think that it is only to save money, but the other factors do play a role.  If everyone sought to reduce their gasoline consumption, even by a small amount, the national reduction might surprise you. 

Oh well, I am doing my part, so if you see me riding around town, no, the car isn’t broke, and I didn’t lose my license.  I might be reverting to my youth….I wish… or maybe this is part of a midlife crisis?

Or maybe it is a good idea.

Held Accountable

June 19, 2008

As a minister and a teacher my jobs are relatively flexible in how I spend my days.  This can be both  a good thing and a bad thing.  It is good because I can adjust my schedule as the need arises.  It is a bad thing because there is always, always, always, more to do than there is time available.  There are services and classes at set times that I need to be prepared for, but, otherwise, I decide how to spend my days.

That is actually quite a challenge.  It is a matter of deciding not just what to do, but what will not get done.  How do I know if I am making the right choices?  I imagine that if I asked people, everyone I asked would give a different answer.  In the final analysis, it is God who will be my judge.  I take very seriously my responsibility before God with the life that I have been given.  One day I will be held accountable for my choices.  I pray that God will guide me in my decisions.

  Actually, we will all be held accountable.  What have we done with our time, our money, and our other resources?  It is not just pastors and teachers, but all of God’s people who will stand in the presence of God and give an account of our lives.  (Romans 14:12)  May God give us all the wisdom to make the right choices, and the strength and courage to follow through with our actions. 

Human Nature

June 18, 2008

I have recently been reading a book on human nature.  The last chapter that I read was dealing with the question of whether humans were basically good or basically evil.  I would like to suggest that it is not necessary to say that all humans fit the same category. 

I need to explain what I mean by that comment.  Of course, I accept the scripture that tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.  (Romans 3:23) It is quite certain that no one is perfect.  I believe that humans can more appropriately be divided into the saved and the unsaved.  Furthermore, since God knows who will respond to the gospel, even before they do respond to the gospel, that this division of saved and unsaved exists all along.  Perhaps it would be better phrased, “those who will be drawn to God” and “those who will reject God”.  Those who are drawn to God are drawn to the good.  Those who reject God, reject the good.  These attitudes are then reflected in their lives as an inclination toward good or an inclination towards evil.  This inclination is not one hundred percent, there are moments of good and evil in everyone, but our basic direction is either towards God and good, or away from God and towards evil.  Thus our perspective will be influenced as to whether we see the world and the people around us as basically good or evil.  What is our focus?  What is our goal?   Basically good? or evil???    

Not Written in Stone

June 17, 2008

I like to think that I have an open mind.  That is, that I am willing to consider new thoughts and ideas. In writing this blog I have, and will post a wide variety of thoughts and ideas.  There has been, and I  hope that there will be, an ongoing dialogue with interested readers.  During that ongoing exchange my thoughts and the thoughts of the readers will interact and possibly produce change, sometimes in the readers and sometimes in me.  The goal is not to win a debate, but to provoke an ongoing process of intellectual reflection.  This means that I may, at times, change my views from what I have written.  I have been told that once something is in cyberspace that it is out there forever.  I hope that in a blog, that one is given the freedom to change, that what we have written, is not forever.  It is not written in stone. 

I have heard it said that “some people’s minds are like concrete, thoroughly mixed up, and permanently set”.  I hope that statement never applies to me.  (Well, OK, maybe a little mixed up, and a little set, but there is still plenty of pliability.)