Monday, December 15, 2014

The Eternal Optimist

Minister Paul Williams once described the Disneyfication of American culture as Disney taking the bite out of children’s literature. He suggested that when Disney finished with a classic story, little of the original remains.By his definition, it might mean J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is no longer a sweet boy and “It is only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly.” Or as Thomas De Zengotita suggested in Mediated: How The Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It, the key word becomes heartless.

Williams suggested a trip to the playground quickly reveals this lack of heart, children being by nature self-centered and heartless.  We reacted in horror when we saw this play out a few days ago as we watched an adolescent Tulalip Indian lad, who as far as anyone knew, was an angry, confused, mixed up adolescent, and who seemingly lacked adequate moral foundations. The boy invited his friends to join him at his school lunch table so he could take them with him as he killed himself.

One invited guest declined for personal reasons. That pastoral family of one of our ministers still rejoices beause their daughter is still alive. What do we do with a culture that chooses to be gay, innocent, and heartless, while continuing to beckon future generations to join them in their self-absorbed lifestyles?

Numerous studies support findings in which Fortune 500 CEOs make multi-millions annually. And if you are fortunate enough to lead a major oil company, you can multiply that figure several times. One Exxon Executive found himself earning a whopping $144,573 per day. But while the rich get richer, the American church sits on the political sidelines, often as gay and innocent and heartless as children.

Since when is it morally ethical and right for an executive to earn 100-250 times the salary of an average employee, irrespective of the company’s health, while they slash the health and pension benefits of their work force? Is that treating others like we all want to be treated? Or is it that they “deserve” that by right of  their title, status, position, or whatever else they measure life by?

It reminds me of what Stephen Carter said: “If everything we do is protected by ‘my rights’ there is no longer any reason for dialogue or community.” I know; business is business! Nothing personal; it is all about the bottom line! Well, Carter said something else worth noting: “Those who love democracy should love its rules.” He also recognized that “our ability to discipline ourselves to do what is right rather than what we desire is what distinguishes us from animals.”

Nevertheless, this attitude is so culturally ingrained that a neighboring Michigan School Board refused a salary increase to its district teachers for four consecutive years while giving measurable increases to everyone in management. Simultaneously, the Board increased the teachers work load in teaching hours and reduced the benefits on such items as health insurance.

The church too often sanitizes this kind of  injustice by turning blinded eyes to the practiced heartlessness, like a Disney movie that rejoices because “We are so blessed by God.” We believe our American lifestyles is our birthright. Admittedly, the church helps feed the hungry, but it does little if anything about the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in the world that continues to widen to Grand Canyon proportions while economically violating the vulnerable.

If anyone challenges this issue of distribution and calls for more equal distribution, we use very selective words that designate them as political enemies--Communists, socialists, traitors to the American Dream.

All the while, poverty claims 2.7 billion global residents that live on less than $2 per day. Among these are 9.2 million of our neighbor’s children (25,000 each day) under the age of 5 that die annually, mostly from “preventable” diseases. Another 2.5 billion people have no access to safe sanitation, and some 900 million lack access to clean water, resulting in nearly 11,500 additional people dying unnecessarily every day from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Because I still believe “in the beginning God…” I am forced to ask myself is God just wasting his time with us; or is He really our Creator, Redeemer, and Eternal Optimist. If he is Who we bekieve him to be, what does that require from us?

From Warner’s World at

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