Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Bible and Economics

Fiery Martin 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below or clicking right here.

I began looking at the book of Psalms last year and am still wading through it. The last batch I quoted excerpts from was Psalms 39 - 49.

Continuing walking through the book of Psalms, after chapter 49, we have many chapters that deal with prayers about "the enemy/enemies" who have beset the Psalmist or Israel, but these don't identify the "sins" of the enemies specifically, although given the times and the context of much of the Psalmists' complaints, you have to wonder if economic oppression might be amongst them. Nonetheless, skipping past those, we start up again in chapter 62 (still in the midst of passages complaining about ill treatment from the enemy) and looking through chapter 73...

Lowborn men are but a breath,

 the highborn are but a lie;

 if weighed on a balance, they are nothing;

 together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion

 or take pride in stolen goods;

 though your riches increase, 

do not set your heart on them.

Psalm 62: 9, 10

You care for the land and water it;

 you enrich it abundantly. 

The streams of God are filled with water

 to provide the people with grain,

 for so you have ordained it.

Psalm 65: 9

You gave abundant showers, O God;

 you refreshed your weary inheritance.
Your people settled in it,

 and from your bounty, O God, you provided for the poor.

Psalm 68:9, 10

In the midst of more complaints about the enemy, the psalmist says...

The poor will see and be glad —

 you who seek God, may your hearts live!
The LORD hears the needy

 and does not despise his captive people.

Psalm 69: 32, 33

Yet I am poor and needy;

 come quickly to me, O God.

 You are my help and my deliverer;

 O LORD, do not delay.

Psalm 70: 5

Then, in chapter 72, the Psalmist prays for the king to be good and just, saying...

Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.
He will judge your people in righteousness,

 your afflicted ones with justice.
The mountains will bring prosperity to the people,

 the hills the fruit of righteousness.
He will defend the afflicted among the people

 and save the children of the needy; 

he will crush the oppressor...
In his days the righteous will flourish;

 prosperity will abound till the moon is no more.
All kings will bow down to him

 and all nations will serve him.
For he will deliver the needy who cry out,

 the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy

 and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,

 for precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live!

 May gold from Sheba be given him.

 May people ever pray for him

 and bless him all day long.
Let grain abound throughout the land;

 on the tops of the hills may it sway.

 Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon;

 let it thrive like the grass of the field.

Psalm 72: 1-4, 7, 11-16

...and although the Psalmist, in the passage above, is nominally speaking of a prayed for Just and Good King, it sounds more like he's speaking about the Kingdom of God, where "grain abounds" and freedom from oppression and violence is the norm for the poor and marginalized folk of the earth.

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

 I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant

 when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;

 their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens common to man;

 they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;

 they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;

 the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;

 in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,

 and their tongues take possession of the earth...

This is what the wicked are like —

 always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Psalm 73: 1-9, 12

While I get accused sometimes of using language that sounds like "class warfare," clearly, I'm not the first to use such language (if it were true)...

Monday, September 13, 2010


Donna And Cowboy
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I'll admit I have a prejudice against remaking classic movies. If a movie was done magnificently in the first place, why do a remake? Hello, Vince Vaugh, I love you man, but Psycho again? What was the point?

And who would dare to remake Casablanca? The Wizard of Oz? The Muppet Movie?!

Why mess with a classic?

Add to that blasphemy, the notion of casting someone in a role who is so completely DIFFERENT from the original star, what can come of that but EVIL?? Can you imagine Pauly Shore in Peter O'Toole's Lawrence of Arabia?? Jean Claude Van Damme as lovable George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life?? With his lovely sweet wife played by Angeline Jolie??? To Sir, With Love with Chris Rock in Sidney Poitier's role???!!!

What disastrous ideas!

And yet, I say all of that to say this:

I can't wait to see the new remake of True Grit!

With hippie dippie Jeff "the Dude" Bridges playing the role immortalized by John "the Duke" Wayne!! Can't you just imagine uber-patriot John Wayne hurling and whirling in his grave at the very thought of a commie like Bridges stepping into his boots?

And to top it all off, to be directed by the Coen Brothers!

On one hand, I LOVE True Grit. I love John Wayne's Rooster Cogburn as well as the other characters - and not just Glen Campbell's pretty "Texican" La Boeuf and Kim Darby's spunky Mattie Ross, but an amazing Robert Duvalle as "Lucky" Ned Pepper (to be played by BARRY Pepper in the new movie, I hear), Dennis Hopper and Strother Martin. AND the perfectly cast John Fiedler as the Lawyer, J. Nobel Daggett. Perhaps it's just some old movie sentimentalism, but I thought John Wayne richly deserved that Oscar.

And having the Coen Brothers doing a movie that seems so far removed from their typical wacky or gruesome genres, that just doesn't seem like a logical fit. And speaking of illogical fits, Bridges? As Marshall Rooster Cogburn?? A man with "true grit?"

None of it seems to make sense and it seems like the type of movie I'd typically eschew.

BUT, I do love me some Coen Brothers, and I love me some Coen Brothers working with Jeff Bridges, and I love me some True Grit. I'm thinking that they can pull off the seemingly impossible and make something interesting, compelling and humorous out of their magic hats.

What do you think? Is this a disaster waiting to happen or possible big screen magic? Could it really be a whole new classic movie which honors and adds to the original classic?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Last Farmer's Ghost...

Queen Anne
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Sorry I've been away. Life, as it is wont to do, has been busy. Here's an early poem of mine (written right at ten years ago, after years of reading Wendell Berry had warped my mind) suitable for this time of the year...

The last farmer's ghost

Haunting empty fields
of overgrown weeds,
walking the rows where corn once grew
he moans and mourns the
lost season,
the hallow ground, now laying
fallow ground.
He died and no one was there to bury him
and so he haunts and walks
as he always has
this earth only dear to him

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dear Glenn

Signals of Oddity 10
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Jim Wallis reaches out to Glenn Beck once again, asking for reason and conversation. Excerpts..

Dear Glenn,

I think we got off on the wrong foot. I listened to your speech last Saturday and heard a lot of things that we agree on. In fact, I have used some of the same language of our need to turn to God, and the values of "faith, hope, and charity" (love). What I would like to find out, and others would too, is what you mean by that language. Until last weekend, you have consistently described yourself primarily as an entertainer, and the public has known you as a talk show host.

But last Saturday, you sounded more like an evangelist or revivalist on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I know we disagree significantly on many issues of public policy, but you said that people can disagree on politics and still agree on basic values and try to come together. Maybe we should test that.

Instead of my being up on your blackboard and a regular target of your show's rhetoric, why don't we finally have that civil dialogue I invited you to months ago? Your speech on the Mall suggested and even promised a change of heart on your part, so why don’t we talk? Here are a few things I think we could talk about.

First, I’ve been asked by people in the media if it matters that you are a Mormon. I unequivocally answer, no, it does not. We don’t want more anti-Mormon bigotry any more than we want the anti-Muslim bigotry now rising up across the country. By the way, you should speak to that (against it).

On Saturday you talked about the fact that our nation has some scars in our past. I think one of those scars is the historical persecution and bigotry that many Mormons have faced, as well as Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. But, as you said, instead of dwelling on the bad things of the past, we need to learn from them and look to the future. The best way to do that is to make sure we all stand for religious liberty and tolerance, and are careful not to denigrate anybody else’s faith tradition, experience, or language.

If you are ever in need of an evangelical Christian to speak out against anti-Mormon sentiment directed at you or others, I am here to help.

In an interview the day after your rally you said that you would like to "amend" your statement in which you accused President Obama of being a racist and said he had a deep hatred in his heart for white people. I commend you for that. But a simple and straightforward apology would have been better. All of us say things we shouldn’t sometimes, but you have consistently mischaracterized the President’s faith. You also said in that interview that you would like to have a conversation about it. I’d like to do that.

I also think it would be a good thing to stop attacking people and churches you label as "social justice Christians," not just because I’m tired of being on your blackboard, but because I think you genuinely don’t understand the concept and how central it is to biblical faith, and how essential to the whole gospel. I am sure there are those who have misused the term, just as there are those who will co-opt any good label that exists. If "social justice" were truly code for Communism or Marxism or Nazism, as you have suggested, I would be right beside you in condemning it.

In his opening sermon at Nazareth, Jesus gave his own mission statement when he declared, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." Those were his very words, Glenn, including the stuff about releasing captives and freeing the oppressed—language you have been pretty critical of..

I thought you might be changing your own mind a bit when I heard you lifting up the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and associating yourself with him on the 47th anniversary of his eloquent "I Have a Dream" speech, given from the very place you stood on Saturday. I was encouraged by that because Dr. King was the archetypal social justice Christian and the primary teacher for many of us on the social implications of biblical faith. His personal faith led him to fight for racial and economic justice -- social justice.

I hope you read many of his words before you spoke on the anniversary of his great speech, because we can't claim the mantle of King without also embracing his message. You seemed to affirm King's assertion that racism was not simply a private moral issue but one that required response through federal action and legislation. I'd like to talk with you about the rest of King's dream. If King was right about racism, could he have also been right about poverty and war? I didn't hear much about King's words on either of those issues in your speech on Saturday.

Before, I thought you were just another cable news talk show host. But now, you are using the language of a spiritual and even a religious leader. You acted as though you now want people to look to you for that kind of spiritual leadership.

But to invoke the name of God and the vocation of a spiritual leader has consequences. It brings with it a whole new level of responsibility and accountability. It will require a more civil and even humble tone than you are used to. It will likely mean saying some different things and, certainly, saying many things differently than you have in the past.

Pundits and talk show hosts say things that divide, create conflict, and get good ratings. They appeal more to fear than to hope. But spiritual leaders try to avoid vitriol and bombastic language, and to rather seek to find common ground and bring people together to find real solutions to real problems. So let's talk about that too.

You said your rally day was the start of the nation turning to God. Many people in this country have already done that and, in fact, try to do it every day. But maybe it was the start of Glenn Beck becoming a different kind of public voice than you have been before. I hope so. And one good way to demonstrate that is to agree to an honest and civil conversation with somebody you have often attacked. How about it, Glenn?

Will a welcoming answer be forthcoming, do you think?