What Does It Mean To Be Church/Christians When People With A Lot of Money Have This Kind of Influence?

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(The first part of this blog post is adapted from The Families Funding the 2016 Presidential Election by Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish in The New York Times.)

They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth. They live in exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.

To whom am I referring: the 158 families who have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago. These donors’ fortunes reflect the shifting composition of the country’s economic elite.

Relatively few work in the traditional ranks of corporate America, or hail from dynasties of inherited wealth. Most built their own businesses, parlaying talent and an appetite for risk into huge wealth: They founded hedge funds in New York, bought up undervalued oil leases in Texas, made blockbusters in Hollywood.

But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too.

Now what does this have to do with Wedgewood? That’s my question for you as we give our offerings of money and time and energy and talent to this beloved community. What does it mean to be church, to be Christian in a country in which the rich have so much influence? What are the implications for our life together, and our ministry efforts?

At a minimum, we need to help those who do not have a voice have their voices heard. At a minimum, we need to insure that those who have more wealth in our congregation do not rule our congregation. At a minimum, we must be suspicious of, and ask questions of, those who prosper in our culture. Have you made your money off the backs of the poor? Are you interested solely in your own wealth or the well-being of the world? At a minimum, we have to remember Jesus said the people who have the hardest time understanding the kingdom of God are the rich.

Why I Profile

 

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I profile based on past experience.  I profile because I know the profilee.  I profile because if I don’t I have major messes to clean up.

Layla is my wonderful granddog, but she is a chewer.  It’s the Beagle in her.  She’s a rescue dog so we don’t know exactly what kind of dog she is, but there’s no doubt about the Beagle part.  The vet said we could do a DNA test for $100 to find out her other half but we decided to live with the mystery.  Just dealing with the Beagle part is enough.

For example, Lalya decided to chew off some pine combs that had been on a miniature Christmas tree sitting in our entrance area.  Three pine combs to be exact.

As you know, training a dog involves training an owner as much as training the dog.  We get used to living without a dog who is a chewer and then she comes over for a sleepover and – and while we get open trash cans off the floor there’s always something we forget to do to house proof for Layla.

Our nickname for Layla is “Destructo Dog.”

We had the Ayers Christmas party last Saturday.  Less than a minute into her grand entrance Layla jumped on a table and devoured a stick of Land of Lakes butter.

You can’t blame us for profiling Layla, but we can urge you to be careful about profiling people.  The truth is we have all sorts of preconceived notions about other people based on many factors.  Sometimes our first impressions are dead on, but often our first impressions are wrong.  So we have to learn to give people a chance and hope others will give us a chance.  If we don’t get past profiling, we miss out on the blessings some of God’s most interesting and wonderful people have for us.

I wonder if Joseph, Mary and Jesus had a dog.

Merry Christmas!  May one of your gifts be a unexpected relationship with someone you never dreamed you would know.

 

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is worse than Bernie Sanders

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Mary, the mother of Jesus, is worse than Bernie Sanders.

According to Bernie, “the issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.”  In Bernie’s view, “there is something profoundly wrong when 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent.”  But what is Bernie Sanders’ solution?  Bernie, among other things, wants corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share.

Bernie is letting the rich off easy.  Mary, sings a song with a plan that is much more severe:  “God has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:53)  There’s a big difference between paying your fair share (Bernie’s plan) and going away empty (God’s plan/Mary’s song).  Mary, the mother of Jesus, is worse than Bernie Sanders.  Or, depending on your perspective, she’s better.

Ever heard Joel Osteen preach “God has sent the rich away empty”?

Ever heard Billy Graham or Franklin Graham preach “God has sent the rich away empty”?

Ever heard any of the preachers at the popular megachurches preach “God has sent the rich away empty”?

Not even Bernie Sanders is sending the rich away empty.