Saturday, September 22, 2007

Get A Loan ... Get A Life!

When we refinanced our house in early 2003, the mortgage broker who conducted our preliminary phone interview inquired about our total household income. I gave him the number. "OK," he said, "What about debt?"

"Just the mortgage," I said.

"That's it? No other debt?"

"No."

"Wow," came his reply, "You need to get a life."

And there you have it. In contemporary America, it is no longer fashionable to be financially conservative. It's not even acceptable. Now you are considered a freakish loser unless you have bought into the have-it-all-and-have-it-now mentality that is so culturally pervasive.

Now don't get me wrong. I am well aware of the fact that my family has been materially blessed. I also know how many folks struggle to make their financial ends meet. But that's not what I want to address here. My beef is with the entitlement mindset which promotes the notion that, no matter what your financial position is, you deserve more. Society owes it to you. It comes with your right to be "happy."

I am contending that the financial crisis du jour -- the sub-prime lending crisis -- is not a problem with the market, it is a problem with our mindset. I am arguing that the market is always "right" in that it reflects the trajectory of societal values. Seen that way, the sub-prime lending crisis with which the financial markets are currently contending is nothing but a mirror into the collective American soul. And if you look closely enough in that mirror you will see the ugly reflection of an ancient and continuing idolatry.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Inappropriate Question -- Masterful Answer

That Wolf Blitzer would ask this question of those who are running for President of the United States is enlightening. How is it, one must wonder, that this has any bearing on their ability to govern or lead? Make no mistake, Blitzer (and his cohorts) ask this question only to make the candidates look like silly, mindless, neanderthals. The question is, "Do you believe in evolution?"

Though there are many points I would have loved to have added to it, Mike Huckaby's answer, when put on the spot (and on the clock) speaks for itself ...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Cries That Bind

On August 31, 1997 Princess Diana died in a tragic crash in Paris in a car with her boyfriend while her husband and two children waited for her in London. Five days later, Mother Teresa of Calcutta died due to complications that apparently developed after a decades-long battle with heart disease that worsened with her contracting malaria the year prior. Over the next 3 months Princess Diana graced the covers of the major news magazines (Life, Time, Newsweek and others) at least 9 times. The world grieved. Her story led the evening news every night and her funeral was broadcast live to millions. Elton John even re-wrote a song for her.

Meanwhile, Mother Teresa barely warranted mention in the news tsunami that left her swamped behind the flash and glitz of the princess. This said more about our cultural values than Mother Teresa ever could have said herself.

But this week that changed. Suddenly, Mother Teresa is newsworthy ... the lead story no less ... cover material. This week Mother Teresa has even supplanted the backwash tsunami of the ten-year remembrance of Diana's death. But it is not the ten-year remembrance of Mother Teresa that the press has found so marketable. It is not even a belated appreciation for her 60 years of work with the poor and dying in India.

No, what is so tantalizingly important about her now is that she had a "crisis of faith" that has recently been revealed in letters which she had specifically requested not be made public, but rather destroyed. (Funny how the press's commitment to its sources' privacy changes from time to time -- especially when they can scoop a story like this one). The hook, you see, is that Mother Teresa, a world-renown icon of religious commitment, sometimes questioned her faith. Time magazine reports that ...
... one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared.
That, to a secular press hell-bent on de-legitimizing faith or anyone who claims to have it, is too juicy to not be shouted from the rooftops. Mother Teresa has become a target for their secular wrath. And that is the only reason they have any interest in her now. In her crying out to God, militant atheists like Christopher Hitchens see nothing but an opportunity to exploit. Hitchens despises a:
... Church [that] should have had the elementary decency to let the earth lie lightly on this troubled and miserable lady, and not to invoke her long anguish to recruit the credulous to a blind faith in which she herself had long ceased to believe.
But just what was Mother Teresa's "crisis"? At various points in her life, she questioned the existence of God because He seemed hidden and unreachable amid the squalor and misery of life that engulfed her. God's hiddenness was painful to her, her longing for Him palpable:
For me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,—Listen and do not hear—the tongue moves but does not speak ... Such deep longing for God—and … repulsed—empty—no faith—no love—no zeal.—[The saving of] Souls holds no attraction—Heaven means nothing ... What do I labor for? If there be no God—there can be no soul—if there is no Soul then Jesus—You also are not true.