Wednesday, July 21, 2004


If you have some time, I read a really interesting article today on greed.  One of the main thrusts of the arguments the author makes is that we need to reinstate the immoral/sinful nature of greed.  A lot of my pet issues (the prevalent power of commercialism, the unquestioned right of corporations to exercise power while answering only to shareholders) are things he touches on. 

Some highlights:

The evening news systematically distorts normal time. Downtown riots in Seattle are given less than a minute (some of which is the reporter's talking face), shift to shots of a dog frolicking in a fountain, shift to minutes of a freeway chase. The picturesque is pursued, the serious is trivialized.
These are moves in a war against logic. And if you watch television, you are having your thinking disrupted. The busy-ness of rapid shifts of focus, the effervescent color, the edgy, dramatic music, all make it difficult for viewers to build independent ideas.

Make no mistake, this is not an accident.  Television is a phenomenon alien to the human brain, and nothing will ever convince me that it's good for us.  There have been several studies showing that small children (under 3 years) experience changes in the way their brains are wired and developing as a result of viewing television.  Some have hypothesized that TV consumption by the very young may be at least partially responsible for the increasing rates of ADHD and other learning disabilities.  It certainly seems plausible.  What worries me is that kids start watching TV so young now- before they can even distinguish between fantasy and reality, much less understand the morality and underlying assumptions that individual shows promote.  If, as the author asserts, TV viewing makes it difficult to build independent ideas, what are we doing by indoctrinating young kids?  For the record, my kids do watch TV.  More than I'd like.  We steer clear of commercial programs, though. 

What about the churches? Their purpose for existence includes helping the weak and needy. Curious for numbers, I divided the number of homeless (conservatively estimated at 700,000 on any given night, 2 million sometime during the year) by the number of Christian churches. This nation is filled with churches: the World Almanac lists over 330,000 Christian houses of worship (61). If each church took in 6 homeless, there would be no more homelessness. (We are taught that God and money don't mix. But actually the struggle between church and capitalism has always been subtle.)

I wish he went into the church/capitalism relationship more.  This is something I've been pondering for a while.  Most churches I know are at least implicitly pro-capitalism, which I don't see as compatable with a kingdom mindset (although maybe I just haven't heard the right argument yet- I'm willing to acknowledge the possibility, however slight ;o)).  How do we fix this?  The comment that "God and money don't mix"- who has led us to believe that?  Jesus made some pretty harsh statements about money, and his actions don't leave a lot of room for doubt, either (the moneychangers in the temple is what I'm thinking of here).  We need a theology that covers even our money and how we spend it.  

A practical example- can we justify spending an extra couple hundred dollars to buy optional leather seats when we get a car?  Is that what good stewardship looks like?  I have dreamed in the past about starting an intentional community of Christians who own everything in common, who eat together, live together, help each other, and pool their funds...up till now, I've concluded it would never work, because sharing money is pretty foreign to Americans.  We talk a lot about my money, my taxes, my car...what a revolution there would be if we started thinking in terms of God's resources to further God's purposes.


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