Friday Fragments – December 21, 2012

Since the world doesn’t appear to be ending today, I’ll go ahead and post.

I say that not with the snarky dismissiveness that most people are likely to joke about, however.  Hopefully.  At least not now, in hindsight.  After all, I’m waiting for the end of the world as well.  Or perhaps more accurately, the rebirth of it.  Just because I don’t have a particular date pegged for the event doesn’t change the fact that I’m waiting.  Or should be.  
  • Here’s an interesting commentary on the role of community, even what might be considered very dysfunctional community.  Solo rock stars are more apt to end their lives than rock stars who are part of a group.  If dysfunctional community that can often be self-indulgent and obsessive over all manner of habits and addictions that are self-destructive stands a better chance of keeping someone alive than a lone self-indulgent, obsessive person, imagine what impact a nominally more positive community could have on someone’s life?  Hmmm.  Now where could we find that sort of community still today, in our fragmented American culture?  Hmmmm.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
  • Are you ready for the end of the world, or more accurately, something just short of the end of the world where you are one of the lone survivors fending for yourself against zombie hordes or desperate but ill-prepared neighbors?  Here’s your tool of choice:  the Crovel.  I find this fascinating in part because I discover it actually appeals to me.  I like the idea of being prepared for anything, ready to survive when others don’t.  The fact that I’m probably the least likely to survive undoubtedly fuels that errant strand of fantasizing in me.  Having survived the Y2K event and now (at least thus far) the Mayan apocalypse, I have to say however that my survival skills are pretty awesome, and I haven’t spent a dime.  More to the point, I’d be interested in knowing how many “preppers” (people actively preparing themselves and their homes/property to survive some sort of anarchic societal breakdown or zombie virus) survived hurricanes Katrina or Sandy, compared to their non-prepper neighbors?  Is there any evidence that such preparations really work when the actual emergency strikes?
  • Against my better judgment, I gotta say this is sorta cute.  Sorta.  Please do not quote me on that.  Please.  
  • Did you hold on to all your old cassette Walkmans and other cassette devices?  Prepare  to cash in on nostalgic bling in another 20-80 years.  Sony is discontinuing production of the cassette player/recorder.  A moment of silence, please.
This final article has got me thinking.  There has been no shortage of articles dedicated to the glories of the free-market system, particularly in light of the major changes being foisted upon our society today by socialist-inspired autocrats.  Christian writers as well seem rather keen to defend the free-market economy from allegations that it is anti-Christian in that it ignores the poor.  I suspect the argument is ultimately misplaced.
This article’s argument is that the free-market system is more Christian because it conveys the possibility of worth to every member in the market.  Everyone can contribute somehow economically, even those we tend to view as disabled or otherwise unsuitable for traditional workforce roles.  
I can roll with that.  What I have difficulty with is when we start justifying our human systems based on what the Son of God does, and more specifically, reading economic implications into the Messiah’s love.  That’s what this article does by interpreting the healing of the blind beggar in John 9 as demonstration of God’s love for this individual not merely in giving them their sight, but in giving them the ability to work.
What this article ignores is the free-market system’s prioritization and valuation of every person.  Yes, every person can contribute, but they can’t all contribute equally and therefore they are compensated proportionally.  When child labor was legal, they made very little money – arguably because they couldn’t do the work of a 28-year old man.  The same argument has probably been used to justify lower pay for women, though as we transition out of industrialized and agricultural work and more and more to information services, that argument definitely doesn’t hold water (if it ever did).  
The free-market does render some people (most people?) insignificant, while elevating and glorifying those who are deemed to have rarer and therefore more valuable skill sets.  The CEO of McDonald’s earns tons more than the 16-year old kid manning the fryers.  They are valued fundamentally differently.  What the free-market system allows for is the possibility that this 16-year old kid could someday be the CEO.  But the odds are against him.  
This is *not* how the Kingdom of God works.  We are not valued differently based on our contributions.  All are invited to the table that God has prepared, where none of us deserve to be there and can’t in any way repay our host.  Jesus’ healing in John 9 is not an endorsement of an economic system, but a systematic repudiation and reversal of all the things in this world that stunt or blunt or otherwise compromise God’s creation.  It is the demonstration of the inbreaking Kingdom of God which won’t simply prop up free-enterprise economies but will rather render them obsolete.  
I like free-market economies but I don’t think it’s wise or faithful to attempt to justify my preference with God.  I suspect this is exactly the tactic that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day tried to use, and they were called some rather unflattering names for it – by the Son of God himself.  We need to be very careful to recognize that we are free to make the best of things in this world, but that our best efforts are nothing like the glory of God as He continues to reveal his plan and power in creation.

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