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Cornel West – ever prophetic

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Creative Protest in the City (part 1)

A few weeks back, we were led through a series of reflections on Creative Protests in the City by our friend David Clark, the pastor of the Steeple Church in Dundee, Scotland.

He began by talking about the Occupy Movement and how it touched his city of Dundee. Rather than ignoring or bad-talking the movement – which sadly has been the response of many Christians – David Clark went out and spoke with them and asked them about their concerns. This wasn’t very difficult as they were camping next to the church property. He was able to identify the concerns that they shared and discussed ways in which they could respond together.

This really challenged our community to start to think about our participation in the city and the church’s task of prophetic engagement.

READING: ISAIAH 65:19-25

I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.

“Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them;
They will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.
They will not labour in vain,
nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.

Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.

The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD.

“The three big problems in Dundee are homelessness, disaffected youth, and economic instability.”  Alessandro (Leader of Occupy Dundee).

TIME TO REFLECT

What would the citizens of Galati say are the top three problems in their city?

What do we mean by ‘presence of God’? How should Christian communities (churches +) make more visible the ‘presence of God’ in the city?

What do you observe are the consequences of the present recession in Galati?

Dărnicia creștină și zeciuiala

Am împărtășit ceva despre dărnicia duminică la biserica emanuel din Galați: dărnicia.

Poți urmări și prezentarea PowerPoint:

Embezzlement in the Church

This is an excellent article on tithing in the Church by my pastor, Ray Mayhew. He compares contemporary Christian giving to the generosity of the Church in history. Embezzlement: The Corporate Sin of Contemporary Christianity?

Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational”

I just finished Dan Ariely’s interesting book Predictably Irrational. Ariely is a professor of behavioral economics. The book is about certain, often unconscious, factors influence our decision-making, even if they are illogical. Here’s a summary:

Chapter 1

We buy and make decisions in a context of comparison.

Chapter 2

In our act of situating decisions in context, we apply arbitrary coherence to our choices. One choice becomes the anchor price (the price we consider paying for something) by which we compare other options. (See the TedTalk below.)

Chapter 3

We choose something that is “free” even if it is not the most economical deal because we believe that we have nothing to lose by taking the “free.”

Chapter 4

We differentiate in our behavior between social norms and market norms. For example, when we pay for something (market norm), we legitimize our consumption (even if it is extreme or immoral); when we receive something freely, we self-moderate our consumption (because the good is seen as social).

Chapter 5

By attaching monetary value to work, we detach work from social norms.

Chapter 6

When the primal part of our brain that is related to survival (fight-flight, hunger, thirst, sex, etc.) is aroused, we make decisions that we otherwise think we should not make.

Chapter 7

Even though it is not in our best interest, we predictably procrastinate and struggle with self-control (primarily because there is no immediate gratification attached to undesired tasks).

Chapter 8

We estimate the value of our own possessions to be much higher than what others estimate them to be.

Chapter 9

Choices drive our curiosity, and curiosity, generally, has negative repercussions on decision-making.

Chapter 10

We perceive reality through what we expect or desire reality to portray.

Chapter 11

Paying a higher price makes us feel like we are getting a higher quality product, even when the product is a placebo.

Chapter 12

Trust – a crucial component of the economy and society – is easily degraded (causing a reflex of mistrust towards marketers and politicians).

Chapter 13

We tend to lie/cheat a little – even if it does long-term harm to ourselves (like diminishing public trust) – except when we are conscious of moral commitments (like the Ten Commandments) at the time of the temptation. (I would like to see Ariely’s experiment in this chapter using W.W.J.D? My hunch is that it would be less effective than the 10 Commandments because it is vague (W.W.J.D? is determined by the questioner).

Chapter 14

We rationalize dishonesty, but less so when we deal personally in cash transactions.

Chapter 15

Our economic behavior is sometimes determined not by acquiring that which pleases us but rather by that which makes us look good or unique in the eyes of others.

I’ll let you read the book to better understand how these behaviors influence our irrational decision-making.

Fundamental Questions about the Wall-Street Protests

A few days ago, I posted an exchange of comments on a Fox News article about the Wall-Street Protests. You can read that by clicking here.

The comments on that post are mainly concerned with the protesters and their agenda. Here I would like to post what I see are some fundamental questions that are raised by the protesters and invite your thoughts:

– Is the current situation in which 1% of the population controls 40% of the wealth just or unjust?

– Is the fact that the very wealthy are getting wealthier and the poor poorer just or unjust?

– Is there a problem with the current system (which implies economics, politics and religion)?

– Do you have proposals for reformation or transformation?

Noua Ordine Mondială: Lumea rămâne fără mâncare

Cei de la Business Insider au realizat o lista cu 12 semne care arată că lumea rămâne fără mâncare. Enumerăm doar câteva dintre ele:

1. Mai mult de 3 miliarde de oameni, aproximativ jumătate din populația lumii, trăiesc cu mai puțin de 2 dolari pe zi.

2. În ultimii ani, prețul global al alimentelor a crescut cu 37%.

3. Prețurile unor cereale “cheie” precum porumbul sau grâul au explodat de-a dreptul: de exemplu, prețul porumbului a crescut cu 77% într-un singur an, orezul cu 39%, iar zahărul cu 64%.

4. Conform FAO, prețul alimentelor va cunoaște o creștere de 240% față de nivelul din 2004.

5. Se estimează că 80% din populația globului trăiește în state unde diferența de venit dintre bogați și săraci se adâncește.

6. Aproximativ un miliard de oameni se duc seara la culcare înfometați. În fiecare zi!

7. La fiecare 3,6 secunde cineva sfârșește de foame,  trei sferturi fiind copii sub 5 ani.

8. Se estimează că toată Africa deține doar 1% din întreaga avere a lumii, spre deosebire de bogaţii lumii( estimaţi ca având o pondere de 0,5% din populația totală) care dețin 35%.

U.S. Foreign Aid Spending

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/five-ways-foreign-aid-could-cost-less-while-doing-more/2011/05/09/AFSEcm5G_blog.html

 

 

 

How Generous is the American Church?

Over the past few weeks, I blogged about the vast income disparity between the rich and the poor – even within the U.S. – and about the meager aid given by the U.S. One could argue that the burden of the problem lies with the very rich. While this may be true, I don’t understand why someone would be motivated to be generous or philanthropic – someone, that is, who is not a Christian. Christians are called to love, to respond compassionately to the needs of others, and to share what they have with others. This is one of the main mandates Christ gives to his church. So, the important question isn’t “how generous is the U.S.?”, but rather, “how generous is the church?”

The church in America is the wealthiest church in the history of the world. In his book, The Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns tells us that the total income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion. It would take just a little over 1% of the income of American Christians to lift the poorest 1 billion in the world out of extreme poverty.

American Christians, who make up about 5 percent of the Church worldwide, control half of global Christian wealth.

If tithing is defined as giving 10 percent or more of one’s pretax income to the church or to nonprofit ministries, only about 5% of American households tithe. The number of those called “born again” Christians in America who tithe is higher: 9%. Of those who call themselves “evangelical Christians,” 24% tithe. That still leaves 76% who are not tithing!

If we are not giving 10%, how much are we giving? The average giving of American church members in 2005 (pre-economic recession) was just 2.58 percent of their income, about 75% less than the oft-promoted 10%. Sadly, as our incomes have increased, our giving has significantly declined. In 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, giving averaged 3.3 percent, 27 percent more than what we gave in 2005.

If we look at where the money goes after it is received by the churches, we find that just about 2% of it goes to overseas missions of any kind. The other 98% stays in the U.S., within our churches and communities.

American Christians, the wealthiest Christians in all history are making to the world is just about 2 percent of 2 percent – actually about five ten-thousandths of our income. That amounts to 6 pennies per person per day that we give through our churches to the rest of the world.

If American Christians gave 10 percent of their incomes instead of the 2.5 percent we currently give, we would have an extra $168 billion to spend in funding the work of the Church worldwide!

How Generous Are We Americans?

While we were in the States this past year, we had many opportunities to share about our community, our ministry, and our experiences outside the U.S. It was interesting to hear people talk proudly about how generous Americans are towards other nations. And in a way, we are.

Looking at the U.S. government’s foreign aid in 2009, you see that it approached 30 billion dollars, more than double the totals of the next closest nations. However, if you look at the sums as a percentage of Gross National Income, the graph tells a quite different story.

Not only is the U.S. giving far below their target of 0.7% of the Gross National Income, but we are amongst the least generous of the world’s wealthiest nations.

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