Your Two Cents: America’s Beginnings

This will be my last straight up political post for a while because like I said, I’m not a political person and I get tired of talking about it pretty quickly. But this question came up a couple months back when I sat down with some teenagers for coffee and discussion and I wasn’t sure how to answer. I alluded to it very briefly at the end of my last post, but I think it needs to be explored a little more. Here’s the question:

Were the American colonists morally justified in rebelling against England and fighting for independence?

Where in the Bible does it say that the people are free to overthrow governments they don’t like? John Locke said that the people should overthrow bad governments, but the Bible tells us to submit to the leaders as long as that submission doesn’t conflict with our duty to Christ. I’m not sure that having taxes we don’t like falls into that category. So what do you think? Can this be justified or were the colonists wrong to rebel?

What’s So Great About Capitalism?

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2:44-45

I’m not a politician. I’m not even a political person. Truth be told, laughing at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is about the extent of my political involvement on a normal day. So as I bring this question up, I approach it as one seeking answers, not one arguing for a position. If you want to pick a fight about economic policy, you’re not going to get it from me. Feel free to fight amongst yourselves in the comments.

So here’s the question: I constantly hear church goers complain about the president and one of the major complaints I hear is that he is a “socialist.” They spit that last word out like it tastes bad. To hear them talk, with Obama in charge we’re just a few steps away from being Russia under Stalin. I overheard a conversation a few weeks back where both sides reminisced about the good old days where everyone knew who the bad guys were (communists and socialists.) The fact of the matter is that Obama’s no socialist and he’s not about to turn our country into a socialist nation, but even if he was, would that really make him a “bad guy”? Can we really frame this argument in moral terms so that socialism equals evil and capitalism equals good? And even more interesting for me, why is capitalism thought to be the automatic moral preference for Christians? Is a belief in capitalism inherently the more “Christian” or moral position?

Socialism seems to only be a dirty word in America. On the other side of the pond, many politicians proudly wear the title of “socialist” and run for office under socialist parties. They make no secret of their disdain for the free market. I know there are socialists in America, but as far as I know, most of them have to avoid that label is they want to get elected.

Jesus commands the church to care for the poor and says that the things we do to help the least among us are done unto him as well (Matthew 25:34-45). Jesus’ half brother James even says that taking care of widows and orphans is the mark of true religion (James 1:27). The early church shared everything they had, selling their possessions and distributing the money to those who had needs (Acts 2:44-45). Caring for the poor, helping those unable to help themselves, the redistribution of wealth… that sounds a lot like the things that socialists talk about. I realize that many Christians will respond that these verses deal with the actions and responsibilities of believers and churches, not governments. However, couldn’t a Christian be in favor of any work that supports the poor, both within the church and the government?

When people talk about not wanting to take their “hard earned money” and give it away to others, I hear argument like the one I found on this blog: “Capitalism rewards hard work, creativity, service, and (not so good) cunning.” The line of thinking seems to be that capitalism is great because it rewards hard work and creativity. It’s great because it encourages people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and make a living. Does capitalism hurt anybody? Only “the foolish, the lazy, the poor, the sick, and the ungifted.” In other words, if you don’t have money, it’s because you’re lazy or stupid and you did it to yourself. You made your bed, now sleep in it and don’t expect any help from anyone else. This is the Christian view? Not to mention the fact that in the desire to gain capital, people and businesses frequently use and exploit the “least of these” in order to get the most labor for the least money.

Socialism may have some major problems with the way it works out in real life implementation, but is capitalism really any better or more moral? Both fall under some shady gray area in some respects. I guess my problem isn’t with either view as much as it is with the idea that there is only one official “Christian” view on economic policy that all Jesus followers must hold. I have the feeling that even in the church this argument has more to do with party affiliations (and everyone knows real Christians are Republicans) than with biblical reasoning.

The fact of the matter is that the Bible doesn’t endorse any particular economic policy, political party, or even a system of government (How many leaders in the Bible became leaders by gaining a majority of the electoral votes?) Shouldn’t two Christians with different political views feel free to express those views without being seen as heretical or even “evil?” Isn’t it possible for churches to refrain from demonizing any minority views? People who hold these views often are afraid to speak up for fear of how the congregation will react.

Isn’t the church supposed to be more about freedom than fear?

12 Posts in One Day?

In the span of a few hours this evening, twelve new blog posts showed up on this site.

No, I haven’t been hacked and reading this blog isn’t going to cause you to get emails from Nigerian princes. I’ve just taken some time to consolidate all of my various dead blogs into this one blog. I’ve taken all the posts from my old Xanga page, my MySpace blog, and even an article or two that I wrote for online magazines, and added them here as posts.

They’re dated according to their original post date, so that’s where they’ll show up in the archives. Now if somebody decides they want to read everything I’ve written online (bless you, good person), they can do that in one place. Happy reading!

Edit: Make that 18 posts in one day. In 2008, I did most of my blogging on my youth ministry’s blog. That site is gone now, but I still found all the articles that weren’t announcements and added them too.

Blogging, Self-Censoring, and Youth Ministry

Holy cow! Is Jody really posting a new blog? Yes, yes I am.

Inspired by my amazing wife’s new blog, I think I’m going to give this thing another shot. You see, I used to post fairly regularly but somewhere along the way something changed. My early blog posts were passionate manifestos about life and the church. I confessed to sins and struggles while challenging traditions and taboos for what a youth minister could write about publicly (a few examples here, here, here, here, and oh my goodness here.) What changed? Did I mellow out a little as I got older? Did I realize I was going nuts over stuff that didn’t really matter? Did I just get less cocky? Some, but that’s not the main reason my blog cooled down and eventually died.

I started going to a church where church members know how to use the internet.

At my last church, where the average member could tell you personal stories about WWI, I could post my thoughts and feelings in relative anonymity. Heck, I taught the pastor how to use email. No matter what I posted (“Sex is good!” “Obama might not be the devil!” “The church does stupid stuff sometimes!”), I didn’t have to worry about any repercussions. But once people in my church could actually read what I was writing, I got timid.

You see, as a youth minister, I’ve never really felt what you might call “job security.” From what I’ve seen and heard, youth ministers are apparently very fireable. I would hate for a blog post to be the reason I’m flipping burgers to feed my family. However…

I don’t think faking it is the right way to be a minister. I don’t think the way to do church is for me to simply be silent when I feel like I’m in the minority. I don’t feel like I can live up to my calling without be authentic.

So I’m going to start posting again, this time with freedom. I know people will read it and will probably disagree with me at times, but I pray that where we have differences, grace will abound. I preach about being the person that God designed you to be and not letting other people’s opinions be the main governing factor in your life… I think it’s time I lived up to that as well.

Classic Column Sunday: Ask Mr. Answer Man

Greetings common people! I am Mr. Answer Man! Please, stop applauding; it embarrasses me… Okay, don’t stop. A rather disturbing fact has recently been brought to my attention during my meetings at Janitors Anonymous. (I myself am not a janitor. I like to go to discuss my personal struggle to grow sideburns.) More and more papers that are wadded up and thrown into the floors of high school classes have failing grades on them. I first attributed this to stupidity, but after further thought, I determined that students simply do not a proper place to reference their scholastic questions.

That is the purpose of this column, to send the message to our younger generations that they are not alone in the quest for the perfect scholastic year. (Nor the perfect party. Mail me suggestions.) A extensive study performed by the same scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep and taught Pauly Shore how to speak reveals that careful attention and application of all that is presented within can give a person an unquestionable grasp of all things intelligent. When you have a question that has troubled your mind for countless hours, just address me and I will answer it so simply that you will feel my intelligence radiating though the newsprint. Ask away, minions!

Q: When did civilization first appear on Earth?

A: There are many differing opinions as to when man first achieved a level of living that could adequately be described as “civilized.” In my right opinion, I believe that true civilization did not begin until the year of my birth, 1981.

Q: Okay, so, like, there’s this girl in my Algebra class who’s, like, really cool and stuff, and I’m thinking about asking her to go see a movie or something. But she’s, like, really smart so I’m like, “What should I do?” And my friends are like, “Whatever!” So I’m like, “For real?” And they’re like, “Totally!” So my question is, do girls like that like smarter guys and stuff, and how do I get smarter?

A: This is obviously a desperate case. What you need, my boy, is a crash course in how to think. If gorillas can be taught sign language then surely you cannot be too much more difficult. Under my watchful eye, I can take you from a slobbering gutter cretin to a Mensa member to end all Mensa memberships. I could do this, but frankly, I just do not care enough about you or your pathetic love life. She probably would prefer that you had a brain in your head, but unfortunately for you, there are guys like me out there to steal all the thinking girls away.

Q: You’re rather conceited, aren’t you?

A: One of my intelligence and station need not turn to conceit, as conceit is thinking too highly of oneself. Since no one can think too highly of me, then it would not me considered conceit. Besides, you dress funny…

*Ahem* Hey guys, this is Jody interrupting here for a second. Mr. Answer Man is not exactly working out so well so I have decided not to let him work with this column anymore. You can never tell what a little attention will do to a person in the spotlight. I know there are still a few questions out there so I’ve searched high and low for a replacement, and, lo and behold, I found one where I least thought to look… hiding in my refrigerator. Here he is folks, Mr. Randomly Generated Thought Man.

Q: Why aren’t there anymore dinosaurs?

A: Dinosaurs and their disappearance are one of life’s great mysteries. Let’s go ride our bikes!

Q: Okay, so, like, I still don’t know what do to about that girl in my Algebra class. That last guy was a loser. So, like, what’s up with that deal about the chicks liking smarter guys?

A: Girls and their disappearance are one of life’s great mysteries. But let us not dwell on these matters. Louis Armstrong played the trumpet, and Frank Sinatra was Old Blue Eyes. I miss the refrigerator.

Jody again. No more question and answer times in this column. I am truly sorry about all this mess. I guess that there are some things man was never meant to understand, namely calculus, dinosaurs, and females.

Classic Column… um, Tuesday: I Was Born in a Small Town

Okay, so I was supposed to do these things on Sunday nights, and okay, I missed a couple of weeks. I’ve been busy, alright? Just get off my back, already!

*deep breath*

Okay, I’m better now. Anyway, this week’s randomly selected column came from my sophomore year at Union. Enjoy!

For all you in Sparta who have always dreaming of leaving our fair city and moving to the city, I want to share with you a few of the joys that I’ve discovered about our little town and other small towns in Tennessee verses what I’ve learned about city life over my last year and a half in Jackson.

First off, Superman’s boyhood town was called Smallville. That’s got to say something about the benefits of small town living.

Only in a small town can you call the bank when you have car trouble. I’m staying with a friend of mine and his family in the little town of Gadsden during this January semester to save on school expenses as well as allowing me to escape from my dorm for a month. Last week I was the only one left at the house in the morning at the time that I was supposed to leave to get to my class. Now, I take certain things for granted in my life so that I assume I have nothing to worry about. For instance, when I sit down behind the steering wheel of my truck and turn the ignition key, I expect for the engine to roar to life (and it does roar pretty loud) and take me to where I want to go. Well, you know what happens when you assume, don’t you? Since this is a family column I don’t think I can tell you outright, but basically you end up looking like a donkey of some sort. My truck didn’t even click.

I’d left my lights on after a long night working at the hotel the day before and they had been on for roughly 24 hours. Needless to say my battery was deader than a doornail. (Just a side note here: Exactly how dead is a doornail? For that matter, what is a doornail?) With everyone else gone and not knowing Gadsden at all, I had no one to call and no way to get a car to jump me off. I called my girlfriend Alanna at work (too far away to drive) and she suggested I call one of the places in Gadsden. Now, as far as I can tell, the actual town of Gadsden consists of a store, a bank, and a church. Of the three, I knew the name of the bank. So, out of other options, I called the bank to report a dead car battery. I explained my problem to the very friendly teller (who laughed at me), and she told me that she would call her husband who was at home with their little boy to see if he could come jump my truck off. Within an hour, he and his little boy pulled into the driveway, got my truck started, and sent me on my way.

Where else on earth but in a small town could you call the bank when you have car trouble?
On the flipside, here in the city of Jackson things are quite a bit different. Jackson is the fifth largest city in Tennessee (which really isn’t saying a whole lot) and functions like a city. In Jackson, I have police officers come up to the front desk in the hotel showing me mug shots and asking “Have you seen this man?” I don’t know what he’s done, but if I do see him, I’ll crawl up under the desk until he’s gone.

I don’t know exactly what it is about rural living, but I know that when I’m away from it, I miss it. That’s why I love my little diversion in Gadsden this month. It’s nice to have a real house to go back to in the evenings after school or work. I like it actually being dark outside when I go to bed without the glare of street lights and flashing signs. I guess before I got to Jackson, life in the country was another one of those things I took for granted. Never again though.

I have to leave now and call the bank again. I think my stereo is going out.

I May Have Found My Audience

Thanks to a handy little Facebook application that I discovered today, I have new reason to continue blogging. Using NetworkedBlogs, you can follow this blog on Facebook and get updates every time I make a new post. So basically, I will know that people are at least somewhat aware of my blog, and that’s all the motivation I need to keep writing.

Needy? Nah… let’s just say my little boy’s need to be the center of attention is something he comes by honestly. Speaking of my little entertainer, I love this video.

Classic Column Sunday: Hide Your Cheeseburgers! Here Come The Fat Police!

I thought that for a little change of pace on Sunday nights, I would start posting some of my old columns. I wrote a weekly column for the Expositor (Sparta’s local paper) called “Adolescent Attitudes” when I was a senior in high school and during my early years of college. I had a ton of fun with it, and I still have a lot of affection for these old pieces. I’m not sure that anyone can really call any of these “classics,” but since it’s my blog I can do whatever I want. If you read these columns the first time, you can relive the experience. If you’re a first time reader, well, I was an odd young man.

I’m not sure about all the legal stuff with copyright, so I’ll just clarify that I was the original author and these columns were originally published in the Sparta Expositor.

Here’s a little news item from the world of really, really stupid people. In an article in the Addictive Behaviors journal, Yale professor Kelly Brownell has recommended that a special tax be placed on fatty foods and that advertisements for these foods should be restricted. The advertising restrictions would include close examination of advertisements for non-food products to see if they promote unhealthy role models. Additionally, if Brownell’s proposal was to become policy, activities that promote good health would receive government subsidies, and those who participated in these behaviors would receive tax breaks.

This is the most terrifying thing I have ever heard.

First off, I would like to note that for the first time ever in this column, I’m actually doing a little bit of research before writing. Normally, I just write whatever the Column Fairy gives to me as I sleep (She’s been a bit lazy lately), but this time I actually looked up some articles on the internet and verified that I knew what I was talking about. I’m pretty proud of myself. But that’s enough patting myself on the back, on with the stupidity.

The reason why this worries me is because I don’t know if I like the idea of the government taking care of me and keeping me from getting fat. I firmly believe that the founding fathers, when writing the Constitution, had the intention of building a country where people can grow as many chins as they like without fear. This “we’re from the government and we’re here to help” type of policy seems to me to be like a the guy who comes up to you when you’re working out and tries to get you to work out more. I’m perfectly happy going about my life with a certain level of physical activity and a high quantity of junk food. I don’t need the government to tell me I should work out more; I already know that. However, if I choose to reduce my fat intake, I’d like it to be for the reasons everyone else does it – to impress other people and look pretty.

In modern society, people really don’t need to be extremely physically fit. What do most people do on a day-to-day basis that requires them to be in good shape? In ancient times you had to be fit to outrun the animals that were lurking around trying to eat them. That’s motivation! The only thing we need exercise for is so that we can do the exercises. We exercise with weights so that we can lift the weights. After lifting the weights, what do we earn? The right to lift more weights!

Proponents of this “fat tax” compare fatty foods to cigarettes because they say that both are harmful and are marketed knowing the harm they will cause. They call this food tax a “sin tax.” Let me now confess that as a college student, I am apparently the chief of sinners. I don’t know of a single food I eat that is not harmful to me in some way. I have become intimately acquainted with McDonald’s this past year, and everyone knows that eating at Mickey D’s is shining example of healthy living. I can’t help it though! At fifty cents a burger, it’s impossible for a poor boy to overlook. I drink coffee by the bucket, and I’m sure that if they can attack fat, soon caffeine will be somewhere among their targets… and that, my friends, is when they will have gone too far.

Picture this scene if you will. It’s the year 2130. Shiny, happy beautiful people with great bodies are walking down the street smiling perfectly white smiles. They are festively dressed in perfectly fitting clothes (It’s much easier to design clothes for the thin.) in honor of a national holiday. It’s Anorexia Day! Those who have been able to reject not only fatty foods, but all foods, are regarded as heroes. Plus, they get incredible government benefits for taking up this cause. In the midst of this, two men – obviously up to no-good – are talking on the street corner. One hands the other a large sum of money in exchange for a indiscreet brown paper bag. The receiver of this parcel, we’ll call him Winston, glances around nervously and then runs to the shelter of his home. As he unwraps his prize, the smell of beef and cheese float into his nostrils. A cheeseburger! The most beautiful cheeseburger in the world! As his teeth close on this miracle, a knock sounds from the door. The door is flung open – the Fat Police! Winston is knocked to ground as he tries to run and the beautiful meat patty falls to onto the ground, ruined. The five-second rule is not enough.

Fight for freedom. Go get a burger, some fries, fried chicken, ice cream, a candy bar, a plate of nachos, a burrito, a pizza, a medium-rare steak, a plate of enchiladas, a roast beef sandwich, or even just plate of fried eggs and country ham. Make the founding fathers proud.