God's Politics

God's Politics


Unless the Lord Builds the House… /by Elizabeth Palmberg/

posted by God's Politics

The U.S. has a massive shortage of affordable housing, but there are some glimmers of hope. Check out Faith Fuels Affordable Housing, an informative page put together by the Religion Newswriters Foundation about the housing crisis – and some of the things people of faith are doing about it.


A few highlights:



According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a person working full time at minimum wage can no longer afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country.


The faith community can’t solve the shortage of affordable housing, but most observers say congregations and religious organizations are having a significant impact in some areas and that they are poised to play an even larger role.


The U.S. House of Representatives is now considering the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act .… The bill moved out of committee July 31, and the House is expected to vote on it after the August recess.

Elizabeth Palmberg is an assistant editor for Sojourners.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(40)
post a comment
Kristen

posted August 31, 2007 at 1:22 pm


My question is, when people loose their homes or have no where to live, why are so many huge church buildings not open for them to have a place to sleep and eat? These programs are all well and good to improve situations over the long term, but how can you find a way to own a home if you do not have a safe shelter at night for yourself and your children? Church own huge amounts of property and often have monstrous buildings – why aren’t those buildings full of people who need a place to sleep every single night?



report abuse
 

Josh

posted August 31, 2007 at 1:46 pm


Kristen – Amen! And also, why don’t more Christians (and I’m pointing directly at myself here) try to find more opportunities to open our OWN homes to people in these situations. Now THAT would be pretty radical…



report abuse
 

Mick Sheldon

posted August 31, 2007 at 2:34 pm


Kristen we had a controversary out here for over a year because a church used their property for a homeless camp . It violated the codes and Seattle took them to court . neigbors made a big issue about it also because of the people were sometimes not people you would want in your neigborhood if you had kids and such . Sort of help the poor but not in my back yard . Also much was made of the fact some of the people had criminal histories and such . But the harder issue was it appeared some people did not want to imporove their way of life , so you have mental illness to deal with also . Its hard to commit people unvoluntarily , and it also takes a people who are willing spend their tax dollars helping those who refuse to get help or want it . Seattle has such liberal policies that its hard to get a real plan , they have this apartment complex that offers free housing , but the alcoholics sign a promise to only get drunk in their apartment . Its like free housing , drink yourself to death , just stay at home to do it . I think froma Christian view that is not helping , that is just a non judgemnatal culture hiding the problem on the taxpayer dime .
The way the church today I do not see any solutions . Most churches help people when they go their for help , but it is short lived and they are directed to a government agency where they begin to play leap frog going from agency to the next . Its a full time job being poor when the government gets you sometimes .
Government helping is good , but I have always believed home ownership , and helping the poor afford home ownership is the key . Just giving someone a place to stay is a humanterian act , but helping the person to stand on their own is what the church should be doing , to me that is the way to progress and real support for the poor . I hope all people can agree on that . Just 30 years ago I had a low paying job , installed shocks, mufflers and tires . Yet I could afford to pay rent in a studio or a dump of an old house . That studio or dump is now out of range for a person in a similiar situation . Also it is amazing that poor people own Tvs, cars , and such . The way we count the poor , and how the poor live is not always appropriate to our thinking , or at least my thinking to what poor is .
But if you work 40 hours a week , I would hope we could all work towards a way of life so that person could live somewhere where the roof does not leak , no pets that crawl in the dark , and not have to go without a meal to pay their rent .
I live in the highest minimm wage state , and it could still not allow a person to afford to live here unless they had made co living arrangements . We are next to Seattle . Couch surfing has become standard in the vocabulary among the working poor , especially for many young people who are not even statistically counted I am sure .



report abuse
 

N.M. Rod

posted August 31, 2007 at 3:01 pm


Every day my email inbox has articles forwarded to me by some Christian brethren, which are basically frightening diatribes against immigrants, the poor and other marginalised groups warning that they are to blame for America’s woes. These are definitely not letters of love or calls to eradicate obstacles; but rather for fear-based eradication of the people themselves (mostly by making their presence in your own particular backyard so legally and socially difficult that they will head to some other place.)
Most of the reasons given is that these people are in some way threatening your own lifestyle, property values, cultural identity, employment, pay scale or other middle class values that you are desperately trying to hold onto yourself. They appeal to fear of losing one’s own place and position.
Thus, there is no sympathy for those who slip into poverty as wages and jobs are downsized or outsourced or those who no longer have health insurance and fall sick and then bankrupt. They become pert of the great other that then is cut loose from the church community and has to disappear.
This unfortunate response phenomenon is actually originating in Christian circles.
I guess it’s like the sheep who realise some of their number are getting plucked from around the edges of the flock, but choose to just ignore it and try to move quietly closer to the safe center for their own protection.
America – Land of Pauper-tunity?



report abuse
 

jd

posted August 31, 2007 at 3:43 pm


Kristin,
Your solution sounds simple, but it’s not. When Hurricane Katrina happened, my church which is huge and could have hosted a number of families, was not able to. The reason, we did not meet all the local standards for allowing folks to live there. It was amazing what ridiculous regulations there were that kept us from helping. And we only wanted to do this for a short period of time. The other issue is where churches are located. My church is located in a very affluent part of town, and if attempted something like you said it would take all of 5 minutes for the protests and screams to begin.



report abuse
 

Eric

posted August 31, 2007 at 3:49 pm


Kristen – If you go to the link that Elizabeth provides they talk about large churches working to address this problem.



report abuse
 

Mick Sheldon

posted August 31, 2007 at 3:52 pm


N.M. Rod said
This unfortunate response phenomenon is actually originating in Christian circles.
Me
I don’t think they are originating in Christian circles . maybe repeating it , which is unfortunate . People in general have always blamed someone for our woes in our culture , and almost always minorities . Hispanic population has risen somewhat in our area , but I have never heard that as a reason for our housing affordability woes . The blame here by the right goes to strict envirnomental laws our state has passed , the realtors and republican party main thru here are property rights . But I don’t see realtors advocating for affordable housing as much as they do for nice homes that sell for much money .
Our left controlled state has not really addressed the issue yet , and I am not sure what the plan will be . So far they have ignored it except for rhetoric .
Has anyone come up with any solutions ? Blaming those who blame others gets us no where either NM Rod . Especially sterotyping certain Christians , your smarter then that .
The supply and demand factor has much to do with it , so I guess that is why way people blame immigration . But I see that as illogical myself . Because the problem exists in areas where immigration is not even a factor .
It is just baffling to me how the price of homes have gone way pass inflation , its unbelievable .



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted August 31, 2007 at 5:56 pm


“Church own huge amounts of property and often have monstrous buildings – why aren’t those buildings full of people who need a place to sleep every single night?”
That is a very valid question. First of all, Eric is correct that many churches simply are not allowed to, for regulatory and insurance reasons. However, many churches who spen inordinate amount on buildings could do much more to serve their communities.
And hosting Matchbox 20 concerts doesn’t count, not that I am directing that to anyone in particular… Cough…



report abuse
 

N.M. Rod

posted August 31, 2007 at 8:54 pm


“Blaming those who blame others”
“Not originating in Christian circles”
“You’re smarter than that”
I am not kidding. These folks (including our kindly Southern Baptist pastor) and various deacons, retired friends and others send this stuff out with their own comments prefixed: “This is right on” “Every thinking American Christian needs to heed this warning before it’s too late” “I usually don’t pass this kind of thing along, but my former seminary professor sent this to my attention” and on and on.
It is the most nativist, xenophopic cant you could dream up, it is true, much of it drawn from what I recognise is the fringe of right wing flag-waving jingoistic politics.
I am appalled that people who I know personally as generally very kind could get caught up in this very hysterical “the survival of our Christian Nation is at stake, the culture of our Godly Founding Fathers” kind of stuff.
It has a lot of fear of the poor and anyone who is not white, English-speaking middle-class.
It’s always heavy on militarism, law-enforcement, prison-building,
draconian punishments to supposedly hold back the rising tides of evil.
It’s really, really strong on telling people to be afraid. Lots of emphasis on stockpiling weapons, too.
It is extreme in its anti-intellectualism and narrowness to a very great degree.
I guess, perhaps, the money-raising appeals wouldn’t work so well without a high level of demonisation and fear-mongering.
Now I get some leftist over the top stuff, too, but it doesn’t ever come close to this (The ACLU can exaggerate and demonise pretty well the Christian Right in its direct-mail letters, but this stuff sure makes it easy), and moreover, it doesn’t come from my fellow Christians personally recommended the way this stuff does.
I think it’s all horribly poisonous – the political equivalent of shouting “Fire!” falsely in a crowded theatre, and while it does have many in our church hyped up, and presumably it produces something for someone, it’s a genie that once released from the bottle can’t be easily returned, and will have destructive hurricane-like results that even its initial authors can’t control.
So where is the Holy Spirit in all this? It’s just not enough to point fingers and try to say, “Hey, they do it too! Mommy, he started it!”



report abuse
 

Paul C. Quillman

posted September 1, 2007 at 10:19 am


Dr George Grant (no relation to the Canadian) published a book many years ago called “Bringing in the Sheeves: Transforming Poverty into Productivity”. It gives a great deal of practical examples of how the Church can and should engage the poor. You can get a copy of it at
http://www.amazon.com/Bringing-Sheaves-Transforming-Poverty-Productivity/dp/0943497345/ref=sr_1_1/103-9977125-0827003?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1188656083&sr=8-1,
or you can read it online at
http://www.freebooks.com/
Paul



report abuse
 

jurisnaturalist

posted September 1, 2007 at 10:21 am


My heart (and dollars) go out to those who find themselves in tough situations, where finding affordable housing is difficult.
As might be expected, I find more fault in government programs for causing the problem than in being able to provide solutions. But I’ll skip the usual rant this time.
First, I recommend that people in these situations lower their expectations. Wait, actually I recommend that EVERYONE lower their expectations. While its nice to have houses where the ratio of rooms per person is 3:1 or 4:1, with his and hers walk in closets, most of us cannot afford that lifestyle. The majority of people living in those homes can’t afford them either.
But for the majority of people out there, living in a home where the ratio of rooms per person is 1:1 is quite livable. For a family of four that would involve two bedrooms a common room and a bathroom. Millions of college students live like this for five years. Some for seven (they’re called doctors…lol)
It is also possible for people to share living quarters more efficiently. If two or three of these low-income families were to pay for housing together they would get much better rates.
So, the “shortage” we observe in housing we observe can be adjusted in one fell swoop by “reducing demand” – in other words, if everyone lowered their housing expectations there would be plenty to go around.
Which leads me to another question: why do people want so much house? Better yet: are the motivations behind buying large quantities of housing consistent with the Christian Ethic?
I would have to say no, but qualify that answer by insisting that only the Holy Spirit is in the position to convict individuals regarding this and other similar decisions.
It’s like asking if it is right for Christians to have large families when there are so many orphans. I can’t judge that decision for anyone other than me, and then I must listen to the Spirit.
Also, all of these ideas must be tested against the false belief in limited supplies of wealth. There is an unlimited supply of wealth in this world, and all that is required is the human energy to go and extract that wealth, plus the liberty for that human energy to act.
Finally, a word about “solving” the problem. I don’t know that God wants the problem solved. I think He is more interested in testing the church and trying to get it to do the right thing. He has compassion for the suffering, but He will comfort them in the end. The real focus of the church ought not to be fixing problems by any means necessary, but working to become the church and to share His compassion and justice by utilizing voluntary means towards comforting the least of these. This prevents the church from becoming yet another political pawn.
Nathanael Snow



report abuse
 

N.M. Rod

posted September 1, 2007 at 12:09 pm


It’s fine to speak of putting more families in fewer homes, with multiple people (and families) sharing apartments.
I seem to recall that this is the mode of living forced on those in communist countries. Odd that those who worship at the grail of private enterprise would make such a suggestion. Isn’t that what got Jimmy Carter in the most trouble, when he called for diminished expectations and people went over in droves to Ronald Reagan who promised instead no limits in the 1980 election? I was there!
In most areas of the nation that aren’t slums or college dorms, though, bylaws make it illegal for more than one family – unrelated persons – to share a single family dwelling.
The “American Dream” is for each family to have their own home. Anyone who messes with that is going to get burned most badly politically.
Let’s face it, private sector greed, fuelled by public sector loan inflation, has caused housing to become unaffordable.
It seems many are being choked by Adam Smith’s “Unseen Hand.”
Regardless of ideology, private greed somehow causing public good flies in the face of the warning: “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
We’re going to have to press for some changes that don’t involve just protesting about abortion and holding homosexual “marriage” in abeyance.
Do we have the courage to challenge our co-belligerents in the Republican Party on these other matters which may in many cases be against their own personal financial interests?



report abuse
 

squeaky

posted September 1, 2007 at 1:41 pm


“Eric is correct that many churches simply are not allowed to, for regulatory and insurance reasons. ”
I think these and other arguments about church facilities presented so far are simply reality. So maybe the bigger question is why are churches spending so much money on these huge, multi-million dollar facilities? Why not instead build a facility that is regulated, zoned, and has the correct insurance to provide resources for the poor? I can understand why a church may want a big church because they have a huge congregation, but I can’t understand some of the spending decisions they make. It’s really not necessary to have the softest, plushest, squishiest chairs, for example. The granite decorative stone I have seen in some churches is also very unnecessary, and quite costly. Why not build a bare bones facility so the bulk of the church’s finances can be used for serving the community?
Many more conservative-minded folk that post on this site say the government shouldn’t care for the poor because it is the church’s responsibility. With the advent of the multimillion dollar megachurch facilities, it seems to me there is plenty of money among Christianity to help the poor, even WHEN our money is “taken by the government” in taxes. It’s more a matter of spending priority than anything else, isn’t it?
I can understand the argument against the government taking the responsibility of caring for the poor from Christians, and I even agree with it in part–but until the church (in general and as a whole–I know there are many very notable exceptions of churches that do take on this mission) shows it is willing to take on the responsibility, then it is hard for me to go over to that camp.



report abuse
 

Mick Sheldon

posted September 1, 2007 at 3:35 pm


Nathanael Snow said
Finally, a word about “solving” the problem. I don’t know that God wants the problem solved. I think He is more interested in testing the church
Me
I think you are gettinga little too deep here. I likied your points about the having smaller homes or shared occupancy . That is already being done too .
In our neck of the woods , buildable lots are very expensive . So when a builder buys one , he puts a home where he can make more money , which is bigger .
Legislation requiring new homes be built in certain areas , or spaced out some times to 10 acres apart in others have really caused a big political ruckus in our state . Its almost like medical care politically , but this time the left is saying too bad if you can’t afford rent , your on your own . We need our earth pristine for our future kids , and the right is saying but our “present” kids can’t make it on their own with the price of housing .
Its a supply and demand problem , and the solution lies in somehow making affordable housing being a a good business to be in for providing to others . The church has a role , but we should be thinking of having a system long term here also .
habbitat for Humanisty and their are programs where people help in the building process of the home they get support and lower interest rates .



report abuse
 

Mick Sheldon

posted September 1, 2007 at 4:33 pm


With the advent of the multimillion dollar megachurch facilities, it seems to me there is plenty of money among Christianity to help the poor, even WHEN our money is “taken by the government” in taxes. It’s more a matter of spending priority than anything else, isn’t it?
Me
One thing is valid to say , that the most generous of people for donating to poverty are the same Christians that get stereotyped for only caring about abortion and gay rights .
Should Wallis give his money to the poor , or should he give the money he gets in the name of religion to political causes reflected by one party . To me that is just as wrong as the mega churches . To have churches that promote Christ , but fail to clothe the poor, take care of the orphans to me is just as wrong as using Christ to pronmpte political change without including Christ to be included in the poor’s help .
I see his political advocacy from the left hurting the poor in the final consequences , they are band aids , not solutions . I am not saying that to be hurtful , its just my honest view point . Heck , if he succeeds , I hope I am wrong .
Family matters are what many see as the great equalizer Squeaky . Its so obvious to me , I wonder about the left leaning Christians why they don’t get it . Its so obvious .
Poverty is linked to unmarried parents , single parents , divorce , and lack of a HS education . Its a common factor , it is of course a cultural change that may be too late to reverse . But the left ridiculing the Christians on this blog for seeing that plainly is really inappropriate . , Because divorce , and the poverty and heart ache it has cause has effected our own lives, famikly and children . ,
Our churches are less active because of it . and easily seen in minority communities , well, like you said prioritys .
To me the answer was non political , it was spreading the good news , and people being supported and we lifting up each other to help us honor those Bibical Principles that keep families safe . I am sure some well meaning Pastors thought the Mega Chruches might be a way to get that done , perhaps it was vanity , but your right , does not look good when their is so much need out there .



report abuse
 

Mick Sheldon

posted September 1, 2007 at 5:37 pm


NM ROD said
Isn’t that what got Jimmy Carter in the most trouble, when he called for diminished expectations and people went over in droves to Ronald Reagan who promised instead no limits in the 1980 election? I was there!
I thought this was a good point . Carter did say just accept it as is . No hope for having a better life , and the American Dream of having a home that is comfortable and affordable , shared by your own family is something that promotes our culture . I hope I never have to tell my Grand Kids home ownership was something that happened with black and white TV , and not for just rich people .
But the smaller homes is also envirnomentally a good idea also , unless we come up with ways to produce elecicity and such .



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted September 1, 2007 at 6:52 pm


“It’s really not necessary to have the softest, plushest, squishiest chairs, for example. The granite decorative stone I have seen in some churches is also very unnecessary, and quite costly. Why not build a bare bones facility so the bulk of the church’s finances can be used for serving the community?”
I agree, in general. In defense of some mega-churches, they want people to feel comfortable, and want to move away from some elements (e.g. church pews) that are associated with negative religious experiences. It is a way of reaching non-Christians who would be content to sit on the couch and watch the football game on a Sunday.
Of course, some churches go way too far, but you have to be careful when you make judgments about the way churches (and their attendees) spend their money without knowing their expenses.
“Many more conservative-minded folk that post on this site say the government shouldn’t care for the poor because it is the church’s responsibility.”
For the record, this isn’t really the way I think about it. Church’s are to help the poor (and, really, any non-Christian) to understand Christ’s love. A government’s job is to ensure that people have the opportunity not to be poor in as many circumstances as possible. Obviously, I disagree with many here as to the best way to do that.



report abuse
 

jurisnaturalist

posted September 1, 2007 at 8:27 pm


N.M. Rod,
You first made a great point that public sector activity had a large part in aggravating the current housing situation. Easy money to already wealthy individuals which encourages them to use up more building resources than they otherwise would does indeed make prices rise – as they did for a few years. Alas, all good things should come to an end, it is yet to be seen whether they will.
But you wrongly attribute to Adam Smith’s hand – that’s the Invisible Hand – the consequences.
For the market to work the state has to stay out of the way. All public sector activity will create interference in the market, and result in less than optimal allocation of resources.
The same occurs when volunteers donate resources to the needy. The survival of the fittest breaks down, and it’s a good thing, too. It is, indeed, the role of the church.
The difference between the state’s intervention and that of the church is that state reallocates to the fittest at politics, to those who are best at playing the political game. It will always continue to neglect the least of these. For this reason the church is the only possible source of aid to the least of these.
My comments about exalted expectations demonstrated only that demand for housing seems to be higher than we would expect. Certainly higher than the agency which defines appropriate housing expenses to be about 30% of household income. Of course, that definition is arbitrary, but the government wrote it, so it must be right, right?



report abuse
 

N.M. Rod

posted September 1, 2007 at 10:15 pm


The problem with the statement that “the church is the only possible source of aid” is that for about 1,700 years it didn’t make much of a dent.
It’s only with the dawn of the great social reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th century, a significant amount of which was propelled by Christian involvement, that the first major beneficial changes in the material lives of the majority in the west began to be lifted.
The robber barons of unrestrained capitalism were famously uncooperative.
Even Ronald Reagan, former union leader and negotiator himself, paid tribute to the genuine labor struggles of those pivotal years (which he considered a different matter to the Air Traffic Controller’s strike that he broke during his Presidency.)
Even so retrogade a personage as former press baron Conrad Black, writing as an historian, praised FDR’s reforms as being responsible from saving capitalism from catastrophe – from itself as it were.
The “unseen hand” did strangle the millions of the globe in the Great Depression worldwide in the aftermath of the greed and unconstrained excesses of Wall Street before 1929. We could lay the horrid conditions that fertilised Hitler’s rampage and the ensuing world destruction directly as consequences to that.
To make a Manichean distinction between “private” and “public” as if entirely different sorts of individuals populate those spheres – angels and devils respectively – is to thoroughly misunderstand human nature in favor of an ideological preconception.
The idea that if there is no shared repsonsibility or organisation of human affairs that the result will be an Eden of individual achievement and generosity without crime is a belief in anarchism, or perhaps a return to the myth of Rousseau’s noble savages.
That’s a belief in what never was, never has been and never will be, found in no religion, either.



report abuse
 

Anonymous

posted September 1, 2007 at 11:28 pm


N.M. Rod,
Good dialogue here.
Adam Smith used the term, “Invisible Hand,” not “unseen hand”, just fyi.
To confuse the poverty which reigned over the earth until the 18th century with the achievements or lack of achievements of the church is wrong. The world was stuck in poverty for so long because of insufficient limits on government. The invisible hand had been handcuffed. Only with liberalization (in the classical sense of the term) were inroads against poverty begun.
The church, meanwhile, had been married to the state for 1400 years, thanks to Constantine. Only with that divorce firmly established in the Anabaptist movement (though certainly not by Lutherans or Calvanists, except, perhaps, in Scotland), did the church begin to recognize and assume full responsibility for achieving the mandate incumbent upon the Christian ethic: to care for the least of these.
To be sure, the church frequently did fulfill this role, despite its rude spouse, throughout the middle ages. It may be argued that the church preserved Western society, though it failed to sufficiently influence or shape it, through that period. We may assume that it fulfilled the mandate to care for the least of these, but failed to speak up for individual liberty and against the evils of statism, in part due to the Manichean confusion regarding spirit and body. The result would be precisely what we observe.
The solution would be precisely what I propose, which occurred, as you cite, during the 19th and 20th centuries, through voluntary Christian action. The momentum of this involvement was only eroded when responsibility for its vitality was relinquished to the state, back to the middle ages.
To clarify: The economic growth which occurred from the 18th through 20th centuries is due to low state involvement in the economy. The social action which occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries is due to low state involvement in charity.
I’ve allowed the Anarchist label in the past, but now I would like to qualify myself as a min archist. I believe the state has a judicial role to fulfill and no more, as described in scripture.
To refute your arguments:
1. The robber barons often created more wealth than they consumed. Oil prices were lower thanks to Rockefeller, train fares were less expensive thanks to the Great Northern Railroad, and Steel and Aluminum were both cheaper and more plentiful thanks to ALCOA. Only their competitors were hurt, the consumers prospered. Antitrust was created at the behest of their competitors to the ultimate detriment of consumers.
The great depression was merely a mild corrective depression in recently inflated stock prices until the state got involved and did everything the possibly could wrong. This is the accepted position of the vast majority of the economics profession.
Hitler’s dead. Arguments about USG involvement in WWII are fruitful, but I can make my point effectively without getting into that discussion, and since we’ve done enough of that lately on this blog I will refrain.
Forfeiture of privilege and renunciation of the use of political mechanisms is central to the unique claims of Christianity, though seldom understood, and more seldom practiced. Read Yoder.
Nathanael Snow



report abuse
 

N.M. Rod

posted September 2, 2007 at 1:00 am


It’s wonderful to read how truly enlightened and what gentle and generous lovers of the masses of mankind the robber barons were, and how much more the milk of human kindness could have been spread had only their pleas been heard – they wanted to be left alone, like Greta Garbo.
I haven’t heard such fantastic but stirring tales since I read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead as a young man.
You should have been in on some of the management meetings I attended as an executive for a Fortune 500 company. John Galt these self-interested folk are not, nor was the integrity a thing to behold.
I will contemplate the great and good generosity of Ken Lay tonight, kneeling before my bed, instead of folding my hands in prayer asking the Lord my soul to keep.



report abuse
 

jurisnaturalist

posted September 2, 2007 at 1:51 am


He he!
Okay. Corporations are greedy. They should be. They exist to create profits for shareholders. That said, I am just as opposed to corporations using the political machine as I am the church. I am opposed to the law being vulnerable to manipulation. The robber barons got rich. Nothing wrong with that. Some got rich by playing fair. Others cheated (used political influence to acquire favors and monopoly privileges). Cheating is bad. Monopoly, when acquired by political means is bad. It creates shortages and raises prices to the consumer. Monopoly which occurs naturally must continually maintain lower prices, and serve the customer lest a competitor take away some of its business.
The evil is in the privilege, just as in the immigration issue.
I do believe that firms, if forced to operate on the merits alone, work to serve the interests of the consumer.
As a Christian, I don’t imagine much of my minarchist ideal is possible. But, I remain a marginal optimist. I maintain on principle that Christians ought to renounce use of the political mechanism, even if no one else does. That doesn’t mean staying out of politics all together, but it does mean playing completely on the up and up once in office, and working to limit the power and scope of government from the inside.
NS



report abuse
 

N.M. Rod

posted September 2, 2007 at 3:23 am


Definitely one should operate on the up and up, but my own experience is that those who do must expect to get bruised. You really have to be committed to doing the right thing as a matter of morality for its own sake regardless of the results, rather than for utilitarian practical reasons. In our cultural milieu, those with rigid ethics will not be understood and will not be seen as team players. The reality is that few have or can hold for long to their own standards when immersed in it – even the best among us.
However, here’s an interesting reality check question:
Should Joseph on principle have avoided having the grain stored up under the Egyptian governmental authority delegated him by Pharoah, which ended up saving so many, including his own estranged family later during the great seven year famine?
I don’t think Ayn Rand had yet been translated into Late Egyptian, so it’s unlikely Objectivism would have been well-received as a compelling small-government intellectual argument for keeping Sphynx projects housecat-size.
In existing cultures, does one avoid solving problems ethically within them because of commitment to an alternative system?
Do we have the right to require someone to starve to keep our own ideology politically pure? What if the only practical immediate means is government action, even if we strongly believe that it is the proper province of entities outside of government, but which unfortunately don’t exist in a state where they can yet? De facto, we then sacrifice the starving person to our abstract political purpose. Do we really want to shrug our shoulders with Mao and Stalin, that we can’t expect to make omelettes without breaking a few eggs?
If we start with the wrong foundation, if we don’t have the right first principles, we can end up extremely Pharasaic, making already heavy burdens unbearable.
See Matthew 23:23 and 24.



report abuse
 

carl copas

posted September 2, 2007 at 3:32 pm


“The great depression was merely a mild corrective depression in recently inflated stock prices until the state got involved and did everything the possibly could wrong. This is the accepted position of the vast majority of the economics profession.”
Aside from the monetarists, admittedly a large though by no means the dominant school among economists, I don’t know of much support for the statement quoted.
A couple of things often overlooked in discussions of the Depression: 1) agriculture had been in a depression since the end of the First World War. This suggests serious structural economic weakness that by 1929 could not be compensated for by the rest of the economy.
2) The 1930s Depression was global in scope. National economic policy could only help or hurt to a limited extent because the problem was larger than any national economy.
3) The U.S. found the answer to the problem in a combination of international institutions (GATT, IMF, eventually NAFTA)and military Keynesianism/the permanent war economy/Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex–whatever term you prefer. Our nation became addicted to military spending, and we have yet to throw the monkey off Uncle Sam’s back.



report abuse
 

jurisnaturalist

posted September 2, 2007 at 4:00 pm


“You really have to be committed to doing the right thing as a matter of morality for its own sake regardless of the results, rather than for utilitarian practical reasons.”
I could not have said it better. Especially the bit about utilitarianism. Christians do not act in their own interest. They act in response to the call of Christ. Sometimes they are called to do what seems to the world, or even other believers, as foolish. This is why we should reserve judgment on many issues. A Christian in politics is first and foremost a missionary. They are in hostile territory.
Joseph is an astoundingly good example. Egypt was a pagan state with a god-king, the pinnacle of statism. The USG is no different, really. Its claims to divinity are more subtle and deceptive. But who was the first to be blamed for Katrina? God or FEMA? Who could have prevented it but didn’t?
And who could have prevented a seven year famine in Egypt? And who provided seven years of prosperity? Who gives and who takes away? Blessed be the name of the LORD! (Sorry, I just got back from worship!)
Ayn Rand wasn’t around to encourage Joseph to excellence, to illustrate an uplifted countenance, to extrapolate what might be possible if a man were to concentrate his energies and accomplish something great. He found these qualities in the Lord. We ought not to begrudge Rand for recognizing greatness in a man made in God’s image, even if she doubts the source. Indeed we ought to embrace the greatness of the God who made us and work to imitate Him. I think Joseph and John Galt would have been friends.
But I haven’t answered your question. Should Joseph, on principle, have avoided storing grain under Egyptian governmental authority, especially in light of the good it produced later? Or more generally: In existing cultures, does one avoid solving problems ethically within them because of a commitment to an alternative system?
Let’s assume that Egypt was the typical fatalistic pagan culture before Joseph’s arrival. This means, in all likelihood that it was a subsistence agricultural society. They lived from year to year, with little savings accumulated or stored up. Their vision was limited to the next planting or the next harvest. An unplanned-for famine would have devastated the entire region, with the poor suffering most.
A Christian with significant foresight would desire to be prepared to help. A God with perfect foreknowledge might desire to prevent the worst, while simultaneously getting a significant amount of glory for Himself.
Joseph did not seek out a position of influence, God thrust him into it. Joseph provided a monotheistic perspective of the future which expanded the horizons of all involved, and rescued God’s chosen family. God got the glory.
If Pharaoh was the only landowner in Egypt, as is likely the case, then Joseph merely helped an individual with long-range estate planning ; > )
I don’t know. It’s a good exercise.
I believe that God provided that means at that time and did it in such a way that can be read to be consistent with the ethic He later passes on to Christians, though it may be a bit of a stretch.
It is interesting to note that there were no scriptures and no revealed law for Joseph to look to for precedent. The number of monotheists in the world was extremely limited. No one knew anything about economics.
I have to believe that it is possible to act ethically within whatever system we find ourselves. Otherwise what good is the gospel? Why even bother to believe? If compromise is inevitable then why strive for single-mindedness?
While we do not have a right to require someone to starve to keep our own ideology politically pure, we neither have a right to impose care for the starving on anyone other than ourselves. The right solution was exemplified by Christ. If need be, break your body and let them eat your flesh. I don’t think it often comes to that.
It never is the case that the only practical means is government action. That does not mean that God does not use this means. It does mean that we are not to look to this means. The difference is subtle.
We do not shrug with Mao and Stalin. Nor with Roosevelt, Churchill, Kennedy, or Bush. We do not sacrifice others. We sacrifice ourselves.
NS



report abuse
 

jurisnaturalist

posted September 2, 2007 at 4:23 pm


carl copas,
Your information is a decade old, at least.
Keynes himself recognized government mistakes as central to the depression. His solution was to have the government make different decisions, which in the 70’s were revealed to be nothing more than a different set of government mistakes.
The majority of economists have dropped the Keynesian framework for all but pedagogical purposes. Paul Krugman included. Most would agree that Hayek was right. About some things at least.
Greg Mankiw, author of the bestselling Econ text agrees. Brad DeLong at Stanford agrees. Laurence Summers agrees. Ed Phelps agrees. Milton Friedman agreed. Every professor I’ve ever had, even the ones in Macro from Northwestern and Boston agree.
The Galbraiths might not agree. Ben Stein might not agree, but maybe that’s because someone else has his money, and he still hasn’t found Bueller.
The great depression was global, but that had a lot to do with the rapid erection of trade barriers in the early 30’s which hurt everyone and deepened the depression.
I’m not trying to be snarky. These are just the facts.
NS



report abuse
 

kevin s.

posted September 2, 2007 at 5:32 pm


“Ben Stein might not agree, but maybe that’s because someone else has his money, and he still hasn’t found Bueller.”
Yeah, what happened to him there? Suddenly he became a panel-show politician for a couple of months. Otherwise, I admire the heck out of the guy.



report abuse
 

jurisnaturalist

posted September 2, 2007 at 7:32 pm


Not a plug, nor an endorsement:
Ben Stein has a new documentary coming out called Expelled that deals with the refusal of the academy to deal fairly with the Intelligent Design question. You know how to learn more.
NS



report abuse
 

N.M. Rod

posted September 2, 2007 at 7:59 pm


The problem with reconciling Ayn Rand with Jesus is that it didn’t happen in her own lifetime and she herself said it was impossible. She was an extreme atheist contemptuous of the very idea of God, and openly contradicted every one of Jesus’ “red-letter” teachings as wrong-headed, many, many times.
So if you are trying to follow objectivism and be a Christian, you really are going to have to do damage to the integrity of either one or the other.
Rand’s novels are inspiring in a way, but what they extol is man elevated as the highest possible good not only without reference to God, but the rejection of religion, especially Jesus, as a feeble ennervating superstition. In her own way, this Russian emigre was also trying to build the materialist New Man, just as the Bolsheviks she escaped from were trying to create the New Socialist Man.
The only possible good thing to take from her is that it reveals the false way that Christians practiced Christianity, failing to behave as Jesus would have us and thereby failing all the Ayn Rands of the world by proferring a warped Christianity that frustrated people like her into trying to develop alternate coherent answers.



report abuse
 

N.M. Rod

posted September 2, 2007 at 8:11 pm


I’ve corresponded with Ben Stein, upon the occasion of his father’s death. We shared what a father means and how he shapes his children’s life. We discussed how the love of our father can shape us to be revealing of what possibilities exist for relationships with an eternal heavenly Father.
Ben was, of course, one of Richard Nixon’s speechwriters and still tremendously admires him. I’ve read and found some of Nixon’s books post-Watergate and found them interesting. Nixon was complex and intelligent.
However… he was a failed President and his rehabilitation wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the gross moral failures he helped propagate and which damaged our subsequent polity. SOme of the actions of the Cheney administration could credibly be laid to attempts to rehabilitate the darker Nixonian methods of governance. Nixon’s was after all the first Presidency referred to in modern times as having Imperial overtones.
Ben Stein writes for The American Spectator, which is sometimes intellectualism in unabashed service of Republican attack-dog politics. Sometimes that has in the past performed a useful but limited function, but it has not done so well in pursuit of truth as a lap-dog attack canine! That sort of journalism works best when in opposition, not in slavish service to maintaining the powers-that-be.
Ben is somewhat capable of being corrected, but not too much – his whole persona and livlihood is very wrapped up in American triumphalism.
We have to say that his thinking is not, nor does he claim to be, Christian.



report abuse
 

jurisnaturalist

posted September 2, 2007 at 8:15 pm


N.M. Rod,
Again, you are spot on.
My attraction to Objectivism is precisely the honesty it forces upon Christians. Christianity is not a feel-good religion nor altruistic. It makes specific claims and promises no temporal rewards. It invites us to a higher ethic in spite of its apparent foolishness.
Believers have a specific mandate, but Rand shows us that that mandate cannot be rationally extended to anyone who has not responded to the call of Christ.
She separates the sheep from the goats.



report abuse
 

Donny

posted September 3, 2007 at 9:34 am


This is simply not true:
“The faith community can’t solve the shortage of affordable housing . . . ”
The faith community – that is to say “Christians” – could easily solve the housing solution.
An apartment building with say 25 units, only costs a fraction of the money taken in to manintain the individual apartment. The land and the property taxes are only a small amount of the money taken in. Without the need for great financial profit, apartments could be very affordable.
If a Church were to buy an apartment building, they could rent out the apartments for the actual cost of the property (divided by the number of units), and tack on the divided amount for property taxes, rent to cover repairs and upkeep and another expense to pay the salary of the apartment manager.
25 units at $1000.00 (plus) a month per unit? I’ll bet the actual cost per apartment is more like $300.00, with the expenses for property taxes, repairs, upkeep and the managers pay . . . mayber 550.00 a month.
Every Church could and should own land for affordable housing. It also sounds like the idea for how to be a Church body put forth in Acts.
It is possible.



report abuse
 

Moderatelad

posted September 3, 2007 at 1:10 pm


It is Labor Day – and my Labor is finished for the weekend. I tiled the kitchen under the cabinets. But it is Monday and time was set aside and prayers were offered for our service personnel all around the world. That victory in Iraq will come soon so that our military can come home and that the world can be more at peace.
Blessings to all on this labor day!
Moderatelad
.



report abuse
 

justintime

posted September 3, 2007 at 3:04 pm


For this once, I can agree with Donny.
Churches CAN get involved in providing affordable housing.
Our congregation supports the ‘Friendship House’, providing food and shelter for homeless folks in our small home town.
Yes, there are homeless in rural America – there are homeless people everywhere in America.
It’s too easy for the fortunate to ignore the homeless.
They’re embarrassed to ask for help so many hide their situation out of shame.
A few years back another congregation in our home town did just what Donny suggested. They bought an older apartment house, repaired it and now rent about 35 units at cost to low income families.
These are both successful programs but I doubt the faith community alone will solve America’s housing crisis. There is also a role for government to play.
On this Labor Day, I urge everyone to support the labor movement and raising the minimum wage for the hard working poor in America.
These are also successful programs, assisting the working poor to afford decent housing.



report abuse
 

Mick Sheldon

posted September 3, 2007 at 4:21 pm


Moderatelad said
But it is Monday and time was set aside and prayers were offered for our service personnel all around the world
God bless you . I am off to work .



report abuse
 

N.M. Rod

posted September 4, 2007 at 11:33 am


However, the “faith-based” shift that was supposed to transfer responsibility for administering and financing from the government to churches just never happened. David Kuo revealed how it was simply a shell game and there was no real commitment to “compassionate conservatism.”
The reality is that 40% of the wealth of the nation is in the hands of 1% of the population. How the churches can finance responsibilities currently done by government is puzzling since the average American has a negative savings rate. Where is all this vast supply of money supposed to come from when the majority are tapped out – I imagine most of those in the church are in that same situation.
I received today some news that corporations are stepping up to supplying housing for their workers. It seems major US corporations can’t get workers to come where the jobs they have to offer are because there’s no way people can afford to live there, at least not on the wages that the corporations are willing to offer. So these corporations are snapping up housing to rent to their employees or as part of their benefits package.
So it seems that there’s one wealthy group that’s willing to step into the gap.
However, is it really a good thing to throwback to an era where even one’s home and refuge is dependent entirely upon the goodwill of the employer, or that whole new “company towns” be established?
Doesn’t this harken back to the era where workers owed more and more to the company store and disputes with employers or threatened strikes could result in whole families becoming homeless – and the “police/security guards” of those company-owned “towns” were in the thrall of the company bosses?
I seem to recall the extreme abuses that took place in places like West Virgina and Butte Montana, including wholesale murder.
There’s an interesting film called “Matewan” that captures the abuses.
We need to move entirely in the other direction than back towards the reverse path, the end of which is the slave plantation housing of the old South. We need real free enterprise, not monopoly winner-take-all games. We need to find ways to make housing not dependent upon employers’ “good will” but make independent ownership possible.
Why don’t these corporations partner with HAbitat for Humanity? Why is this path so attractive to corporations who can legally have no purpose but to increase earnings? This must be seen as yet another profit center, and they are obviously flush with dollars even though their employees are not.



report abuse
 

Anonymous

posted September 4, 2007 at 7:13 pm


“carl copas,
Your information is a decade old, at least.”
My comments didn’t draw on Keynes. Actually, in referencing the international context, I was thinking more of Herbert Hoover’s analysis of the situation.



report abuse
 

Mick Sheldon

posted September 4, 2007 at 8:06 pm


N.M. Rod
Why don’t these corporations partner with HAbitat for Humanity?
Me
Many corporations do support charitable works . They do this for reasons sometimes just for advertising their name , but corporations often donate to good causes , regardless the reasons .
Unions were at one time a worthy opponent of corporations . My Union is only strong because of state employees , in the private sector Unions are loosing . I don’t know the answer to this but making tax incentives to be implemented to promote the corporations to be better citizens .
This blanket tax them more approach bothers me because corporations do provide jobs, and they won’t hire more people if we tax them more . But they may find it in their best interest if we come up with a tax system that is fair , no corporate welfare , and supports them doing business in this country , obeying our envirnomental laws and such .



report abuse
 

Employee

posted September 5, 2007 at 4:13 pm


http://www.habitat.org
We are committed to advocacy, prayer, and most of all real work for those in need. Look at our mission focus.
My answer to the need for affordable housing- get your local faith group on board with us, because too many people trying too many different approaches to the same problem is inefficient at best.
250,000+ homes built in 31 years, serving who knows how many families looking to be doubled in 4 years. That is progress.



report abuse
 

Bernadette Conley

posted September 7, 2007 at 1:18 pm


Seven years ago, my husband abandoned me with our three young children, ages 2, 4 & 5. I could not make enough money to pay for $11 per hour child care while I worked.
We stayed at the recently formed local chapter of Interfaith Hospitality Network, which provided food, shelter, and amazingly kind and generous volunteers at churches in the area. Thirteen host congregations partner with thirteen support congregations of different denominations, to help support homeless working families. More about the program is available at http://www.nihn.org.
Individual churches provided us with food, clothes, furniture, and financial assistance, in addition to spiritual and emotional support. Faith communities are making a major difference.
I’m in a much better place now, married to an amazing husband, father, and pastor. Our small church struggles with the bills, but we are doing our best to help members of the community. However, we can’t do it on our own, and members of the faith community must continue to work not just in providing direct support but also through government advocacy.
I am grateful for the work Sojourners is doing, and hope my individual story will provide a positive light on how churches not only can help, but are helping on a daily basis.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting God's Politics. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:14:07am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Why I Work for Immigration Reform (by Patty Kupfer)
When I tell people that I work on immigration reform, they usually laugh or say, "way to pick an easy topic." Everyday it feels like there is more fear, more hate. Raids are picking up in Nevada, California, and New York. A number of senators who supported comprehensive reform only a few months ago

posted 12:30:52pm Oct. 16, 2007 | read full post »

Audio: Jim Wallis on "Value Voters" on The Tavis Smiley Show
Last week Jim was on The Tavis Smiley Show and talked about how the changing political landscape will affect the upcoming '08 election. Jim and Ken Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state, debated and discussed both the impact of "value voters" on the election and what those values entail. + Down

posted 10:11:56am Oct. 16, 2007 | read full post »

Verse of the Day: 'peace to the far and the near'
I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them. But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss u

posted 9:35:01am Oct. 16, 2007 | read full post »

Daily News Digest (by Duane Shank)
the latest news on Mideast, Iran, Romney-Religious right, Blog action day, Turkey, SCHIP, Iran, Aids-Africa, India, Budget, Brownback-slavery apology, Canada, and selected op-eds. Sign up to receive our daily news summary via e-mail » Blog action day. Thousands of bloggers unite in blitz of green

posted 9:31:25am Oct. 16, 2007 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.