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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Elinor Ostrom Shares the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics – Her Case for Social Humility

posted by Mark Herringshaw

The Nobel Prize for Economics in 2009 goes to Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to receive the award. Ms. Ostrom’s research challenges the traditional view that common ownership of a resource results in excessive exploitation, that fishermen for instance left to their own devises will overharvest their product. The typical resource management solution has always been to privatize a resource, giving responsibility to a single legal owner – capitalism, or to govern it by the fiat of a central authority – socialism. Ostrom’s work challenges these solutions. She shares the Nobel honor with Oliver E. Williamson, whose separate work also explores the mystery of economic cooperation.

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Countering popular assumptions – the either/or paradigm of individualist capitalism on one hand and governmental-centric socialism on the other – Ostrom’s work demonstrates that common property is often well-managed by the groups that rely on that resource. She shows that common users often negotiate rules of use that mitigate overexploitation without resorting to privatization or government regulation.

In other words, the community is often smarter than we think! We don’t need tycoons on the one hand or kings on the other to make decisions for our best interest. There really is such a thing as community wisdom. Concentrating ultimate power in the name of common good is dangerous and now, it seems also unnecessary.   

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Plato’s “The Republic” warned that a human community is too weak to govern itself. We need philosopher-kings, super-smart rulers given absolute power to act on behalf of the governed. Unfortunately human history is a tragic demonstration of the failure of entrusting power to individuals. “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” Ostrom’s work reaffirms suspicion in centralizing power, and offers the comforting, even exciting suggestion that local communities can be trusted to “do the right thing.”

As a Christian, I am deeply suspicious of concentrating capital in the hands of single individuals. The God of the Bible set up an economic system in ancient Israel that mitigated against centralized wealth. It was called “Jubilee” – the institutionalized redistribution of wealth, every 50 years back to the original clans that traditionally managed the resource. On the other hand I’m also wary of giving centralized control to any governmental power. In the scriptures, God limited that power of Kings by making them subject to his universal Law – including the stipulation of Jubilee. The rule of Law limits human control and continually moves power away from individuals back to the check and balance of the whole community.

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This is best demonstrated in the economic “jazz session” brilliantly improvised in the early Christian church. The story is portrayed in the New Testament book of Acts (chapter 2-5). Without governmental oversight and without reliance on any single wealthy benefactor, the Christian community – as a whole – redefined economic reality. They VOLUNTARILY shared their resources, selling their properties to be distributed to those in need. Early Christians owned the responsibility to eradicate societal poverty, relying neither on wealthy individuals or governmental dictates to do the right thing. They acted justly by choice!

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Christian charity for the benefit of the common good worked, not because any forceful hand forced generosity. Today we’re seeing this still. Christians around the world still lead the charge to bring clean water, medical care, rescue from human trafficking, and food distribution to the hungry. And we do this without any individual power source taxing us with a gun to the pocketbook. Christians gave and give to the poor because God gives us the desire to do so. The motivation comes from within us as individuals when we live and worship within a healthy, functioning community that holds the value that the good of the community comes ahead of our self interest. This is a pure and simple miracle, a miracle Ostrom has found operating all over the planet… I’d suggest that I see it best working inside Christian communties. I challenge you to explore this phenomenon. Look honestly at the voluntary work of groups like “Feed My Starving Children,” the “International Justice Mission,” and “World Vision.”

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We typically see capitalistic or socialistic solutions as the only option for justice because we rightly do not trust individuals or communities of individuals to make right decisions for the common good. Ostrom’s research (and I would suggest Biblical and Christian history) challenge this assumptions. As a Christian I share the suspicion that we humans can ever solve our own problems. But Ostrom’s research seems to suggest that it’s possible for humans to find a motivation “outside” self interest. If we want to live free, beyond the tyranny of the wealthy few and the tyranny of an intractable government, we’d better find a ready source for the motivation to live beyond our personal immediate gratification. I’d suggest that that Source is God himself and that prayer can activate real love in our real lives. We can have an Acts chapter 2 generosity in our world once again. Kudos to Elinor Ostrom for giving us another glimpse that freedom really is possible and should be encouraged.

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Obama and The Nobel Peace Prize 2009 – A Prayer for True Peace

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Congratulations to U.S. President Barak Obama for winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.  Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed. Today we pray a blessing for President Obama and all the efforts of all government leaders around the world who seek genuine peace. 

 

We also recognize the world is filled with individuals – sometimes in leadership positions – who do not seek peace. For all our efforts, our human efforts, you admit that true and lasting peace is only a gift from God. The Bible urges us to seek and work for peace and justice, but it also warns us that our own efforts apart from the power and leading of God himself will inevitably fail.

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We honor the efforts of those who seek to make peace.  We also pray and invite the hand of God to bring the miracle of peace above and beyond our efforts.  Peace as a Biblical concept means more than a lack of conflict. The Hebrew word “shalom” translated “peace” actually means wholeness and completeness, a state where nothing is missing and nothing is broken.  Only God can make and bring “shalom.” Individuals may be awarded a peace prize for noble efforts; only God can truly deliver the goods.

“God we thank you for those in leadership positions who seek peace.  The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders whether or not we agree politically with their means.  We pray today for U.S. President Barak Obama.  We pray also for the supernatural imposition of genuine peace, that you would make shalom a reality as you promise us you will when we ask.  In Jesus name…”

 

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Following up “Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009 Deserves Praise… To God!”

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Wow! Wednesday’s post “Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009 Deserves Praise… To God!” certainly generated a reaction.  While I cannot, for lack of both time and expertise answer every individual objection that readers have posted I can defer to an expert on the subject.  In “Nine Ways God Always Speaks” Jennifer Schuchmann and I reference to work of Francis Collins, and evolutionary biologist and practicing Christian.  Yes, he’s both, and therefore qualified to help us see science has a window to bring God glory.

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In his book, “The Language of God,” Collins highlights what he claims is irrefutable evidence of God’s existence–the beautiful, simple orderliness in living cells. As a pioneering geneticist and the former head of the Human Genome Project, Collins was one of the first to see and understand the intricate physical blueprint of humanity. Collins called the human genome “the language of God.” He said it was the most remarkable of texts and claims his team has accomplished not only a revolutionary scientific achievement, but also an expression of worship.

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Francis Collins was an agnostic when he heard the “language of God” call to him while he and his teamed cracked the safe that held the mysteries of the human genome. But for Collins this objective reality did not immediately translate into a personal transformation. Collins was still on the fence. He had been reading the apologetics of C.S. Lewis’ himself a former agnostic. The voice of nature had softened him, but he had not yet yielded.

 

How that happened Collins related in an interview with Salon Magazine:

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Nobody gets argued all the way into becoming a believer on the sheer basis of logic and reason. That requires a leap of faith. And that leap of faith seemed very scary to me. After I had struggled with this for a couple of years, I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains on a beautiful fall afternoon. I turned the corner and saw in front of me this frozen waterfall, a couple of hundred feet high. Actually, a waterfall that had three parts to it — also the symbolic three in one. At that moment, I felt my resistance leave me. And it was a great sense of relief. The next morning, in the dewy grass in the shadow of the Cascades, I fell on my knees and accepted this truth — that God is God, that Christ is his son and that I am giving my life to that belief.

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While the macro-message of nature spoke to him of nature’s God, it was a particular moment in nature that made it all personal for him. Here a natural phenomenon, a waterfall confirmed symbolically what he already was coming to personally believe. It was a convergent moment for Collins. He saw patterns in nature that he was already disposed to believe were meaningful.

 

Arguments for and against God’s existence matter little. What does matter is encounter. God can be glimpsed in the shadows of his handiwork; he can only be KNOWN in his specific, intimate presence.  

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“God I pray today for everyone who seeks to know the truth, and to follow truth wherever it leads.  The Bible promises that if we seek we will find, and that truth itself sets us free. We pray that we all will have strength and courage to seek truth and follow it whatever the cost to our own belief system. Even more we pray to know YOU even more than the truth about the things you do and make. We ask for the privilege of encounter, to know you intimately. In Jesus…”

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Prayer for the Santa Cruz Islands Quake and Tsunami

posted by Mark Herringshaw

A 7.8 earthquake just struck off the Santa Cruz Islands in the Pacific Ocean today, triggering a tsunami warning for the nations of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis-Futuna and Howland-Baker. Let’s pray for the safety of these Pacific Island peoples.

“God, you are Lord of all the earth. You tame the waters. Guard the lives of those living near the shores now threatened by any waves caused by this quake. Give officials wisdom to act prudently and quickly. Give peace to those who are afraid. We pray this in Jesus…”
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