Jefty Economics and the Least of These

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{Somewhere in this rant is a worthy post. My apologies to readers in advance that the worthy post didn’t materialize.}

In the course of reading a smattering of Christian blogs wrestling with the economic devastation laying waste to America, I happened across Al Mohler’s take on the subject. By the time I got done reading the last word, it was all I could do not to shake my head in disbelief.

To understand the rest of this post, please read Mohler’s post, “A Christian View of the Economic Crisis.”

Done? Okay…

The first thing that bothers me about Dr. Mohler’s post is that it appears to be caught in a classic, science fiction time warp. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Eisenhower was president.

This is a great problem for much of conservative Evangelicalism. We’re like Jefty in Harlan Ellison’s seminal short story “Jefty Is Five.” In that work, the narrator tells of a neighbor boy who remains five-years old all his life. Jefty’s radio plays dramas from the 40s and 50s that were canceled decades ago. Jefty sends away for secret agent decoder rings offered by cereal companies that no longer exist—and receives them in the mail. In short, Jefty never grows up, nor does the ethereal, dead, dusty world that swirls around him. And he scares the willies out of the normal people who encounter him.

When I read Dr. Mohler’s post, it’s like I’m perusing Jefty’s newspaper, and I can read how the corporations are leading our country to greatness, and every father receives a gold pocket watch (that matches his smoking jacket) after 40 years on the job because he worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder like all hard workers do, and, golly gee willikers, his company put out the best darned widgets at the best darned price, and if you ever had a problem with your widget, they’ll send a repairman in a pressed suit (and a tie, even!) who won’t charge you a dime, and he’ll have your problem solved in fifteen minutes or your money back plus 10 percent for your trouble.

And at night, angels tuck you into bed.

That’s how Jefty economics works.

Jefty economics bases its reality on the old advice that with a little hard work, and the right amount of pluck, any freckle-faced lad can himself embody the classic Horatio Alger story and become a captain of industry.

It sounds so swell.

This, however, is what the Bible says:

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.
—Ecclesiastes 9:11

Jefty economics can’t account for chance. It doesn’t allow that people may deviate from the climb to the boardroom by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lazarus outside the rich man's house - by DoréIt can’t account for the capricious whims of a college admission committee that this year (and this year only) thought that building ashrams in India was a more noble reason for selection than your solution to world hunger, therefore you had to settle for Podunk U. instead of Harvard. It can’t factor in that after you killed yourself for decades to crawl to a middle management position in Kludge Corporation of West Oconomowoc, the CEO’s mistress left him and, in a fit of pique, he sacked your entire department and farmed it out to bean counters in Pakistan. The next thing you know, you’re a greeter at Wal-Mart wondering how the American Dream passed you by.

Who can understand how these things happen? The Jeftys of the world would turn on their radios and give you the answer: “The Shadow knows….”

Welcome to the world of Jefty.

Only problem is, that’s not your reality or mine.

In some ways, I can’t fault Dr. Mohler. Seminary presidents, theologians, and academicians aren’t the best at taking the lifestyle pulse of janitors, taxi cab drivers, and third-shift workers at the old widget factory (who just lost their jobs because the Armani-wearing board of directors moved the work to Shanghai).

See, Jefty economics functions in such a way that the real world, with all its gritty, black ugliness, doesn’t exist. The Jefties of this world can’t see it. The people who are getting killed economically, and have been getting killed for a long time, never happen. They’re simply not there.

Here’s reality: The way we do business, the way we fuel our economy in this country, the way we have been practicing capitalism in the good ol’ U. S. of A. has come home to roost.

I’ve been watching what has been happening to the middle class over the years. It’s not pretty. Hard-working people have been watching their real wealth evaporate. Families I know who were adamant that they were going to maintain the conservative Christian ideal and keep mom at home are not only having to have mom work but are seeing both wage earners’ incomes stagnate to the point that polygamy sounds like the only viable economic option.

And as for the mantra that hard work gets you ahead, it’s time to let that Jefty-ism die. Perhaps at one time it was true, but I know so many people who are killing themselves with hard work and are getting nowhere because they aren’t the right kind of person, didn’t go to the right Ivy League school, didn’t take the Skull & Bones pledge, don’t know the right Masonic handshake, don’t have the right skin color, don’t have the right religious beliefs, and on and on.

I met a person several years ago who shames most of us in hard work. I watched that person get brutalized time and again by the kind of wicked people who populate so much of today’s corporate world. That wonderful person kept a clean nose, gave 210 percent all the time, was the last to turn off the lights at night, and got nowhere. There was always some Maserati driver in a corner office who made sure this person never got out of the cubicle. That constant heel to the neck hurt that person incalculably.

Truth is, I know too many people like that one. They’ve been the canaries in this economy’s coalmine for years. And now the mine’s caved in and gas is seeping into the depths. Is that a striking match I hear?

Here’s the worst part: The kind of people that flame out in the economy aren’t welcome in a lot of conservative Evangelical churches, those gorgeous, multi-million dollar edifices full of Jeftys.

I know because I’ve been in a few Jefty churches. I sat in a men’s Bible study at a prominent Baptist church as a half dozen captains of industry talked about “those people.” Just the other day, a friend told me that the pastor of his old church spotted him in a restaurant and just had to regale him with how wonderfully the new building plan was going and all the millions that he’d raised. Dropped all the monetary figures just to show my friend how stupid he was to leave such a dynamic church. But my friend knew this same church split earlier because a handful of its people had the nerve to evangelize poor Hispanics. You know, dishwashers, gardeners, and garbagemen. Those people. The ones you let into your corner office to dump out your trash can, but God forbid they should aspire to anything higher. Besides, they could never get into the country club—except perhaps as the catering help.

When I hear Dr. Mohler talking the way he does in his piece, I have to wonder if he knows how the sub-economy populated by the least of these lives. If he understands that we really are Two Americas and are becoming more so every day. When he says that people today invest in the same companies that Warren Buffett does, I’ve got ask: “Dr. Mohler, have you priced some of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway stock lately? You might be able to buy some at $135,000 a share, but I sure can’t.  And have you noticed that the Gateses and Waltons of the world who can plunk down $100,000 without batting an eye get offered a whole new world of higher-paying investments that Joe Sixpack can only dream about?” Then I’d like to introduce the seminary president to hard workers like Edwin Howard Armstrong. And then I’d introduce him to people who don’t have Wikipedia entries, people who broke their backs working and lost their homes anyway. People who don’t have Ivy League networks. You know, people to whom chance just so happened to happen.

Part of me says I’m being unfair, but part of me says I’m not.

Here’s the saddest part of all. The people who are still operating under the economic pretensions of the “I Like Ike” era are the ones who were looking the other way while the morally-challenged, who laughed all the way to the bank at the expense of the rest of us, engineered  this fine economy we have now.

Yes, I’m angry.

I’ve been saying for years that the global economic game we’ve been playing is not even zero sum but negative sum. When the Church sat back and welcomed the Industrial Revolution like it was the Second Coming of our Lord Himself, we erected an idol that would eventually taint every part of our lives. I find it ironic to the nth degree that so many conservative Evangelicals are fighting the culture war tooth and nail, failing at the same time to see that the war itself is the natural outcome of what they welcomed 150+ years ago.

Christians cannot turn blind eyes to social and economic justice and NOT reap the whirlwind.

We conservative Christians gave up on reforming business practices. Left that to the liberals. No, a few of us tasted the wealth for a while and it intoxicated us. (“Hey, no fair, Dan! We compensated by starting a workplace Bible study to show we still cared about the souls in our companies. That counts, doesn’t it?”)

Despite what Mohler says, too much of how we lived was based on greed and short-term thinking. As long as our companies posted better figures quarter over quarter, who cared what havoc our practices would wreak down the road? Leave that for some other generation!

Well, that generation is here. And, too bad, we’re it.

Thanks, Jefty.

35 thoughts on “Jefty Economics and the Least of These

    • Aussiejohn,

      I’m not against debt, only against debt that is ridiculous and is taken on with no good faith measure to pay it off. I know people who hit their savings all the time to pay for big ticket items. That leaves them exposed should a disaster strike. They’ve depleted their savings they otherwise would have had.

      Also, it’s foolhardy NOT to take on debt if the interest on the debt is lower than the interest on the money you can keep back. If I can get a car loan at 6 percent and keep back $10,000 that will earn 15 percent, then I’m a fool to pay everything up front.

      • francisco

        Maybe I’m an ignorant as to what the purposes of a stock market are, but isn’t your reasoning for taking on a debt akin to buying stocks? Let’s go back a few years in time, before the bubble burst and picture this. Say, I have $10,000 sitting in the bank at 6 percent per year. Am I a fool for not buying Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stocks that would earn me 15 percent profit per year with that money instead?

        • David

          You would only be a fool if you did not do some research into determining if the 15% return was based on sound financials. There are plenty of companies that have offered incredible returns (read dot com bust) that were based on rather sandy foundations.

          The general public, by and large, could be excused for not seeing this coming. The Banking Industry, the Fed, the members of Congress responsible for oversight; should all be lined up and…severely reprimanded.

  1. francisco

    Dan,

    I hear your pain.

    Also, I wanted to remind you something you’ve said in this blog, namely that capitalism with all its failures is better than socialism or communism. That’s for starters.

    I think I could agree too with you about the death of the work-hard-get-rich myth. (Hope I’m wrong in this account, because that’s the mantra the people down the equator line are encouraged to believe). Moreover, I’d like to believe that what I’ll say next is an exception to the old rule/myth. Just picture this. I was sitting on a career center event with three speakers on a panel giving tips to the attenders on how to pursue careers beyond graduation. Little or nothing I remember heard them say about the importance of good grades or hard working. Instead they pontificated on the importance of building a good network. Next, I was shocked when the lady who ran the career center spoke while pointing to one of the panel speakers who happened to got a good-paying job because her dad happened to ran into an elevator with a old friend who asked about her daughter. Needless to say the dad had a copy of her c.v. and handed it out quickly to his friend. Yes, she got the job and I was left with the impression that someone had to talk about the importance of ‘chance’!

    Finally, I think you’d agree with the importance of pursuing a wartime-lifestyle (e.g. men like John Piper teach and live this out) not like a ‘special call’ for Christians but rather as a pattern of life. That’s what I’d be looking forward to -Lord willing- for the years I still have on this tent.

    Peace.

    • Francisco,

      Capitalism is the best system, but only when it’s functioning within a moral society. When that is not the case, it becomes one of the worst economic systems.

      Employment and economics are both games. Some play the games well. Other don’t. many don’t have the tools to compete, and the tools to compete are no longer the ones we had drilled into us: education and hard work. The better tools to compete, at least in the eyes of shrewd, worldly people, are the means the game the system. And gaming the system often means descending into immoral activity.

      Sadly, there are “Christians” who insist on their holiness even as they are gaming the system for all it’s worth.

    • Darrell

      One of the few times I personally recall hearing Piper preach he did, indeed, use language to the effect that a dimensions of our Christian walk was a “war” …and often taken to lightly by many on the path.

      Should you know of it, Fransisco (anyone?), could you please shoot me to anything online wherein Piper better highlights this “wartime” mentality you refer to? Especially as goes personal finance and/or economic values? Thanks in advance mate.

  2. David

    Since when was the world fair? Won’t the honest man always get the shaft? You speak as though life should be different; that doing good, working hard, and being honest should have it’s own reward here on earth. I don’t believe that Mohler was presenting a “Christ-like” view, but rather an “American Christian Culture” view. The Christ-like view of economics would, I think, appall most Americans, and absolutely blanch an economist, but it’s something we all should be studying and applying to our lives.

    • David,

      The world’s not fair. Jefty economics believes it is, though, and they continue to sell people on that message, even if it’s not true.

      As far as reward on earth, David said in the Psalms that he would have despaired unless he had believed that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. In fact, that’s the OT in a nutshell. God’s goodness to believers is shown through material gain, community standing, many offspring, and so on. (Jacob’s flocks increased while Laban’s suffered. The Israelites prospered more than their Egyptian masters. Daniel was healthy and strong but his Babylonian counterparts were sickly.) I can’t believe the NT wiped ALL of that away. Yes, it did refocus it somewhat, but I don’t believe it was wiped out and replaced with the complete opposite (or a spiritualized version of same).

      I agree completely with your assessment of Mohler’s piece. That’s why I wrote my counterpost.

      • Dave Block

        Dan,

        Why don’t you believe that the New Testament “wiped that all away”? Actually, it did better than that — it fulfilled the principle that God blesses the righteous by raising the ante with even greater blessings — spiritual blessings on earth and recession-proof “currency” in heaven. Where in the New Testament do we see that material gain and community standing are promised to believers? Instead, we’re told that the world will hate us. We’re told that the persecuted are blessed. We’re warned against the love of money and instructed not to pursue it.

        “Refocus it somewhat”? Somewhat? That’s a pretty lukewarm assessment of God’s economy as presented by Jesus. And it’s not what Matthew 6:19-24 says to me:
        “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

        God promises to take care of us, and certainly nearly all of us are in the position where we should thank God for blessing us with more than we need. But if there’s anywhere in the New Testament where material gain and social standing are promised blessings to believers, I’ve completely missed it. Far from being promised these things, we’re urged to have the faith of Old Testament heroes who instead “..were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 35b-38)

        We could have been told to emulate Solomon in his wisdom because he became rich, or Abraham in his faith because his descendants would outnumber the stars, or David in his boldness because he was elevated from shepherd boy to king. But God takes it in a very different direction.

        Tribulation and comfort, joy and persecution, sorrow and eternal hope. We can count on these things on earth if we follow Christ. The heavenly — and far superior — versions of community standing and material blessing await the righteous in the next life.

        • Dave,

          God has never stopped blessing people with good things, including material ones. The NT did not wipe out God’s provision, the same provision he made to people. God told Joseph in the OT to prepare for famine, and He told the Church through Agabus the prophet in the NT to prepare to help meet the needs of those affected by famine. God provides regardless of Old or New Covenant because He loves us.

          Do material gains pass away while spiritual ones remain? Of course! And we should be striving more for spiritual gains. However, you and I both know that we clothes, food, and shelter, and that those come from the hand of God. The Bible says that it is God who makes some rich and others poor. That’s within His sovereign right as God. But regardless of rich or poor, He is the one who provides. In the OT he did it through the wealth of the nation and in the NT he does it through the generosity of the Church.

          As for the Hebrews passage, not every one of the patriarchs was like the maligned prophets. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all rich and died in their old age. All the righteous kings enjoyed the lavish riches poured out on them by God.

          So I’m not sure we can make a hard and fast rule here on this except to say that God provides. Sometimes just what we need and sometimes more than we need.

  3. Capitalism may be the best economic system, but unless it is informed by Biblical principles it will deteriorate under the greed of fallen man.
    The labor force may be hard working, the resources unlimited, and the intellectual capital beyond compare. All of that means nothing if those at the top (in business and government) are governed simply by their own selfish interest.

    I fear that what will happen (actually is already happening) is the government will step in and fill the vacuum created by the greed of big business, and we will go farther down the road to socialism.

    • Fred,

      As much as I advocate an addition of more socialistic workings within the Body of Christ, I definitely do not want the government mandating socialism. Church yes, government no stinking way.

      Look at the mess that is Canada and seriously ask how much they have lost with socialism. Religious speech and practice are going the way of the dodo because Canadians wanted the government to tend them from cradle to grave. And since governments do everything by lowest common denominator and “fairness” principles, anything noble, worthy, and exemplary get canned as discriminatory, including the Gospel.

      I don’t want to be overly harsh on Al Mohler, but I have got to believe that he runs with rarefied company and attends a church of like people. I doubt that those people are anything less than executives of this company and that, the ones who long ago forgot what the mail room was like—and frankly don’t really care what it’s like now. So for him, Jefty economics makes perfect sense because that’s all he’s exposed to. Therefore, that comes out in his post.

  4. Ron

    {Somewhere in this rant is a worthy post. My apologies to readers in advance that the worthy post didn’t materialize.}

    Dan,
    No apologies needed. A little Jeremiad never hurt anyone, and in this case it’s just what many of us need to hear, because not enough people are saying it. You are articulating what many of us are feeling but aren’t able to put words to. Thanks.

  5. Brian Cragin

    Dan,

    I think your post speaks more to me about the mistake we Christians have made in assuming that “getting ahead” is what our goal is.

    We are followers of Christ, not the Jones. We have a God dream, not an American dream. We are to be last to be first, not first to be first.

    As Paul said, I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in. Whether thats capitalism or communism. It is where the Lord wants us. Not to get ahead or behind. But to preach the gospel.

    Our measure is not our bank accounts or our credit scores. Its our willingness to follow Jesus in our daily lives. Whatever those may be.

    Last time I checked Jesus said where your treasure is there will be your heart. Is our heart in our bank accounts or in heaven?

    While our economy may tank, on a real level of feeding our families and housing our kids, the biblical instruction is clear — your Father in heaven knows what you need. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Practical ideas will also abound, more than one family to a home, pooled resources, etc. Just like they had to do back when the economy wasn’t the hope of mankind.

    Who knows, maybe we might rediscover something that has been missing for a few years. True christian community, trust in God and keeping our eyes on Jesus.

  6. Darrell

    Uncanny Dan – Really.

    I was reading Mr. Mohler’s post just this morning and suffering a rare case of schizophrenic responses; heartily agreeing in one sense and musing “well, maybe for some but clearly not for all” in the next. My conclusion was major agreement with the perfect world of capitalistic theory (Adam Smith, et al) up and against the gritty reality of how it often plays out in real life.

    In careful assumption, Mohler (much like myself) is a white, upper middle class white guy. The system worked for him (as it did, more or less, for me). I’m not sure this will continue to be the case. He has faith it does and will continue to do so. And some underlying principles he concludes I think are valid (likewise, I agree capitalism is a tainted game but still the best one in town) and some variant of capitalism will continue, I’m sure.

    Fact is I’ve got a growing collection of young, adult children (sons in law) who basically cannot make it. At best, they are just scraping by. Some worked hard and have college degrees and others are willing bust rump all day if it means a way out and up to a better, self-sustaining life for them and their families. But these opportunities just do not seem to be materializing. This is not to say personal factors do not weigh in and the consequences of reaping and sowing do not apply. They do. But the bottom line is the system is razor sharp and leaves no margin but for only those with terrific advantage.

    It’s truly been instructive for me to witness this over the years. Go to college and play the game – you got a tough road ahead. Skip college and glean a trade – tough road ahead. Ditch on both – same tough road (perhaps a bit bumpier?).

    For years now I’ve been convinced too many believers I know are “gaming” the system as you put it. Frankly, myself included at times. I’ve questioned everything from the whole premise of “getting something for nothing –or near nothing as some financial markets offer– to the whole American ideal of an early, leisure, cash-flush retirement. Time and time again when I discuss or debate these issues among some brothers (and sisters) I feel like I’m the odd man out — some folks look at me like I’m from planet Xenon with six heads or something.

    I begin to wonder if what I read in scripture is my poor understanding of these principles or perhaps there really is a small, rare minority of followers willing to tag these ideas and deeper notions for what they often are: at odds with biblical precepts. As the body, we’ve bought various economic and cultural lies instead of reforming and denouncing them for what they are: the sin of greed, materialism and malcontent.

    Okay, I’ve just exceeded my own limit for blog comments and I’ll bail thanking all for tolerating my own little comment rant.

    • Darrell,

      Even six-headed Xenonites are welcome here!

      I think we explain away the social and economic words of Jesus. He upset that world and demanded something more of us, something difficult, yet so easy. Why we don’t do it is because we love our stuff more than the Lord.

  7. Darrell

    And I’d have to question debt as well. I realize opinions may vary with this but debt is always a level of burden and degree of risk. Even if the capital held is gaining in background.

    This is because, as many are now finding out, even the most seemingly stable systems are subject to flux and loss (or even full bankruptcy). It comes down to living very simple and a willingness to acquire wealth via strait forward means: hard work and saving. It may also require living a very simple life as well: food, water and shelter. Perhaps not much more?

    The only debt I’m willing to carry now in life is a home. Perhaps, worst case, a vehicle in dire situations of extreme necessity. Else, nada. No debt. If I don’t have cash, call me strange, but I guess I can’t afford it.

    Understandably, some disagree with this and I can respect that – it’s their life. But I also know our country (not to mention personal) debt is reaching absurd dimensions. I suspect it’s a mind set that believes debt is necessary to living.

    I realize some folks hit hard times and fall back to using credit. But this is different from leveraging debt as a means and way of life.

  8. Aussiejohn

    Dan,

    I’m not against debt per se. I purchased my house and car by borrowing money. I took on the responsibility for my debt and management of my money.

    But Keyesian economic theory, which flies in the face of your previous post, and on which our Western economies are built , believes it is the government’s job to cover bad management, lack of responsibility and accountability of big business by smoothing out the bumps in the process of business. Tax payer funds are to be used to make up for the executive greed, and shore up bad investments. The intervention is supposed to be by government spending and tax breaks, in both good and bad times.

    In my book that doesn’t add up to accountabilty or responsibility on the part og big business or government. On the surface it seems more like governments scratching the back of those who scratch theirs.

    I certainly agree with Brian and Fred. By the way, I don’t want to live under socialism of any kind, communist or otherwise.

  9. Frank

    Thanks, Dan. I love this post. I’d never really thought about all this, tell you the truth, but I think you’re right. More and more, I’m coming to realize that following Christ isn’t about being a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican or “a member in good standing” or any other granfalloon.

    Cheers, friend.

  10. keith

    Great commentary Dan.

    I don’t know the particulars of Mohler’s situation, but there are certainly some with high influence in the Body who are completely out of touch with how everyman lives these days.

  11. The place where Mohler and and the Christian view of economics diverge is succinctly put near the end of his essay: “The free market is not perfect, but capitalism has brought more wealth to more people than any other system.”

    That which is near perfect is not a “system that seeks to bring more wealth to more people than any other system” – but one which seeks to warn people about the seduction of wealth, the value of poverty of spirit, and the godliness of giving oneself … even to death on a cross.

    The economics of Christ make no sense in an environment of the economics of Mohler and those who share his views.

    Jesus counted on that.

  12. I checked out CNBC.com for the closing Dow Jones figures: -777.68, a -6.98% drop. 777! Lamech, Noah’s father, was 777 years old when he died and the flood came. But the figure is almost -777.7 and a 7% drop. Wow…what are the chances? 🙂 That is like Wall Street almost hit a reverse jackpot on a five-figure slot machine.

  13. anonymous

    You mention the academic folks as sometimes being out of touch with the more common man, e.g. the janitors, taxi-drivers..

    ..I’m thinking about going for a Master’s perhaps Ph.D. in a very academic field. But one area I want to be extremely sensitive to is the common man. I don’t want my studies to be insulated from such a pulse, although certainly nothing we do occurs in a vacuum of context. Christian university versus secular university? Is the very choice of going with a Christian university a choice of insulation because as I mention below most Christianity is a fractured along class lines? Would a secular university provide more of an opportunity to fan out into the economy, to decrease insulation, to address the “scandal of the Evangelical mind” as Mark Noll so acutely address? I don’t know..

    You mention conservative evangelical churches..

    ..I’m thinking about leaving my current church, almost have already actually, because I feel like many conservative evangelical churches like this one promote anti-intellectualism (Dan, you think people should tough things out more in churches, huh?).

    You mention insulation generally and stuff specifically from clouding our vision of real important (spiritual) matters..

    ..I wonder about this a lot. Churches grouped along socio-economic lines rather than immaterial features like belief, etc. I hear from people that socio-economic distinctives within the body of Christ are extremely difficult to surmount (anyone know of success stories in this area?). Difference between “official” and “real”. Officially churches might believe one thing, but really churches practice another through their values. Are values more important than beliefs to Christians?

    Are values, which are precarious, more important than beliefs, which are stable, as long as they are accurately informed by Scripture, to Christians?

    • Darrell

      While values are not more important then core beliefs they play a role – for better or worse, like it or not.

      I attend an SGM church that, while far from perfect, does a better job then not surmounting the socio-economic barriers that I suspect you’re speaking of. In fairness, at least to some degree and extent.

      It’s a “highbrow” church as a bud of mine likes to say (who hails from a small, “lowbrow” church?) and we seem to have a better then not range of socio-economic scope in our body.

      Still, as hinted at, it’s not to the extent I think some of us would like to see (it’s clearly tilted way upper-middle class, white folk). On one level, it’s a stark contrast to the small, “poor” black church right across the street.

      I know for my family, we have very good friends we love and appreciate but, to be frank, we cannot always fully relate to –on a practical level– due to simple economic disparity.

      For example, I have groups of these friends and we strive to maintain relationship via meals. At one point I noticed the hospitality had shifted to dining out. Not only was I convinced dinning out missed critical nuances of in-home hospitality but we simply couldn’t afford to routinely eat out with this collection of believers.

      Now I’m not down on a bunch of believers going out for a meal but what was par for the course for some was cost prohibitive for others. It’s just a reality at times that can make, perhaps, relating difficult but one that can be overcome, I’m convinced, as goes true fellowship. Rich or poor, you’re still a brother. If that makes sense?

      • Darrell,

        Christians should tear down relational barriers, not erect them. Whatever it is that gets in the way of fellowship must be addressed. More than once I have seen fellowship groups price some people out of the group.

        • Darrell

          Just to clarify: in my example, I’m sure this was unconsciousness and in no way intentional.

          I was merely trying to give some sense of how, at times, unexpected socio-economic differences do manifest themselves and, as you well noted, we need to be on guard to whatever creates chasms versus bridges in local bodies.

          Ironically, I’m convinced reverse socio-economic discrimination can occur in the body just as well. I’ve seen subtle traces of both in my experience.

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