Saturday, March 12, 2005

(today’s point: values whiplash in Dallas)

Why are we so set on praising ourselves for our goodness?

Is this some kind of self-esteem need? Have we so deeply bought into the idea that we have to feel so good about ourselves that we then have to hide or deny or lie about or ignore our failures?

Here is a little secret: we have failures. We have failures of behavior, failures of will, failures of ideas. And some of these failures spread more failure far and wide.

But – if we can’t admit to our failures, than we end up on this fantasy ride about how great we are.

Take a few experiences/impressions this past week.

On Monday, I spoke to the staff of Central Dallas Ministries, giving a synopsis of the “look at where we are really, really messing up” book by David Shipler called The Working Poor. It is impossible to read this book and think that there are not specific things we can all do, right now, to make a difference.

And part of what needs to be done right now is to be done “together” – in other words, by the government, which is us – (remember: of the people, by the people, for the people – well, we are those people).

Then, on Wednesday, I went to the “Get Motivated Seminar.” Zig Ziglar and Rudolph Giuliani and George Foreman and Jerry Lewis and General Tommy Franks all spoke, along with a few men selling their infomercial-like get rich cd’s and plans. Here was the message of the day: you are such great people to be at this seminar today. And, believe in Jesus, love America, and be sure to get rich along the way.

One guy actually asked: “what would you do if you had all this extra money?” and then flashed pictures of a new fancy car and a huge house.

There was a twenty minute altar call (“believe in Jesus, go out to the lobby, sign this commitment card, get a free cd.”) But, except for the real estate sales guy selling his plan (“today only for $99.00”) to help everyone buy property, including his garbage collector, there was no hint that we could make more money for the purpose of being better able to help people in need.

Late that evening, I settled in for Nightline, and saw an interview and profile of Angelina Jolie, who has given $3 million of her own dollars to help the poor. She is now a very serious U. N. spokesperson on the plight of poor children. And she spoke so simply, so eloquently, on the difference it would make if the U. S. just raised our international giving to the level we have promised. When asked what she would ask President Bush if she could meet with him, she said, simply: “I would ask for the money.”

And then, Thursday morning, I heard David Shipler, the guy who wrote The Working Poor. He spoke of tangible problems among the poor, like a growing asthma epidemic, and a constellation of other problems. He then asked his audience: “would you all be willing to pay higher taxes to help the working poor?" Every hand went up. And he observed that he gets the same response every place he speaks. But that that word never seems to get to Washington.

But that crowd of a few hundred seemed to be made up of a different audience than the 20,000 or so at the “Get Motivated Seminar.” And I ended the week with values whiplash – wondering how we can even have conversations across this great and growing divide.

I know this – I would like to make more money. But I would also like the people at the “Get Motivated Seminar” to read The Working Poor in between listening to the cd’s about how to get richer. And I would like all of us to do our part to influence/persuade/cajole/insist that our government finds the money to help the people in need.

And maybe at the next seminar, when they show their pictures of fancy cars and beautiful homes, they could at least flash some pictures up of kids in refugee camps when they ask “what would you do if you made all this extra money?”


  • Randy, welcome to "blog world"! I love what you are up to here and I will refer people and my readers to you! Of course, your "markings" are right on target. The way Dallas mixes Jesus with material success and luxury is fairly amazing and thoroughly repugnant. I think there may be a Jesus nobody wants to know. Stay at it. Larry

    By Blogger Larry James, at Sat Mar 12, 01:06:00 PM  

  • Randy, I will leave my mark here and soon on my own blog. I'm about to forward this address to numerous friends in the Dallas area.

    I was raised near San Francisco in the 70's and I attended Berkeley in the 80's. Culture shock to arrive in Dallas in the era of Bushes! Until I met you, I had almost no contact with Like-minded Texans, including at my church (which does happen to do a whole lot for the poor both on the individual and on the church level, while preaching from the pulpit and in informal e-mail lists that what we need is more Conservatives in office, and we really are denying our faith to vote out of lock-step with that view).

    By Blogger KarenRinDallas, at Sat Mar 12, 06:14:00 PM  

  • Randy, nice thoughts about the motivational speakers that visited Dallas last week. As I was riding the rail I wondered where all of these folks are going, and should I be going with them. I knew better though. I knew that I was a pretty motivated guy, and I knew that the likes of those chosen few on the stage could not tell me anything about the things that are really important. Guess what, making a zillion dollars is not important to me. The war in Africa is important. Getting our kids out of Iraq is important. Justice for all is important. I hope the boys on the stage enjoy their money.


    By Blogger Pete, at Mon Mar 14, 07:22:00 PM  

  • Randy- Great insite. As I have been preaching through the Gospel of Mark I have been confronted with a different take on what the "gospel" really is. It is so easy to get sucked into a "christiani-me" mentality. Scripture seems really clear- God blesses us to bless others. Whether it be grace, love, money- whatever. I am glad you are blogging.

    By Blogger Lovell's Lookout, at Mon Mar 21, 10:11:00 AM  

  • Glad to know that you are here, Randy. Your work and your words are always inspiring.

    I know what you mean about the failure to tie money to a better end. I am currently pursuing my MBA, and not once have my teachers asked: why are you working? what do you want to do? what is the most important reason for getting this MBA?

    Actually, they did ask this last question, but in the context of "where do you want your career to go?" The entire program is selfish in its orientation, and fairly pointless in its vision of success.

    But, thus is life. I'm hoping to pick up something along the way that helps me in my life's work, rather than simply ways to increase my earthly assets.

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