Thursday, December 25, 2008

A tale of Christmas Future

As I sat listening to the homily this morning at Christmas Liturgy the image of the Nativity scene in Bethlehem played out in my mind. I couldn't help but contrast this image of a quiet peace amongst the shepherd's fields with the consumer mentality that so dominates our existence today.

Jesus said " No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and Mammon." Matthew 6:24

(Mammon is a term that was used to describe riches, avarice, and worldly gain in Biblical literature. It was personified as a false god in the New Testament. The term is often used to refer to excessive materialism or greed as a negative influence.)

Mammon is what our society is all about. It's no accident that we are often referred to collectively as "consumers". I always like to say that we in America are intent on proving Jesus wrong. We think we can serve two masters. Well, we will at least try. Mammon has held a special place in our market driven economy, but I believe we are entering the end days of this consumer oriented existence.Just the thought of being a consumer is disgusting --it makes me think of a parasite. I forget the exact number, but I think something like 70% of our economy is based on the consumer. In simple terms we consume and no longer produce. Unfortunately for the most part we've been consuming things we don't make or need, with money we don't have. We think we have credit. All it really is though is debt and debt has made our world go round.

What a great gig. Some poor foreigner works his butt off for a pittance while we sit back and consume and consume. Here's the real deal : You can't borrow your way to prosperity. We are finding out that a bill does come due and does need to be paid. No additional TARP plans or stimulus packages are going to change the situation. Retail sales are down big-time, car sales are in the toilet, stock prices and real-estate values have fallen off a cliff. We're not as rich as we thought we were and the ramifications are going to be monumental.

The next several Christmas's might see a premium on such things as family, fellowship, friends and simple food. In the end, maybe something good will come out of all of this. We've been serving Mammon way too long.

Father closed the Christmas homily with a quote for Isaac the Syrian on the Incarnation. I'll have to do more reading of Isaac. My favorite along these lines is from Athanasius "God became man so that man might become a god."

If we ponder that line the only conclusion is that the Incarnation was one awesome Christmas gift and awesome might be a vast understatement.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boston Tea Party

Today, December 16 is the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. The strange thing about the Tea Party is that it more often than not, associated with the concept of " no taxation without representation". But as in many situations, the truth is not quite that simple. This Wikipedia entry provides a little background on this event from 1773:

Hancock organized a boycott of tea from China sold by the politically well-connected British East India Company, whose sales in the colonies then fell from 320,000 pounds to 520 pounds. By 1773, the company had large debts, huge stocks of tea in its warehouses and no prospect of selling it because smugglers, such as Hancock, were importing tea from the Netherlands without paying import taxes. In response to this the British government passed the Tea Act, which allowed the East India Company to sell tea to the colonies directly and without "payment of any customs or duties whatsoever" in Britain, instead paying the much lower American duty. This tax break allowed the East India Company to sell tea for half the old price and cheaper than the price of tea in England, enabling them to undercut the prices offered by the colonial merchants and smugglers.[citation needed]
Many American colonists, particularly the wealthy smugglers, resented this favored treatment of a major company, which employed lobbyists and wielded great influence in Parliament. Protests resulted in both Philadelphia and New York, but it was those in Boston that made their mark in history. Still reeling from the
Hutchinson letters, Bostonians suspected the selective removal of the Tea Tax was simply another attempt by the British parliament to squash American freedom. Samuel Adams, wealthy smugglers, and others who had profited from the smuggled tea called for agents and consignees of the East India Company tea to abandon their positions; consignees who hesitated were terrorized through attacks on their warehouses and even their homes.[1]

So it was actually a removal of a tax that angered the colonists-- not a tax increase. You can't make that up. I wonder if Sam Adams and his boys would be considered "terrorists" in today's world?