Sunday, October 05, 2008

Religious Crisis

I believe in the natural world and evolution. In a sense, they are my religion. I define religion as that which gives us a point of reference, that which anchors us in an environment of diverse and conflicting claims and opinions.

Plants and animals compete with one another to acquire what they need for the immediate moment and the cyclical seasons of drought and winter. Our ancestors lived this way. Hay was gathered, root cellars were filled, meat was smoked, dried or salted for the winter months. In the spring the cycle began again as gardens were laid out and sown.

Saving, preparing, storing for the future. This makes sense to me. The current economic system does not. It violates my religion.

As I read news articles the underlying assumption is that much the world, and the United States in particular, lives on credit. Sometimes credit is necessary but not as a way of life. A student graduating from school may need to buy the first auto on credit in order to commute to work. Makes sense. But, credit as a way of life does not.

I was surprised a few years ago when we decided to buy an auto. The salesman's first question was "how much can you afford per month." Credit? Buy on time? A person my age should be able to pay cash.

We have been trained to be consumers, to be citizens in a disposable society. Our ancestors lived in the cycles of the season, our fathers lived in the cycles of the automobile as new models were unveiled each year. We no longer lives in cycles as new products are continually being promoted and advertised and credit plans are being offered.

About forty years ago I purchased an item on time from Sears. When I got the first payment notice the minimum payment was only six dollars. I did the calculations and discovered two things. First, it would take years and an enormous amount of interest to pay off a balance of $200. Second, I realized Sears is not a retail business. Retail items are only a front to a financial services business that actually seeks wealth by charging interest. It was a valuable realization and lesson.

The model I discovered in Sears has become the dominant model that is supported by Congress and our elected leaders.

I have yet to read that either presidential candidate has addressed the real problem behind the current economic crisis -- a failure to save, a failure to prepare for an uncertain future, a failure to exercise restraint when targeted by advertising, a failure to conserve, a failure to seek contentment and happiness in family, friends, community, fulfilling work and within one's self rather than in goods and items.

The world religions with which I'm somewhat familiar advocate wisdom and the non-material. I know of none that advocate gluttony, greed, hoarding and amassing things.

Jesus said "you cannot serve God and mammon" (mammon: material wealth or possessions especially as having a debasing influence) but the Christians in this country are determined to prove him wrong. It's not just the Christians but all religions that have become servants to the economic system. Perhaps you might exclude some groups like the Amish; their mistakes are elsewhere.

In my opinion, we don't have an economic crisis. We have a religious crisis -- a crisis among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Humanitarians and others. We have a crisis among evolutionists and naturists like myself. We are not free of responsibility.

We have a crisis and we have no leadership. Nor does it appear we we will have any leadership regardless of the outcome of the election.

7 Comments:

Blogger SimplyTim said...

Paul,

Outstanding post.

I really appreciate your about Sears really being a financial services, i.e., collection agency, and being a retail business is essentially a front for that.

We could clearly say the same for BestBuy and Lowe's and Home Depot also, at least for the more expensive items.

In my mind I keep coming back to the Nearing's statement re money that their strategy was to have each year a small amount in excess of their needs, and that excess is exceedingly well managed.

Tim

10/06/2008 04:14:00 AM  
Blogger SimplyTim said...

Paul,

For more on money and assimilation and freedom take a look at:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4611#more

Tim

10/06/2008 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Tim, thanks for the link. I just read the article and found it well worth the time.

It's interesting to ponder our situation and search for the root causes.

This begs more research and more thought.

10/06/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

Excellent post, Paul. Every word of it is true.

The one point I want to key in on is your statement that any one of our age should be able to pay cash for a car. It is an unfortunate fact of life that, through no particular fault of their own, many Americans are able to attain a state of financial independance to allow big ticket, cash purchases.

10/06/2008 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Our leaders have been spending 800 billion here and there at the drop of a hat...
Imagine if we made one trillion dollars available to help 4 million families create small self sufficient intensive farms.

It would directly employ about 10 million people while eliminating debt and commuting; feed many tens of millions with healthy local food; indirectly employ more tens of millions; make our nation much more secure in food and energy, and health.

Ahh, to dream about enlightened leadership.

10/12/2008 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger anonymous julie said...

Paul; I've been saving this to read (waiting for a clear mind, I guess) for... well, awhile. I'm glad to finally read it. Nice work.

10/17/2008 11:49:00 AM  
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