Day: April 1, 2013
Today, the biggest challenge we must meet is the one we present to ourselves. To not become a nation that places entitlement ahead of accomplishment. To not become a country that places comfortable lies ahead of difficult truths. To not become a people that thinks so little of ourselves that we demand no sacrifice from each other.
In my quest to understand “entitlement” today I watched the debate on whether college athletes should be paid. I also pondered the question why low caste status felons have no right or entitlement to live their life as this T.I. rapper or Marth Steward, and let us not forget the countless football and basketball felons and celebrities of hollywood that are still moving forward with life. To deny any one of any status associated with life and humanity I feel is an endictment to all the “Ehtical” core values affiliated with the Constitution.
I find all of the practices of “commercialism” to be unfair. Why is it alright for our college athletes to put all on the line with their future and get nothing while pursuing their dream? Why is it alright for the lower caste status felon’s to be exploited while serving their debt to society with no hope of ever being employed all the while having to survive on crumbs and no decent housing? Can you Imagine living a slow death coupled with the temptation to survive everyday and no help nor training or opportunity to reintegrate into society as a higher caste felon? I have looked from the inside out on these issues and felt compelled to write about it today. I also thought of the Human Beings called illegal citizens, my God whales and other protected animals seem to have better rights than we as Human Beings. We need to take a look at our value system. I am ready to make some noice, how about you?
The parallelism should enable readers to surmise at once the basis for our entitlement to certain equalities. Just as with the liberties to which we have a natural right, so here with respect to the equalities that we can rightfully claim, the ultimate basis of the right lies in the nature of man.
If human beings were not by nature endowed with freedom of the will and the power of free choice, to be exercised in the pursuit of the ultimate good that they are morally obliged to seek, they would not have, by nature, a right to liberty of action. If they were not by nature political animals, they would not have by nature the right to political liberty. Their right to these liberties lies in the fact that deprivation of them renders their power of free choice ineffective in the pursuit of happiness and frustrates their natural inclination to participate in political affairs.
The equalities to which we are all entitled, by virtue of being human, are circumstantial, not personal. They are equalities of condition–of status, treatment, and opportunity. How does our humanity justify our right to these equalities?
The answer is that, by being human, we are all equal–equal as persons, equal in our humanity. One individual cannot be more or less human than another, more or less of a person. The dignity we attribute to being a person rather than a thing is not subject to differences in degree. The equality of all human beings is the equality of their dignity as persons.
Were all human beings not equal in their common humanity, did they not all equally have the dignity of persons, they would not all be entitled to equalities of condition. The point is strikingly illustrated by an ancient and erroneous doctrine (which, by the way, takes many disguised forms in the modern world) that some human beings are by nature slaves and so are radically inferior to other human beings who are by nature their masters. If this view of the facts were correct, as it is not, all human beings would not be entitled to any equality of condition–equality of status, treatment, and opportunity.
The factual basis for the correct view is biological. All members of any biological species, human or otherwise, are alike in possessing the properties or powers that are genetically determined attributes of that species of living organism. These common properties, shared by all individuals of a certain species, are appropriately called species-specific. Of these species-specific properties, some are generic, shared by other animals; such, for example, in the case of human beings, are their vegetative and sensitive powers. Only some of man’s species-specific properties consist of powers that are not generic, but being distinctive and definitive of the human species, differentiate human beings as different in kind from other animals.
To say that all human beings are equal in their common humanity is, therefore, to say that all have the same species-specific properties, both those that are generic properties shared by other animals and those that are distinctive and definitive of the human species, such as man’s power of free choice and his power of conceptual thought.
The statement in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights is not, on the face of it, self-evidently true. Nor can it be made self-evident by substituting “are by nature equal” for “created equal,” and “endowed by nature with certain unalienable rights” for “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
The truth of the statement, even when the substitutions are made, is the truth of a conclusion reached by reasoning in the light of factual evidence, evidence and reasoning that refutes the ancient doctrine that some human beings (all members of the same species) are by nature slaves.
I am not going to present here the evidence and expound the reasoning that establishes the truth of the conclusion that all human beings, as members of the species Homo sapiens, are ipso facto equal. I have done that in another case study, entitled The Lynching of felons.
The conclusion there reached is that man differs in kind, not merely in degree, from other animal organisms, which means that while he has certain generic properties shared by them, with respect to which he may differ in degree from them, human beings also have certain distinctive properties that only they possess and that all other animals totally lack. It is the having and not having of these distinctive human powers that differentiates human beings in kind from other animals.
The truth of the proposition that all human beings are by nature equal is confined to the one respect in which that equality can be truly affirmed; namely, their all being equally human, their having the species-specific properties and especially the differentiating properties that belong to all members of the species.
There is no other respect in which all human beings are equal. Two or more individuals may be personally equal in some other respect, such as height, intelligence, talent, or virtue, but equality in such respects is never true of all.
The contrary is true. When we consider all members of the human species, we find that, in every respect other than their possession of the same species-specific properties and powers, inequalities in degree prevail. In other words, though all human beings have the same generic and specifically distinctive properties and powers, some will have them to a higher, some to a lower, degree than others.
Individual members of the species differ from one another either by innate endowment, genetically determined, or by voluntary attainment, individually acquired. From these individual differences arise the inequalities in degree that make one individual superior or inferior to another in some particular respect.
One individual, by nature equal to another in kind, which means equal through having the same species-specific properties, may be by nature unequal to another in degree, which means being genetically endowed with a higher or lower degree–with more or less–of the properties or powers that both possess at birth. In addition, one may be superior or inferior to another in individually acquired attainments as well as in genetically determined endowments. This may wholly result from differences in individual effort; but it may also be partly due to the favorable or unfavorable circumstances under which the individual strives to accomplish something.
For brevity of reference, let us use the phrase “specific equality” to refer to the personal equality in kind that is the one equality possessed by all human beings. Let us use the phrase “individual equality” or “individual inequality” to refer to the personal equality and inequality of human beings in all other respects, whether that be equality and inequality in degree of endowments or equality and inequality in degree of attainments.
From the declarative statement about the specific equality in kind of all human beings, what prescription follows? The answer is that all human beings are in justice or by right entitled to a circumstantial equality in kind, especially with respect to political status, treatment, and opportunity and with respect to economic status, treatment, and opportunity.
Being by nature equal, they are all endowed by nature with certain unalienable rights, unalienable because they are inherent in man’s specific nature, not merely bestowed upon man by legal enactment. Legal enactment may be necessary to secure these rights, but it does not constitute their unalienability.
Merely legal rights are alienable. Being granted by the state, they can be taken away by the state. Natural rights can be secured or violated by the state, but they do not come into existence through being granted by the state; nor does their existence cease when they are not acknowledged or secured by the laws of the state.
As we have seen, human beings, having by nature the power of free choice, have a natural and unalienable right to liberty of action. Being also by nature political animals, they have a natural and unalienable right to political liberty and participation. Justice requires that all should be accorded the equal status of citizenship with suffrage, through which status they can exercise their power to participate in government. All citizens have this power. It is totally lacking in those who, being disfranchised, are deprived of it. Having this power to some degree confers upon all citizens with suffrage a circumstantial equality in kind. Between those who have it and those who are deprived of it, there is a circumstantial inequality in kind.
Turning now from the political to the economic sphere, parallel reasoning reaches a parallel conclusion. Both as an animal generically, and as a specifically human animal, man has certain biological needs, such as his need for the means of subsistence in order to survive, and his need for certain comforts and conveniences of life, which he needs to live humanly well. Economic goods are the goods that man by nature needs in order to survive and, beyond that, to live well-to engage successfully in the pursuit of happiness,
These include more than food and drink, clothing and shelter. They include schooling as instrumental to fulfilling man’s need for knowledge and skill; a healthful environment as instrumental to fulfilling man’s need for health; ample free time from toil or earning a living as instrumental to fulfilling man’s need to engage in play for the pleasure of it and in the pursuits of leisure for the improvement of his mind by engagement in all forms of learning and creative activity.
From these natural needs for the goods mentioned and for the goods that are instrumental to achieving them arises man’s natural right to the possession of that sufficiency of economic goods which is enough for living well–for making a good life. The existence of natural right leads us to the conclusion that every human being is entitled to whatever economic goods any human being needs to lead a good life.
Just as all human beings are entitled to a political equality in kind, so they are all entitled to an economic equality in kind.
All should be haves with respect to political liberty, none have-nots, none disfranchised persons totally deprived of the power of political participation that a political animal needs.
All should be haves with respect to wealth in the form of whatever economic goods a human being needs to live well, at least that sufficiency of such goods which is enough for the purpose. None can be have-nots in the sense of being totally deprived of such goods, for total deprivation means death. But none should be destitute–have-nots in the sense of being deprived of enough wealth to live well.
In both the political and economic sphere, justice requires only as much equality of conditions as human beings have a natural right to on the basis of their natural needs. The statement of the matter just made occupies a middle position between the two extremist views mentioned earlier.
At one extreme, the libertarian maintains that the only circumstantial equality to which all human beings are entitled is equality of opportunity. He argues for this view on the ground that such equality tends to maximize individual liberty of action, especially freedom of enterprise in the economic sphere.
The libertarian rightly thinks that attempts on the part of organized society to establish an equality of economic condition other than an equality of opportunity will inevitably result in government regulations and interferences in economic activities that restrict individual liberty of action and put curbs on freedom of enterprise. Where he is wrong is in failing to see that such curtailments of freedom, made in the interests of justice, are proper limitations of liberty. His error lies in asking for more liberty than justice allows.
At the opposite extreme, the egalitarian maintains that the circumstantial equality to which all human beings are entitled should not be merely an equality in kind that is accompanied by inequalities in degree. It should be more than that. It should be the extreme form of circumstantial equality, which is an equality of condition attended by no inequalities in degree.
Stated in political terms, this would mean that all should be haves in the sense of having political liberty and power, but no individual should have more, and none less, of the power that all should have because it is requisite for participation in political life.
Stated in economic terms, this would mean that all should be haves with respect to wealth in the form of the economic goods needed to live humanly well, but also that all should have the same amount of wealth. None should have more, and none less, of the wealth that everyone needs for the successful pursuit of happiness.
The middle position between these erroneous extremes, in both the political and the economic spheres, calls for a moderate, not an extreme, form of circumstantial equality. With regard to the possession of political or economic goods, real goods that every human being needs, it calls for no more than everyone is entitled to by natural right. It is willing to settle for no less.
A moderate or justly limited equality of conditions is an equality in kind, with respect to either political or economic goods, but one that is accompanied by inequalities in degree that justice also requires. Justice requires only that all shall be haves. It does not require that all shall be haves to the same degree. On the contrary, as the next chapter will attempt to make clear, some are entitled by justice to more, and some to less, of the goods that everyone is entitled by justice to have.
Two additional reasons can be given for rejecting the wrong prescription concerning equality of conditions that the egalitarian recommends on the basis of man’s specific personal equality.
First of all, he appears to forget that the specific equality of all members of the human species is accompanied by individual inequalities of all sorts, both in endowments and attainments and in what use individuals make of their endowments and attainments.
Human individuals are not all equal in the way that so many precision-made ball bearings are alike–identical with one another in every respect except number, all having the same properties without any difference in degree. Unlike the ball bearings, which of course have no individuality at all, human individuality consists of individual differences that result in one person’s having more or less of the same attributes that also belong to another.
To recommend the prescription that all human beings are entitled to a circumstantial equality of conditions, political and economic, that should involve no differences in degree is to neglect or overlook the existence of significant individual inequalities in degree among human beings. These personal inequalities in degree call for circumstantial inequalities in degree, just as our personal equality in kind calls for circumstantial equality in kind.
The error being made by the egalitarian arises in the same way as the one made by the elitist who neglects or overlooks the personal equality in kind of all human beings. On the sole basis of personal inequalities in degree, the elitist recommends circumstantial inequality in degree with respect to political and economic goods. He rejects the recommendation of any circumstantial equality in kind, except perhaps equality of opportunity. The elitist makes that one exception because he believes that, in the race of life, the superior will win.
Elitism can be avoided without going to the opposite extreme of egalitarianism, simply by rendering what is in justice due human beings by reference to their personal equality without overlooking their individual inequalities and by reference to their individual inequalities without ignoring their personal equality. In recent history, the most glaring and egregious example of an egalitarian overreaction against elitism is provided by the cultural revolution to which China was subjected under the gang of four.
A second reason for rejecting the extremism of the egalitarian looks not to its injustice, but to its practical unfeasibility.
It is possible for miscarriages of justice to occur that would permit liberty to run rampant beyond limits and to become injurious license. The libertarian extreme is feasible, but not the egalitarian extreme. More liberty than justice allows is possible in society, but more equality than justice requires cannot be sustained.
To recommend that all should be haves with respect to political liberty and power, but that none should have more and none less, is to recommend a form of direct democracy so extreme that it would allow no distinction whatsoever between citizens in or out of public office–a democracy in which there are no magistrates, one in which everything is decided directly by a majority vote of the whole citizenry.
It is doubtful whether such extreme democracy ever existed, in Athens or in New England townships. It certainly would not be practically feasible in any state of considerable size; having a population so large that all its members could not deal with each other face to face, nor when confronted with the complexity of problems that states and governments must deal with in the contemporary world.
In the economic sphere, to recommend that all should be haves with respect to wealth in the form of whatever economic goods human beings need to live well, but that none should be richer and none poorer in their possession of wealth, is to recommend an equality of conditions that has never existed, except perhaps in monasteries where the monks, taking the vow of poverty, participate equally in what wealth is available for the community as a whole.
If, under secular conditions, all individuals or all families were somehow to come into possession of the same amount of wealth, in whatever form, that absolute equality of economic condition would not last for long. A magic wand would be needed, not only to bring it into existence, but also to make it endure. No one has ever worked out a plan whereby, short of magic, this extreme form of economic equality might become feasible.
Our heavenly Father understands our disappointment, suffering, pain, fear, and doubt. He is always there to encourage our hearts and help us understand that He’s sufficient for all of our needs. When I accepted this as an absolute truth in my life, I found that my worrying stopped.
New International Version (NIV)
15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely[a] defend my ways to his face.
2 Timothy 1:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
I will forever be thankful to God for the gifts He has allowed me to see in myself and others. Being gifted with grace to endure storms of life and yet desire to be an aroma to God that will place you above your stance is to be thankful for. As I searched the web this morning I saw the blessings of God in full display. No matter who you are…The Lord has blessed you with intellectual faculties capable of vast improvement. Cultivate your talents with persevering earnestness. Train and discipline the mind by study, by observation, by reflection. You cannot meet the mind of God unless you put to use every power. The mental faculties will strengthen and develop if you will go to work in the fear of God, in humanity, and with earnest prayer. A resolute purpose will accomplish wonders.
I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
come drifting home with broken mast and sails;
I will believe the Hand that never fails,
From seeing evil works to good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
“I trust in Thee.”
I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I will believe it is an all-wise love
That has rerused these things for which I yearn;
And though at times I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure passion of mixed believing
Undimmed will burn.
I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive.
I will believe the heights for which I strive
Are only reached by anguish andby pain;
And though I groan and writhe beneath my crosses,
Yet I will see through my severest losses
The greater gain.
I will not doubt. well anchored is this faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale;
So strong its courage that it will not fail
To face mighty unknown sea of death.
oh, may I cry, though body leaves the spirit,
“I do not doubt,” so listening worlds may hear it,
With my last breath.
An old seaman once said, “In fierce storms we must do one thing, for there is only one way to survive: we must put the ship in a certain position and kee0p her there.” And this, dear Christian, is what you must do. Sometimes, like Paul, you cannot see the sun or the stars to help you navigate when the storm is bearing down on you. This is when you can only do one thing, for there is only one way. Reason cannot help you, past experiences will shed no light, and even prayer will bring no consolation. Only one course remains: you must put your soul in one position and keep it there.
You must anchor yourself steadfastly upon the Lord. And then, come what may–whether wind, wave, rough seas, thunder, lighting, jagged rocks, or roaring breakers, whether the wheather whether you like it or not. You must lash yourself to the helm, firmly holding your confidence in God’s faithfulness, His covenat promises, and His everlasting love in Christ Jesus. My life has got to exude what I believe or else all is lost. My situations sometimes get so fearce that I often return to my dead man way of thinking, but praise God He is greater in me than he that is in the world. Stay the course my dear reader and watch the only wise God get yopu through.
I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.
New International Version (NIV)
18 A wicked person earns deceptive wages,
but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.
I once practiced deception in the way I lived and did business and yes the results were grievious. I am still trying to get out of the clutches of the results of that life style.
I knew a loyal carpenter named Joe Smith who worked nearly two decades for a successful contractor. One day the contractor called him into his office and said, “Joe, I’m putting you in charge of the next house we build. I want you to order all the materials and oversee the job from the ground up.”
Joe accepted the assignment with great enthusiasm. he studied the blueprints and checked every measurement and specification. Suddenly, he had a thought, if I am really in charge, why couldn’t I cut a few corners, use less expensive material, and put the extra money in my pocket? Who will know? Once the house is painted, it will look great.
So Joe went about his scheme. he ordered second-grade lumber and inexpensive concreat, put in cheap wiring, and cut every corner he could. When the home was finished, the contractor came to see it.
“What a fine job you have done!” he said. “You have been such a faithful carpenter to me all these years that I have decided to show you my gratitude by giving to you this very house which you have built.” Build well today. You may have to live with the reputation you create.
Character is like the foundation of a house–it is below the surface…Collapse this post
Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.
I love the concepts these two entertainers model as a means to getting to the top of their profession. Honing your strengths and talents is key in life and business. Despite the obvious, some entrepreneurial cats are continuing down their stubborn ego-driven path of trying to seek fame in the game but have no skills that impress. You would think after the Facebook IPO fiasco people would realize hype does not open up roads to riches. Even in the hip-hop game, Maino said it best about the tragedy of getting famous before getting rich. We have to stop the fronting and start focusing on the fundamentals if we want to get ours.
When you chase fame and you don’t have fortune, you set yourself up for all kind of bad news. The first thing you do is make yourself a target to those who are truly superior to you. The “Art of War” teaches that you do not reveal yourself until you develop an unstoppable momentum. The second thing is fame is expensive as it cost to be the boss. The worst thing that can happen to an aspiring entrepreneur is they get some “recognition” and now everybody is all over them, calling them out, stressing them out, dissing them before they can even be at the level to put out their product or service.
When you focus on the fundamentals, you are laying down your foundation to your fortune. You get the skills, the material, the craft, the connects and you roll up your sleeves, hit the table and make it work. Business is about transactions and the only thing that matters in transactions is that you have something that someone wants to buy – not how many people know or recognize who you are. Once you have the fundamentals on getting paid, no one can really mess with you except the government.
But here is the thing, your fundamentals are what make you famous faster than chasing fame. Once cats see you doing good business and you handle smooth transactions and give good service, and have a positive vibe about yourself word of mouth is going to grow.
And cats can’t say a damn thing about you because you already doing it. All they can do is side hate but your customers already love you and will take your side and laugh at your haters and defend you with their money going into your bank account.
So with that said, when you see these cornballs featured in articles and media coverage but have nothing but a cute inspirational story to tell, just remember the difference between fame and fundamentals. Remember that Facebook was trying to IPO off fame and hype and you saw how far that got them in the IPO. Remember that Warren Buffet operates off fundamentals and you see the empire he built. A lot of you cats are on some fan-boy or fan-girl running around in this business game but don’t know a damn thing about fundamentals.
In my personal quest to find something marketable, Warren Buffet is one of the models, he used patience, and a practical approach seasoned with trust. he formed his first investment partnership with $100.00 in 1956. He has honed it, perfected it, and stuck to it even when the temptations to adopt a different strategy were tantalizingly sweet. He didn’t invest in either Microsoft or the Internet because he didn’t feel he could paint an accurate picture of where high tech was going to be in twenty years. His distinct approach is the cause of his personal happiness and professional success. I see him being relevant here due to him figuring out something that can serve as a practical guide for all of us who are aspired to be successful and contribute to others.
Negative hustling is all ignorance seems to portrait, but there are some who want to stay in a positive, life giving, money making attitude for themselves and those they create opportunity for to not only keep their stomachs full, but others. live well my friends. Don’t let mistakes made make of form your future. Pray for the Pratt family as we do for all of “Man Kind.”
1 Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
“We will face the reality that although we are fruit trees by the grace of God, we still have thorn bush responses to life. The THORN bush represents the fact that, as sinners, we all tend to respond sinfully to the circumstances of life.” Confessing our inward faults and sins is the beginning to change. Fumbling around what our sins are only keeps us in the deception mode and bound by the enemy. I am elated that God has increased me past this deception.
I have been taking a look at how it is that God changes our lives, and shapes us into the identity that is ours in Christ. Because of His death, and His subsequent presence in our lives, we have been changing into His image in a process that He does in our lives through our every day circumstances. We are literally “New creations” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Note the process in the above verse. The point is, God is using the “HEAT” in our lives to shape us into the people He wants us to be. We need to be sensitive to that, and open to change. Is your identity being defined by your circumstances then they are by the grace of Jesus Christ? It is important to realize that you are a “New” person in Christ, complete with a new heart that is able to be transformed, and act in obedience to God and His word. Change, however, begins in understanding that the thorns still are present. We still act out in anger, we still numb our spiritual senses with work, possessions, substances, we still take our identity from the things we do and the things that people say, and we still find our joy in everything except God.
Today is my start to take a real look the at the thorns in my life because it is in taking this hard look at myself that I am able to see what God wants to change in my life. We could all benefit from meditating and praying Psalms 139:23-24 on a daily basis. We are called to an “Ongoing recognition and confession of our ‘thorny’ responses to life.” How do you respond to the daily heat in your life?
1. Our sin is worse than we can imagine, but God’s grace is greater than our sin!
2. God is concerned about transformation at the heart level, not the behavior level.
3. We should benefit from our relationship with Christ here and now, and in eternity.
4. God calls us to grow and change.
5. Our Christian life is a lifestyle of Repentance and Faith
There is no wisdom save in truth. Truth is everlasting, but our ideas about truth are changeable. Only a little of the first fruits of wisdom, only a few fragments of the boundless heights, breadths and depths of truth, have I been able to gather.
prison is a trap for catching time. Good reporting appears often about the inner life of the American prison, but the catch is that American prison life is mostly undramatic—the reported stories fail to grab us, because, for the most part, nothing happens. One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is all you need to know about Ivan Denisovich, because the idea that anyone could live for a minute in such circumstances seems impossible; one day in the life of an American prison means much less, because the force of it is that one day typically stretches out for decades. It isn’t the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prisons unendurable for their inmates. The inmates on death row in Texas are called men in “timeless time,” because they alone aren’t serving time: they aren’t waiting out five years or a decade or a lifetime. The basic reality of American prisons is not that of the lock and key but that of the lock and clock.
That’s why no one who has been inside a prison, if only for a day, can ever forget the feeling. Time stops. A note of attenuated panic, of watchful paranoia—anxiety and boredom and fear mixed into a kind of enveloping fog, covering the guards as much as the guarded. “Sometimes I think this whole world is one big prison yard, / Some of us are prisoners, some of us are guards,” Dylan sings, and while it isn’t strictly true—just ask the prisoners—it contains a truth: the guards are doing time, too. As a smart man once wrote after being locked up, the thing about jail is that there are bars on the windows and they won’t let you out. This simple truth governs all the others. What prisoners try to convey to the free is how the presence of time as something being done to you, instead of something you do things with, alters the mind at every moment. For American prisoners, huge numbers of whom are serving sentences much longer than those given for similar crimes anywhere else in the civilized world—Texas alone has sentenced more than four hundred teen-agers to life imprisonment—time becomes in every sense this thing you serve.
For most privileged, professional people, the experience of confinement is a mere brush, encountered after a kid’s arrest, say. For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.
The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that. In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. Ours is, bottom to top, a “carceral state,” in the flat verdict of Conrad Black, the former conservative press lord and newly minted reformer, who right now finds himself imprisoned in Florida, thereby adding a new twist to an old joke: A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged; a liberal is a conservative who’s been indicted; and a passionate prison reformer is a conservative who’s in one.
The scale and the brutality of our prisons are the moral scandal of American life. Every day, at least fifty thousand men—a full house at Yankee Stadium—wake in solitary confinement, often in “supermax” prisons or prison wings, in which men are locked in small cells, where they see no one, cannot freely read and write, and are allowed out just once a day for an hour’s solo “exercise.” (Lock yourself in your bathroom and then imagine you have to stay there for the next ten years, and you will have some sense of the experience.) Prison rape is so endemic—more than seventy thousand prisoners are raped each year—that it is routinely held out as a threat, part of the punishment to be expected. The subject is standard fodder for comedy, and an uncoöperative suspect being threatened with rape in prison is now represented, every night on television, as an ordinary and rather lovable bit of policing. The normalization of prison rape—like eighteenth-century japery about watching men struggle as they die on the gallows—will surely strike our descendants as chillingly sadistic, incomprehensible on the part of people who thought themselves civilized. Though we avoid looking directly at prisons, they seep obliquely into our fashions and manners. Wealthy white teen-agers in baggy jeans and laceless shoes and multiple tattoos show, unconsciously, the reality of incarceration that acts as a hidden foundation for the country.
Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.
“Don’t be a worry wart!” people say… and those of us prone to anxiety promptly begin worrying about worrying too much.
I know the feeling. I worry too. I’m not the “lie awake at night” kind of person. But I notice that when I have a lot on my plate, I give an inordinate amount of attention to little details. Worry consumes me in a variety of ways: I lose patience quickly, I snap at my wife and kids, or I lose my sense of empathy for others. Worry turns my focus to Me.
For a while, I thought that worry was caused by my failure to seek first the kingdom. If I would only fix my eyes on Jesus more, then I would stop worrying. If I would only think about the kingdom more, then anxiety wouldn’t be an issue.
Certainly, those who are seeking the kingdom above all things are not preoccupied with food, and drink, and clothing (as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount). And yes, seeking the kingdom first is a good action plan if we find ourselves worrying.
But seeking first the kingdom comes after we have been sought by the King. The root cause of worry is not misplaced priorities. It’s misplaced faith. It’s a failure to grasp the gospel of a God worthy of our trust.
So worry shows up whenever my view of God is diminished and my view of myself gets too big. I worry because my vision of God is skewed. I rest when my vision is fixed.
“Look at the birds of the air!” Jesus said. “God gives them food, even if they don’t work and earn their way.” There’s more to this parallel than a mere animal-to-human comparison about how much more God will care for us. There’s gospel here. God has given undeserved favor to the birds. He blesses them apart from their merits.
God’s grace and mercy is sustaining us too. Everything we have comes from God’s hand. Salvation belongs to the Lord. And the powerful God who saved us is the loving Father who sustains us.
When I reflect on the gospel of a priceless Savior giving his all for undeserving sinners like you and me, then I am assured that our value in the eyes of God does not shift with the economic tides. Our worth is not measured in what we do for God, but what God has done for us.
This is God the Father who sent his only Son to the cross that we deserved.
This is God the Son who willingly took on flesh, lived among us, and died in our place.
This is God the Spirit who prompts our hearts and brings us back into unending fellowship with our Maker.
It is the costly actions of God that give us our value.
In these difficult times, we – the people of God’s kingdom – need to be reminded of our true citizenship and true identity. The uneasiness of worry surfaces in our hearts when we lose sight of the gospel of God’s grace to the undeserving. Failure to grasp the gospel is what causes us to take our eyes off the kingdom and forget who we are in Christ.
United to Christ, we are part of a royal family. Our older Brother is the King of the world.
Thou art coming to a King,
large petitions with thee bring,
For his grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.
– John Newton
The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.
2 Kings 13:14–19, Ps 78:19
It’s not over yet!
Jacob was an old man when his son Joseph was taken to Egypt. His boy Joseph had been his dream. Now it looked like Jacob’s dream was dead. But in Genesis 45, we see that his spirit was revived. Joseph was still alive! The old man got his dream back in his old age.
You’re never too old, and it is never too late for God to use you. Moses was eighty years old when he got his assignment, and Caleb was 85 when God gave him his mountain.
If anybody could have retired comfortably, it would have been Abraham. He was wealthy, with vast herds of cattle and sheep. According to some commentaries, he had at least a thousand servants. But then God came knocking. In Genesis 12 we find God telling him to pack up, leave everything behind, and take off on a journey – to somewhere.
I’m sure his wife wondered about his sanity. “Honey, this place represents your life’s work. What do you mean we’re going to start living in tents? Where are we going? What do you mean you ‘don’t know’?
Why would an old guy like Abraham pack up and leave for the wilderness? Let’s look at a few dynamics that are at work here – there is something to learn even if you’re not old.
He had the ability to hear God
He had the ability to believe what God said
The ability to denounce security for the sake of God
The ability to stay focused on the mission
The ability to accomplish the mission
Hearing God – chase Him until you recognize His voice.
Believing God – Hebrews 11:8 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, now knowing where he was going”.