At least one person is dead and 14 others were injured after a shooting erupted in Fort Hood, Texas, which may have involved more than one suspect, according to numerous news outlets.
The entire base is currently under lockdown and multiple victims were reported near the Battle Simulation Center on 65th and Warehouse Ave.
CNN reported that a suspected shooter died during the incident.
The FBI and the ATF were on the scene along with military police and local law enforcement.
On Monday, Fox News reported that the FBI sent a tip to multiple law enforcement agencies entitled “Planned Ft. Hood-inspired Jihad against US Soldiers by Army Recruit,” which told them to be on the lookout for a recent Army recruit known as “Booker, also known as Mohammad Abdullah Hassan” who was allegedly planning an “imminent jihad.”
But the news outlet updated the story yesterday stating that he was no longer considered an immediate threat by the FBI.
Ft. Hood was also the scene of a mass shooting on Nov. 5, 2009 where Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, killed 13 people and injured more than 30 others.
As this day began I arose with anxiety and uncertainty of where I was exactly. After a few hours of reflection I was able to funnel the emotions I was encountering. I was in Kuwait and Desert Shield reliving the trauma associated with each of those encounters. The weather being dark and gloomy coupled with showers didn’t make my emotional state any better.
The dissociation I experienced before hearing this horrific news of another soldier really made me feel like I just don’t want to be here anymore because I am afraid of acting out like this myself. While all of us would like to believe that we are going to escape the occurrence of terrible events in our lives, the chances are that any one individual will experience at least one major trauma in their life.
Emotionally overwhelming events can send shock waves through every aspect of our lives. They can damage our psychological stability and take away our sense of well being. Uncontrollable, devastating experiences usually generate feelings of being unsafe, powerless, and vulnerable.
They can cause a group of symptoms called Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is as powerful and difficult to cope with as any other psychological disorder. A traumatic event may be a one time occurrence, such as a serious car accident, witnessing a
murder, or being raped. Or it can be a series of repetitive events such as ongoing incest or combat. Trauma may be physical, psychological, or a combination of both.
Some people react more strongly to such events than others. Or two people may develop different types of psychological symptoms in reaction to trauma. This is because the impact of negative events is heavily influenced by the way in which it is perceived. For example, suppose that two different persons are involved in a car accident. Afterwards, one is frightened and has
difficulty riding in automobiles because they are convinced that they are going to die. They have difficulty driving and are bothered by images of another car running into them head on. They may blame themselves for reacting slowly and not getting out of the way in the original accident. Another person may react differently. They may totally blame the other driver who hit them. Their reaction may be one of anger and retaliation through lawsuits. For them, the accident may prove that life is unfair and that others cannot be trusted. While they continue to be preoccupied by the wreck, they may have less anxiety and depression. They may instead feel primarily angry.
Did You Know?
–In North America, 17,000,000 people experience traumatic events each year, and of
those, 25% go on to develop PTSD.
–Forty percent of Americans have been exposed to a traumatic event before the age of
30, and of these one in four will develop PTSD.
–Current estimates are that 45% of women will be raped at some point in their lifetime.
The lifetime rate of occurrence of PTSD in rape victims is 35%.
–The trauma of rape produces the highest rate of long term PTSD symptoms of any
single traumatic event. Survivors are more depressed a year after victimization than
they are immediately following the assault. And many have not recovered as much as
four to six years after the rape.
–Three percent of women develop PTSD after an aggravated assault.
–Ten to 30% of car accident victims will develop PTSD.
–Only 4 out of every 1000 soldiers in World War I probably had PTSD, but 31% of Viet
Nam vets had the symptoms of this disorder.
–Between 16% and 34% of women are physically abused by their partner at some point
in their lives. Some estimates are as high as one out of every two women experiencing
–34% of boys and 48% of girls reported attempted or completed sexual victimization.
Fifty to 70% of psychiatric patients report being abused as children.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
People are generally very relieved when a traumatic event finally passes, feeling that now they can put the situation behind them and that everything will be alright. But emotional distress can sometimes occur to a degree that it leaves an enduring imprint upon a person’s life. Sometimes, people have difficulty coming to terms with frightening memories, and they may be strongly affected by them for years to come. They can become frozen in time so to speak. Images related to trauma can linger or resurface years later, and along with them can come feelings of terror or depression. Sometimes, the aftermath symptoms begin immediately following a stress. Other times, they being only years later, such as after a policeman has retired, or after a physically traumatized wife leaves an abusive marriage. Early repetitive childhood abuse can be so devastating that it actually interferes with the development of a sense of self and adversely affects the very foundation of the personality. When symptoms interfere to a significant degree with a person’s life, it may be an indication that they have developed a condition termed “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD).
PTSD can occur in crime victims (such as in rape, assault, or bombings); witnesses to violent crimes; civilians and soldiers in war zones; victims of natural catastrophes (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods); victims of animal assaults; traumatic accident victims; victims of child abuse; and medical personnel and volunteers who assist in accident and disaster situations. PTSD can affect every area of a person’s life. Emotionally it can create feelings of anxiety, anger, guilt, loss of self-esteem, helplessness, loss of trust, and irritability. In terms of a person’s thinking, it can lead to confusion, difficulty concentrating and remembering, difficulty planning for the future, negative thoughts about the future, and intrusive memories. Following a trauma some people feel like they
are going crazy. Some may be filled with nervous energy while others feel exhausted and unable to perform even minimal daily tasks. Some react by withdrawing while others want to be surrounded by people 24 hours a day. Some feel solely responsible for what happened while others are enraged at the people or events whom they blame for the experience. Although PTSD is categorized as an anxiety disorder, it can also include additional emotions such as depression, shame, guilt, anger, and grief. Trauma victims may also have difficulty imagining that there is a future for them. This experience is referred to as having a “foreshortened future.”Trauma victims generally feel that they are now different from others. Their experience seems so removed from normal human events that they feel set apart. They believe that others cannot really appreciate what they are experiencing and what they have been through.
It should be against the law to break the law. Unfortunately, it is not. In early 21st-century America, a dirty little secret still exists among public officials, politicians, judges, prosecutors, and the police. The government – federal, state, and local – is not bound to obey its own laws. I know this sounds crazy, but too many cases prove it true. It should be a matter of grave concern for every American who prizes personal liberty.
When I became a judge in New Jersey, I had impeccable conservative Republican law-and-order credentials. When I left eight years later, I was a born-again individualist, after witnessing first-hand how the criminal justice system works to subvert and shred the Constitution. You think you’ve got rights that are guaranteed? Well, think again.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, particularly when it comes to the American criminal justice system. Nowhere else does the state have greater raw power over an individual’s life, liberty, and property. And nowhere else are our constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms under such a relentless, subtle, and ultimately devastating attack.
The deck is grossly stacked in the government’s favor. No wonder, as a recent New York magazine cover story put it, referring to the government’s long winning streaks in criminal trials, “The Defense Rests – Permanently.” No wonder that in 2003 fewer than 3 percent of federal indictments were tried; virtually all the rest of those charged pled guilty.
Being an American means having certain rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That’s what it has always meant, and that’s what it will continue to mean in the troubled times before us. Most of us take these guaranteed rights and liberties for granted. Most of us live comfortable lives that never bring us in conflict with the criminal justice system. But in many ways, that’s a bad thing, for if you had seen the system as I did, you would never take your guaranteed rights for granted again.
Breaking the Law to Enforce the Law:
As a judge, I once heard an infuriating case involving the owner of a small Italian restaurant, an immigrant from Italy who was visited by two well-dressed gentlemen who introduced themselves and asked for weekly payments of a hundred dollars. In return, they promised the restaurant owner that his garbage would be collected on time, he would not have any trouble with labor unions, he would not be the victim of any crime, and no competing restaurant would open in his neighborhood.He threw them out. They returned unannounced about six times and every time their demands increased, eventually to a thousand dollars a week, each. After he rebuffed that demand, they said they’d be back the following week with guns, and he’d better get one. Terrified of this threat, and afraid as most immigrants are to involve the police, the restaurant owner borrowed a friend’s gun.
When the two gentlemen returned and asked if he had a gun, the restaurant owner reached into a drawer, pulled out the gun, and pointed it at them. They immediately slapped handcuffs on him! Unbeknownst to him, they were New Jersey state troopers who were trying to either shake him down for money or coerce him into breaking the law.
His prosecution for carrying a gun was assigned to me, along with a similar case involving a nearby Italian bakery.
Before the cases began, I ordered the troopers to appear in my courtroom, to inquire if their schemes were self-directed or authorized by their supervisors. They refused to be so interrogated, whereupon the prosecutors asked me to dismiss both cases, which I did.
The bakery owner was so delighted, he proclaimed in a classic Sicilian accent: “The Judga, he can eata for free for the resta his life!” I never took the owner up on his offer, but I appreciated his sentiments.
Torture and Psychological Abuse
Political ambition can be a powerful motivating factor for government abuse of our rights. Consider one of the cases that helped propel Janet Reno to national stardom. In 1984, Reno faced a serious challenger in her bid for reelection as Dade County’s state attorney. In August of that year, Frank Fuster and his wife, Ileana Fuster, were arrested for sexually abusing more than 20 children who attended their home daycare center. Reno began the case by soliciting Laurie and Joe Braga, both billed as “child abuse experts” with no psychology training, to interview the children.
The Bragas used suggestive and misleading interview techniques to elicit false accusations from the children in the case. The children were brainwashed with fantasies of sexual abuse involving masks, snakes, drills, and other objects, and eventually came and other objects, and eventually came out of the interviews thinking they were victims.
Of all the children alleging sexual abuse against Fuster, Reno’s office only presented physical “evidence” that one child was abused. The prosecution invoked a laboratory test suggesting that a child had tested positive for gonorrhea of the throat. However, the lab test that was performed is very unreliable and often gives false positives. Reno’s agents tested for the family of bacteria to which gonorrhea belongs rather than specifically for gonorrhea; other bacteria that could have caused the false positive are harmless and are frequently found to live in children. Of course, the state ordered the lab to destroy the evidence three days later, thereby preventing the defense from challenging the state’s “evidence.”
Recognizing that the case against Fuster was weak, Janet Reno’s final straw was to torture Ileana Fuster physically and mentally to the point where she could be coerced into implicating her husband.
Reno had Ileana isolated from the prison population and placed in solitary confinement, naked. Ileana described her treatment in a 1998 interview: “They would give me cold showers. Two people will hold me, run me under cold water, then throw me back in the cell naked with nothing, just a bare floor. And I used to be cold, real cold. I would have my periods and they would just wash me and throw me back into the cell.”
Late one night, the naked Ileana, according to her lawyer, received a visit in her darkened solitary cell from an intimidating 6-foot-2 woman. The woman told Ileana that she knew that Ileana and her husband were guilty. “But how can that be? We are innocent,” Ileana proclaimed. “Who are you?” “I’m Janet Reno,” the woman said. Ileana repeatedly told Reno that she was innocent, and Reno kept repeating, “I’m sorry, but you are not. You’re going to have to help us.” Reno made several more solitary, nightly visits to the naked Ileana, each time threatening Ileana that she would remain in prison for the rest of her life if she didn’t tell Reno what she wanted to hear.
Finally, Reno hired two psychiatrists from a company called Behavior Changers Inc., who met Ileana 34 times in a one-month period. These psychiatrists claimed to be able to help individuals “recover memories,” but their technique was simply to hypnotize Ileana so that she could be brainwashed into believing that Frank Fuster was a child molester. The coercion eventually worked: with the psychiatrists present and with Janet Reno squeezing her hand, Ileana implicated her husband.
Ileana’s trial testimony against her husband put the final nail in Frank Fuster’s coffin. Reno won the conviction, her reelection bid, her name in the newspaper headlines, and a stepping stone to a position as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. However, Ileana Fuster has repeatedly retracted her confession and testimony, swearing that she and Fuster never abused any of the children, and that her confession was the product of brainwashing.
Yet, thanks to Janet Reno, an innocent Fuster remains incarcerated for 165 years without the possibility of parole.
Messing with Texans
It is unfair, unwise, and un-American for police to break the law in order to enforce it. A corrupt police officer in Tulia, Texas, a small rural town of about five thousand people, engaged in what one commentator deemed an “ethnic cleansing of young male blacks.”
Thomas Coleman, an undercover narcotics officer, committed one of the worst police atrocities in recent years by arresting 46 people on July 23, 1999. Of those arrested, 39 were black, which amounts to approximately half of the town’s adult black population. Many others were involved in the family or personal relationships with black Americans in an otherwise overwhelmingly white community. Coleman’s previous law enforcement employers knew that Coleman himself had once been arrested for theft during an undercover operation, that he used racial epithets, and that he had a widespread reputation in the Texas law enforcement community as being unreliable and untrustworthy.
Nonetheless, on the basis of Coleman’s testimony, 38 individuals arrested on that day were found to be guilty of drug dealing. Some were sentenced to up to 90 years in prison! Some were coerced into accepting plea bargains under the threat of lengthy imprisonment.
What is most shocking is that the prosecution’s only evidence against these defendants was the testimony of Coleman, the dirty cop. The testimony was uncorroborated: no witnesses or other police officers could confirm that Coleman bought drugs from these defendants. And Coleman could not offer any audio or video surveillance verifying his undercover drug purchases. Not even fingerprint evidence was introduced.
Coleman’s testimony was based solely on notes he scribbled on his stomach and his leg. He did not keep a permanent notebook. At the time of their arrests, these 46 supposed drug dealers possessed no guns, no drugs, and no money. Coleman claimed to have purchased $20,000 worth of cocaine from these “dealers.” Furthermore, some of the individuals who were arrested established that they were miles away from Tulia that day. A few of them neither worked nor lived in Tulia. All of the people arrested that day were either convicted by juries or pleaded guilty. In 1999, Texas attorney general John Cornyn – now a U.S. senator – named Coleman the outstanding law enforcement officer of the year.
The Tulia, Texas, debacle attracted national media attention and a coordinated, multidefendant habeas corpus campaign, coordinated by the NAACP and many law firms. About four years later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals exonerated the victims of Coleman’s fraud. Coleman had previously acknowledged that the convictions were based on nothing more than his testimony. While he stated that he was “pretty sure” that all the defendants “deserved” to be behind bars, he admitted to several “mess ups” and stated that some of his own sworn testimony was “questionable.” It is a rare anomaly that police abuses such as that perpetrated in Tulia, Texas, are overturned. You can’t help but wonder how many wrongfully convicted defendants never had the luxury of seeing justice served. It shouldn’t be a luxury.
Coleman currently faces trial for perjury, but the buck does not stop at Thomas Coleman. Coleman’s activities were financed by the federal government’s war on drugs, as he was part of the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Task Force. The Department of Justice encourages officers like Coleman to rack up as many arrests as possible, since the money is allocated to the task forces on the basis of number of arrests, not convictions. Because there is no distinction between high-quality and low-level arrests, the federal government creates an incentive for officers like Coleman to engage in sloppy investigations against low-level offenders, and against the innocent.
Rights No More
The war on terrorism has increased the need to protect vigilantly our civil liberties. In July 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice held a celebration at which it handed out honors and praises to federal agents and lawyers involved in the prosecution of the Lackawanna Six.
It should have handed out indictments instead, because those prosecutors – or at least some of them – violated their oaths to uphold the Constitution in order to coerce six soccer-playing young men from Lackawanna, New York, with no criminal records, into accepting long jail terms, well out of proportion to their alleged crimes.
The six – all Arab Americans in their early 20s, five of whom were born here – were charged in federal court in the Western District of New York with providing aid and support to a terrorist group, before September 11, by attending camps in Afghanistan, learning about weapons, and listening to Muslim clerics preach hatred toward the United States.
They were charged with listening to others – including, in the case of one of them, Osama bin Laden himself – talk about causing America harm and with training for some undefined jihad, even though they said that once they arrived and met the people in the camps, they wanted nothing to do with it. The government actually told a federal judge that since the clerics being heard by the six were preaching violence, the six had committed crimes of violence.
The court rejected that argument out of hand. After reviewing the evidence against the six, the judge wrote that these defendants – like all defendants – are guaranteed due process, and that federal courts should do more than just pay lip service to the guarantees of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; they should enforce them.
“We must never adopt an ‘end justifies the means’ philosophy,” the judge wrote, “by claiming that our Constitutional and democratic principles must be temporarily furloughed or put on hold in cases involving alleged terrorism in order to preserve our democracy. To do so would result in victory for the terrorists.”
But within mere yards of where this fair judge sat when he wrote those words, the government lawyers who once swore to uphold the Constitution were plotting to put it on hold.
According to a lawyer for one of the six – himself a former federal prosecutor – the government lawyers implicitly threatened the six during plea negotiations that if they did not plead guilty, if they did not speak up as the government wished, if they did not cooperate in their own prosecutions, if they insisted on their due process rights, the government would declare them to be enemy combatants.
In that case, the so-called defenders of the Constitution threatened, the six would have no due process rights, no trial, no lawyers, no charges filed against them, and they would receive solitary confinement for life.
There is no reported case in American history in which a court allowed a defendant to be told that his insistence on due process would result, not in prosecution and conviction, but in punishment without trial. It has always been the case that when entering a guilty plea – and when negotiating for that plea – the defendant’s fears of punishment were limited to that which the law provides. Today, for the government to threaten that the punishment can be increased by fiat by the president after the crime has been committed is not only unconstitutional, it is tyrannical.
Liberty: Void Where Prohibited
It is only a warped view of American history, culture, and law that could seriously suggest that constitutional rights are discretionary – that any president can strip a person of his due process rights. Let’s be clear: There is no Supreme Court case supporting or authorizing presidential enhancement of punishment, and the Justice Department knows that.
So if it is constitutionally impossible for the government to strip a person of his due process rights, why did the lawyers for the Lackawanna Six let their clients plead guilty and accept six-to-nine-year jail terms? Because they knew that the government had suspended rights before and gotten away with it. They knew that the president had actually declared three people to be enemy combatants and kept them locked up without charges and away from their own lawyers. And before the Supreme Court stepped in, he appeared to be getting away with it.
Ultimately, the fate of American liberty is in the hands of American voters. Though we are less free with every tick of the clock, most of us still believe that the government is supposed to serve the people – fairly, not selectively.
There are some surprisingly direct ways to address the excesses I’ve described. First, Congress and the state legislatures should enact legislation that simply requires the police, all other law enforcement personnel, and everyone who works for or is an agent of the government to be governed by, subject to, and required to comply with all the laws.
That would eliminate virtually all entrapment, and it would enhance respect for the law. If the police are required to obey the same laws as the rest of us, our respect for them and for the laws they enforce would dramatically increase, and their jobs would become easier. In short, it would be against the law to break the law.
Second, Congress and the state legislatures should make it easier to sue the federal and state governments for monetary damages when they violate our constitutional liberties.
The federal government and many states have rendered themselves immune (called “sovereign immunity”) from such lawsuits if the lawsuit attacks the exercise of discretion by government employees. That is nonsense. You can sue your neighbor for negligence if his car runs over your garden or your dog. You can sue your physician if he leaves a scalpel in your belly. You should be able to sue the local police, state police, and the FBI under the same legal theories if they torment you, prevent you from speaking freely, bribe witnesses to testify against you, steal your property, or break the law in order to convict you.
If the Constitution is enforced selectively, according to the contemporary wants and needs of the government, we will continue to see public trials in some cities and secret trials in others; free speech suppressed on inexplicable whims; police targeting the weak and killing the innocent; and government lying to its citizens, stealing their property, tricking them into criminal acts, bribing its witnesses against them, making a mockery of legal reasoning, and breaking the laws in order to enforce them.
This is not the type of government we, the people, have authorized to exist, and it is not the type of government that we should tolerate. We can do better. If government crimes are not checked, our Constitution will be meaningless, and our attempts to understand it, enforce it, and rely on it will be chaotic.
The Canadian dollar has reached parity with the U.S. dollar for the first time since 1976. They are now equal in value. The euro also soared to its highest-ever level against the dollar, trading above $1.40 for the first time since the currency was introduced in 1999.
So why is the dollar plunging, and what impact does that plunge have on U.S. and world markets? Here’s a look at some of the reasons for the dollar’s fall, and the consequences
Why the Weak Dollar?
There are several reasons. First, there’s the difference between the interest rate in the United States — the one the Federal Reserve just dropped by half a percentage point to 4.75 percent — and the interest rates of other central banks around the world.
When the United States dropped its rate, other banks did not follow. Now the spread between the interest rate at the European Central Bank (home of the euro) and the Federal Reserve (home of the dollar) is smaller than it has traditionally been, and that has weakened the value of the dollar against the euro. Put another way, you would get a better interest rate return holding a euro than a dollar.
Second, central banks around the world have been diversifying their holdings away from dollars to euros, British pounds and so on. That means there are more dollars out there in currency markets available to purchase. More dollars floating around means diminished value.
What Effect Does This Have?
Look at the record-high price of oil. Even if the same amount of oil is being pumped out of the ground, since it is traded in dollars and the dollar has weakened, the price of oil has increased to make up for the lost value of the dollar, creating a sort of vicious cycle.
Oil-producing countries don’t want to keep all the dollars they are getting for their oil, since it’s worth less, so they are diversifying and converting their dollars into euros or other currencies. That pushes more dollars back out into currency markets, which in turn pushes down the dollar’s value.
One analyst told ABC News that Russia used to have 90 percent of its financial reserves in dollars. It now has 45 percent in dollars, 45 percent in euros and 10 percent in British pounds.
What Does This Mean in the U.S.?
The news is mixed. It’s good, because it makes what we produce here cheaper to sell in foreign markets, and that in turn spurs exports of our products around the world. That translates into more manufacturing and more jobs. For example, BMW and Mercedes Benz want to build cars in the United States, because they can do it cheaper in nonunion states than in Germany, where they’d pay labor and parts in euros, and then bring the cars to the United States, where they would be too expensive to sell at a profit.
For years now, the collapse of the dollar has been in the cards. Recent developments show mounting pressure on the dollar’s reserve currency status. With a major international deflation going on, the threat of inflation through money printing is unreal. However, should the dollar’s reserve currency status end, the repatriation of trillions of petro- and Eurodollars could lead to a strongly inflationary scenario.
The roles of a reserve currency are to finance international trade and to function as a store of value for Governments. Until the second world war it used to be the British pound, but with the demise of the British Empire, the pound lost its international relevance and was overtaken by the dollar. This was formalized in the 1944 Bretton Woods system. All other currencies were fiat currencies, but pegged to the dollar, which in turn was pegged to Gold at 40 dollars an ounce and redeemable for international trading partners.
We are seeing the advent of the new currency order. There will be a number of more or less equal blocks: a dollar zone, a Yuan/BRICS zone and the euro, with the Yen and the Pound as lesser entities. These will later be able to converge to even more ‘cooperation’, in the Money Power’s relentless march towards World Currency.
These units will be at least partially Gold backed, implying long term deflationary pressures. Central Banks are buying Gold in major quantities, creating the interesting question why Gold prices have not risen in the last 18 months.
Well it looks like we’re heading into some really tough economic times. You’ve already heard much about these high profile banks that have failed and a few others have merged just to survive. Perhaps you haven’t heard just how many other business mergers have been proposed in these tough times. For example:
1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. are set to merge. The new name will be: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.
2.) PolyGram Records, Warner Bros., and Zest Crackers will join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.
3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMM Good.
4.) Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Doofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa
5.) FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.
6.) Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.
7.) Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!
8.) Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.
Well OK, that’s not happening. But I thought it might be good medicine to laugh a bit because these days, when it comes to the economy, we’re all a little panicked and afraid. And I don’t blame you. One friend of mine last month was trying to enjoy a wonderful vacation in Europe with her grown children when the news came of the stock market tumble. She said to me, “I just couldn’t enjoy the moment Aaron, because I was thinking about what percentage of my nest egg was blowing away like smoke.”
She’s not the only one in that situation. Small business owners in my church are concerned about laying people off. Some of you have been laid off. Milgard, laid everyone off. Bayliner is done in 60 days kicking over 600 unemployed workers into the job market. A person I spoke with this week, losing their dream home because they’re upside down on their mortgage.
WE FORGOT GOD’S PRINCIPLES
So now we have Republicans and Democrats jockeying for political position to look better than the other in the aftermath of this mess. I’m a bit weary of them all, frankly. Tons of fears and angry thots run through our minds in the context of a hot presidential race.
– Who allowed this to happen?
– What will the candidates do to fix it?
– What’s going to happen next?
– And in a pessimistic moment, we might even ask:
o Are we the generation that will be able to say that we were there when America ended?
So now, I want to weigh in on this, not as an economist but as a student of the Bible and a follower of Jesus Christ. You’ve had an anxious few weeks. You’re mad at the pride of our leaders. You’re mad at the short sighted selfishness in all of us that lead to this subprime mortgage mess. So there’s two parts to God’s wisdom to heed in our fear and anger. The first relates to the world of your finances and the second relates to the world of your heart.
A. BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES
I want to read some bible verses to you and I want you to imagine these were hung on the offices of every bank, every mortgage office and every home in the country.
– Prov 22:7: the rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
– Prov 17:18: It is poor judgment to co-sign a friend’s note, to become responsible for a neighbor’s
– Prov 30:25 Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer
– Ps 37:21: The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.
– 1 Tim 6:10: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
Have we lived by these principles? No. Not personally and not nationally. And now the piper must be paid. We cannot escape these principles, friends. God is not mocked, a man reaps what he sows. With God’s laws, you don’t break them. If you disobey them, they break you. And now, they may break our economy. If we keep going down the path we’re on, one Christian financial consulting firm put it like this:
Failure to heed the principles God has plainly established for our own good will destroy the good faith and credit of the United States government. Should that day come, the consequences will be dire. Our entire economy will collapse with sudden speed, bringing mind-numbing consequences to world order. To avoid the pain, we can print more money, bringing on devastating hyperinflation.
That’s the doomsday scenario, friends.
B. GET OUT OF DEBT
So what can you do? One, save.
Two, the time is now to get out of debt. The Bible does not forbid debt, as it gives rules for how to repay it. But if ever there was a good time to be in debt, now is not that time. And the Bible gives us so many good reasons to want to avoid it:
First, the simple truth, Crown of Life, Kansas Ave and communities abroad is that whenever you sign up for a debt of any kind, you’ve just surrendered a slice of your freedom. The Bible says, Proverbs 22:7: The borrower becomes the lenders slave.
A friend of mine was complaining about how they attempted to garnish his wages for a debt he owed that he had fallen behind on. So he closed his bank account to stop them. He didn’t like them just taking it. He wanted to be back in control.
Well this guy just didn’t get it. Debt takes control over you. It puts you OUT of control. The lender is not obligated to be nice to you. It’s a voluntary legal contract you enter into. And it’s a type of slavery. You don’t get free, until the debt is gone. So if you choose debt, don’t get mad when your freedoms are diminished.
Second, debt enslaves you to excessive earning pressures. Hag 1:6 says, “You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Debt is simply more holes in your money purse. The more holes, the faster and more frantically you have to pour in.
Third, debt enslaves us to Joylessness. PROVERBS 12:25 says, an anxious heart weighs a man down. There’s nothing like debt pressure to rob you of sleep.
Fourth, debt ties your hands when opportunities to do good come along.
So what I’m driving at is that there are many things about the gov’t’s spending habits that might make you mad, but today is a good day to look in the mirror. Many things you can’t control, but this you can. You can seek to get out of debt as fast as possible and start to save.
Whatever the economy is going to do, this is what YOU can do.
So, friends this is a good time to take some radical steps:
– One, make a RADICAL DECISION TO END YOUR SLAVERY. No one “drifts upstream.”
– Second, analyze your current situation to see where the holes are in your purse:
o House is too big, car is too new?
o Hobbies, vacations? clothes?
o Credit cards?
– Third, get on a repayment plan. Good Sense is available. Sign up.
– Fourth, be generous with God. God invites you to invite him into your financial picture. The Bible says this over and over. Prov 3:9-10: “Honor the LORD with your wealth…; then your barns will be filled to overflowing.” Now, with the economy bad? Especially now! Tithing is an act of faith that invites God to bring supernatural power to reverse your situation.
– Fifth, please consider God’s financial laws as you decide who to vote for in this upcoming election. Anyone, at any level, running for office who isn’t talking about REAL and considerable cuts in government programs – and by that I mean, from the welfare state to the warfare state – is either a fool or lying about what’s coming.
So that’s very practical. But some of you are mired in this thing spiritually and emotionally and I have some even MORE practical news from you, from the Christian gospel. It’s good news! It will cheer you up and give you tremendous hope, if you receive it.
A. ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
First, this time of financial insecurity is a chance to get focused on forever things, and not temporal things. The American dream isn’t ultimate goal the Christian is shooting for. Neither is seeing America survive as a national, financial and military power. In fact, when some of those temporal things are taken away, we may get closer to our REAL goals.
“what will it prosper a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? What would a man give in exchange for his soul? …For where your treasure is, there will heart be also.”
It’s not an all-together bad thing to get a hard reminder that if we gained all that this world tells us we should gain, wealth, security, comfort… that that still isn’t what REALLY matters. I’m not saying you shouldn’t save money for retirement. You should. No one wants to be a drain on their kids or the system.
But what is the true point of life? The writer of Ecclesiastes says,
Eccl 12:13-14 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
What is the bible saying, friend? It’s saying, this life is not the end. This life is not all there is to live for. The purpose of this life, is to live and prepare for the next life. And ironically that makes for an even richer life here and now.
My parents are volunteers at a college that trains foreign nationals for Christian ministry – in Hawaii. And these people come from the down and out places on planet earth. Malawi, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Pakistan, Peru. And my parents wondered how these people from destitute countries would react to the extravagant lifestyles that we live here, the meals, the cars, the homes.
They were worried that they would be so jealous and envious. They were worried that our wealth would be a stumbling block to them spiritually. They would surely say,
‘why o God did you put me in my horrible country where there’s no MTV? Where I can’t get a Twinkie when I want to, like my American friends? Where I can’t see news of the Brittany Spears saga. Ah, the injustice!”
Well, guess what? They didn’t say that. Friend, this will come a shock to some of you, but those church leaders from around the world look at us and they are overwhelmed with one emotion and it’s not envy. You want to know what it is? It’s Pity.
The pity us. Because they see so clearly that our preoccupation with this life is killing our chance at dying well. They think about dying all the time. In Malawi, the average person dies at my age. They find truth that totally escapes us in what Jesus said,
– Blessed [happy, lucky, favored by God!] are you who mourn
– Blessed are you who are poor
– Blessed are you who are persecuted.
Look, I understand that it’s a rotten thing that some of you might have had your net worth cut in half last month. I feel for you and I wouldn’t be happy about that either. But you and I can have a hope in Jesus Christ that draws us into the Life of God. It’s a forgiven life, a life full of joy and peace and hope for resurrection.
Can I just remind you of how many rich people have gone into depression, dove into drugs or self destruction or even committed suicide because they don’t have what the simplest, poorest Christian has in spades? Peace of mind. Peace with God. A heart full of joy and a family who loves them; Hope for tomorrow and no fear of death. Curt Cobain, Howard Hughes to name two.
Some people would give their fortune for the simple gifts that Christians take for granted.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
B. NO HOPE IN MONEY
I believe Christ might also use the market downturn as an opportunity to remind us that putting our hope in money is a bad idea. Today, I want to challenge you directly. If we are depressed or mad or fearful, then we have likely put too much trust in money and not enough in God. Perhaps this is a chance to ask yourself how you can move beyond.
IN the Bible it says:
1 Tim 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.
Maybe you never heard that before, but do you think God knows what’s talking about now? Does your money seem uncertain to you now? Money isn’t bad, but the Bible treats it like sex and power. Nice gifts that make terrible gods. And God would spare you the trauma of putty all your security into something that could vanish with one decision by the Fed.
So if your heart has been too wrapped up in your financial security, if your computer is following the Markets a little too closely and your heart is going up and down the roller coaster ride, friend, here’s a simple message: get off! You can try and control what cannot be controlled and go insane trying. Or you can trust God more than you trust money.
The Bible asks for us to store for a rainy day. And we should. But when did God ask us to bend our lives and our hearts out of shape to gain perfect security for tomorrow? It’s impossible. You don’t even know if you’ll be here tomorrow. So beyond reasonable measures to save, you will have to trust God for daily bread. And guess, what? That’s just the way God wants it.
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