moral decay

dunamis: (miraculous) power, might, strength Original Word: δύναμις, εως, ἡ: Disarm America and Repeat History

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2 Corinthians 4

1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

King James Bible
The Light of the Gospel

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The result of all of this is that the United States has become what Plato originally spelled out in The Republic and Michael Parenti made famous today – a plutocracy. That is, a nation which is ruled by the rich, where money is valued over “goodness.” Like the Cambodian generals who sold arms to their enemies our political system has been corrupted by those who steer some of the most powerful companies on the planet. Indeed, with their massive funding of political office-holders the rich have made it impossible for the United States government to have a “moral compass.” These wealthy individuals have created a type of Wall-Street Republic where office-holders have become a commodity (or security) to be bought and sold like any other commodity. To be sure, those that are supposed to represent the people have instead become an investment that the wealthiest amongst us use to perpetuate their own affluence.

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Wars are fought for the dual-purpose of creating a market for the investment of surplus capital as well as for gathering that which is needed to fuel (at times, literally) the commanding heights of the economy, i.e., land, labor and resources. Solvable politico-economic problems, from global warming to expensive private health care, persist because putting an end to them would also put an end to the profits of those who benefit from their continuance. This great gathering of wealth translates into unmatched political power within US society which in turn has made it possible for the wealthy to pursue their own interests without regard to how it may impact the rest of the world. Their pursuit of evermore riches is sowing the seeds of not only their own destruction but possibly the great mass of humanity as well.

Alas, we must ask, then, what can be done? The answer is the same as it has always been throughout history – we, the people, must fully grasp the enormous power the few have over the productive forces of society which has created a situation where wealth is so entrenched in the political system that the current political-economic arrangement is beyond reform. In so doing, we will see that there are only two choices in front of us – continue down the existing path which will inevitably end with an ethically and fiscally bankrupt republic or bring into existence a political and economic order founded on justice and equality. Unfortunately, the economic elites of our day have left us with no other choice.

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Today, it seems that the United States government has lost its “moral direction.” Indeed, as a single but deadly example, in the last ten years US policy-makers have been responsible for the deaths of at least one million people during the course of the US war on Iraq.

In a country of just 32 million people this would be equivalent to the United States suffering the deaths of some 30 million men and women (instead of 5,000) during the same war. In addition to Iraq, our political leaders have been responsible for the deaths of many more people across the globe as a result of non-stop war on an ever-growing list of nations over the last decade. Sometimes referred to as a state of “permanent war,” since 2000 the US government has waged war upon or began “military operations” within the nations of: Sierra Leone (2000); Nigeria (2000); Yemen (2000; 2001; 2004-present); East Timor (2001); China – the Hainan Incident (2001); Afghanistan (2001-present); Somalia (2001-present); the Philippines (2002); Cote d’Lvoire (2002); Sahara (2001-present); Iraq (2003-present); Liberia (2003); Georgia (2003; 2008); Haiti (2004); Pakistan (2004-present); Kenya (2004); Ethiopia (2004); Eritrea (2004); Lebanon (2006); Uganda (2011); Libya (2011); Sudan (2011-present); Jordan (2012); Turkey (2012); Chad (2012); Mali (2013); and South Sudan (2013). Recognizing that some of these “interventions” were to “protect US citizens” from social unrest within a given country, the great majority of them were not. Notably, not one of these “wars” (limited or otherwise), has been formally declared by the United States Congress as required by the Constitution.[4] Today with US military personnel deployed to more than 150 countries (out of a possible 195), before its global war is over the deaths in Cambodia caused by the Khmer Rouge may pale in comparison with what the United States government is prepared to inflict on the rest of the world.

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Throughout this time-period, government decision-making by each branch of government has shown a disregard (or lack of understanding) for the Constitution. With out a doubt, we now have a sitting president that has recently made news for choosing to “consult” Congress before deploying the United States military to the sovereign nation of Syria as part of a “humanitarian invasion.” The president has maintained that even if Congress does not grant him some kind of formal approval that he has the “authority” to send troops to the Middle East nation anyway. Throughout the government-media discussion of the possible invasion of Syria there has been barely more than a whisper, that by Constitutional design, Congress is the only branch of government that has the power to move the nation from a state of peace to a state of war. To be certain, the rather conservative (but non-slaveholding) Alexander Hamilton who is probably the most talented political figure in the history of the United States wrote in Federalist #69:

“The president is to be commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it [italics added]. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confederacy: while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which, by the constitution under consideration [which was adopted], would appertain to the legislature [italics added to legislature only].

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In other words, congress was given the power to raise, fund and regulate the military while the president of the United States, by Constitutional configuration (Article II, Section II, Clause I), is only to be the “commander-in-chief” of the military “when called into the actual service” of the country. The political body which “calls” the president into the “actual service” of the nation is the United States Congress through a declaration of war. Thus, the president’s war powers (including President Obama’s) are latent and not active until Congress – the most democratic political entity of our three branches of government – makes them so.

Some say that we live in the “Age of Irony” where the actual or manifest meaning of something is the exact opposite of the intended meaning of that thing. How ironic is it then that the United States has elected a president who is supposedly a Constitutional scholar yet believes that whether Congress gives him the “authority” to wage war or not (note: not “declare”) that he still has the power to do so on his own accord?

LOSING OUR “MORAL DIRECTION”

Whatever President Obama believes his war powers to be, what do we mean by “losing our moral direction?” We don’t mean the same thing as what the Westboro Baptist Church means when they say the country has lost its “moral direction” through the legalization of gay marriage, abortion and other such things. Instead, what is meant by saying that government leaders have lost their “moral direction” is that government decision-making, and particularly recent government decision-making, has rarely considered the impact of those decisions on the overwhelming majority of the American people, and at times, people throughout the world. Too often, when we examine recent government policy we find that consideration is only given to how decisions made by the state will serve a narrow group of economic interests, i.e., the rich. Who are “the rich?” They are, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, the richest ¼ of 1% of the US population that has more wealth than the other 99% combined. These incredibly wealthy individuals control the commanding heights (or means of production) of the US economy. Wealth provided to them from their control over some of the most powerful corporations in the world translates into near uncontested control over national policy through their allocation of massive campaign contributions and extensive lobbying dollars to congress and the president.

This is not to say that past political leaders have regularly behaved with the utmost legality and the strongest of ethics in mind. The fact of the matter is that they have not. Even a brief review of American political-history demonstrates that the United States government has made decisions that might be considered morally questionable. Whether it was the perpetuation of slavery, the overthrowing of foreign governments or the denial of voting rights at home, the federal government has on more than one occasion been out of step with justice and equality. Yet, in recent years, our political leaders’ transgressions seem to be so outrageous that we would not be wrong to add their recent misconduct to this list of shocking historical examples of government illegality and a failure of ethics. St. Augustine once said, “An unjust law is no law at all.” However, as we shall see below, in the United States today, law and justice have less and less to do with each other on issues of national importance and more and more to do with protecting private wealth at the expense of the people. The result of this corrupting of the American political system has made the strengthening of the American empire not only possible but the downfall (or at least the downward descent) of the American republic inevitable.

IRAQ: A PLACE FOR CAPITAL INVESTMENT

More than ten years after Congress “authorized” President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and almost two years since President Obama declared the war to be over, neither the American people nor the Iraqi people have gained anything from the war. In fact, even though President Obama declared the war over in December of 2011, at the beginning of 2014 there are still some 2,000-5,000 US military troops, 4,000-5,000 State Department employees and 16,000 private military contractors stationed in Iraq. In addition, an estimated 15,000 US soldiers are posted on the Iraqi border in neighboring Kuwait. These numbers and the US’s establishment of the largest embassy in the world in Iraq indicate that minimally the occupation of Iraq continues.

In spite of the Bush administration’s claims that the United States’ primary goal in Iraq was to “spread democracy” (after the weapons of mass destruction rationale proved false), former chairman of the Federal Reserve and loyal Republican Party member Alan Greenspan has since noted that the war was actually “largely about oil.”[6] Echoing Greenspan, then Senator and current Obama-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel agreed, stating that “people say we are not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What…do you think they’re talking about?”[7] In an attempt to make the United States’ national interest clear, long time advisor to Western nations regarding Middle Eastern oil, Dr. Abdulhay Yahya Zalloum, says that the US interest in the Middle East (including Iraq) “is not about democracy – it is about oil.

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Even if the United States was interested in democracy, out of 176 countries that were evaluated in 2012 by Transparency International, Iraq was ranked as the 169th most corrupt country in the world – certainly not a primary feature of any understanding of democratic government.[9] Some think that the argument that the United States invaded Iraq because it has the second largest known oil-reserves in the world is “conspiracy.” We should not think of one country trying to get at the resources (natural or otherwise) of another country as conspiracy. It only becomes so when the political and military leaders of a nation lie about the real reasons why they want to do so. Thus, the political and military leaders of the country create the conspiracy, namely, the conspiracy to hide the truth from the people so some unseemly political, economic, or military end can be met. Nonetheless, on the whole, these types of government practices, such as the US war on Iraq, primarily serve an economic end. Perhaps Jules Ferry, the Premier of the Chamber of Deputies of France, said it best in 1885 when explaining the purpose behind the “Scramble for Africa” which had begun four years earlier in 1881. Paying no mind to the “White Man’s Burden” (see: “spreading democracy,” circa 2003), Ferry argued that two of the main reasons why European powers “desire[d] colonies” is so that “they may have access to the raw materials of the colonies” and “as a field for the investment of surplus capital.”[10] In other words, colonies were created as a source for capital extraction and accumulation. In examining Iraq, we see Ferry’s words to be no less true today than when they were first spoken during the last part of the 19th century.

Indeed, after invading the country, setting up hundreds of military bases, securing Iraqi oil fields,[11] arresting the president and overseeing his execution it was time for US political leaders and American scholars to set in place the instruments needed to begin the process of capital extraction and accumulation. How did they do this? – By spreading a little democracy. To be certain, immediately after the invasion of Iraq, the so-called Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) was set up by the US government as a type of colonial government to oversee the country during the first year of the war. L. Paul Bremer was put in-charge and given absolute authority to make executive, legislative and judicial decisions for the whole of Iraq on behalf of the United States government. Early on and making clear what would be the new (or should we say, neoliberal) design of the Iraqi economy, Bremer signed CPA Order 39 which stated that all economic sectors within Iraq, including water, electricity and sewage would be made open, without delay, to privatization by foreign investors.[12] In short order, a number of US firms were awarded contracts to “rebuild” or manage many of these publicly controlled industries for the Iraqi people. The only industries that foreign investors were excluded from by the CPA were oil and gas. However, the writing of the Iraqi Constitution would resolve that.

Without a doubt, once the CPA had set down roots the United States oversaw the drafting of the Iraqi constitution. Setting aside the fact that a sovereign nation cannot have another nation “oversee” the writing of its new constitution (imagine if the British government did this after the American Revolutionary War) US political leaders and American academics, nevertheless, put together a new constitution for Iraq. Whatever virtues it might have had politically (it looks a lot like the United States Constitution), as an economic document it cleared the way for global capital to “invest” in Iraq’s most important source of national wealth. Indeed, Article 25, 26 and the second part of Article 109 of the Iraqi Constitution removed any doubt about the role of foreign capital and privatization in the reconfiguring of the Iraqi economy. The Articles stated that while oil and gas were to be developed “in a way that achieves the highest benefit to the Iraqi people,” it was somehow suppose to be done so by “using the most advanced techniques of the market… and [through the] encourage [ment of] investment.” The average Iraqi citizen is poor, with the median Iraqi income not exceeding $6000 per year.[13] So, how can the overwhelming majority of citizens of Iraq invest in their nation’s most important source of wealth? The fact of the matter is they cannot. Who then, can “invest” in the oil wealth of the country that was already nationalized for the benefit of the people, at least to some degree, under Saddam Hussein? The answer is clear, those who own the commanding heights of the US and global economy.

A Call to Persevere
(Hebrews 10:19-39)

But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. 20But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

Been There, Done That, Now What?

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weiner comebackSan Diego Major

Ethical Culture (also sometimes called Ethical Humanism) is the name of an evolving body of ideas that inspires Ethical Societies. Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity (Humanist Manifesto III). For Ethical Humanists, the ultimate religious questions are not about the existence of gods or an afterlife, but rather, “How can we create meaningfulness in this life?” and “How should we treat each other?”

Ethical Humanism is clear about the essential role that ethical principles play in human relationships. Despite how uncertain we might feel about our personal standards–or how best to apply them–for an Ethical Humanist, there are unquestionably acts that are good and evil, right and wrong. In order for human beings to have good lives, love must prevail, truth must be respected, honesty esteemed, justice secured, and freedom protected. Learning how to realize these ideals in personal and political relationships is the purpose of Ethical Societies.

I am not surprised by the moral decay of our leaders in congress nor the church, we are humans. There has been contingencies made by our “Ancient of Old” He gave his only Son for us to have life more abundantly. We are called to pray for our human community, the lost and regenerated. I remember not long ago I practiced serving my own desires. I thank God His spirit convicted me today of the thoughts I entertained to go back to that vomit He delivered me from. These men are no different than you and I. Use your God given discernment and not judgment to learn from these public officials that had it not been for the grace of God, there go I.

This is a generation with unparalleled opportunity:
We have travelled further faster than any people before us.
Any area we cannot visit in person, we can virtually experience via the technology of video.
Our music is replayed from Compact Discs providing fidelity unimagined twenty years ago. The next techology, DVD’s that provide higher highs and lower lows.
Immediate world-wide communication is available via the internet. I can begin plumbing the research depths of some of the world’s most outstanding libraries within five minutes of sitting down at my computer.
Education is available in any method you want to receive it.
Knowledge is doubling every seven years.
Somehow, in spite of, or perhaps because of some of these things, we have become a jaded people. It is hard to excite us. We are a set of phlegmatic personalities. We have seen too much, been too many places, dome too many things. In the words of young people who refuse to admit being outdone by one of their peers – Been there, done that!

Partied all night – “Been there, done that!”
Man, I had a hang over like you wouldn’t believe – “Been there, done that!”
Spent the night with her, (or him) – “Been there, done that!”

I. The jaded face of “Been there, done that!” – Drugs and Alcohol
A. In the U. S. 1) 70% of high schoolers have tried marijuana; 2) 62% of teens believe drinking is bad, but continue to drink.
B. Teenage drinking, to use of the words of the Surgeon General, is “out of control.” Statistics from his office show that of the 20.7 million middle school and high school students nationwide, eight million of them drink alcohol at least once a week. Nearly 18% of them admit that they “binge” (take five or more drinks at one sitting) every week.
C. About 9% of the babies born each year (375,000+) have been exposed to illegal drugs in the womb. U.S. News & World Report, Dec 13, 1993
D. Cocaine was used by about 6 million Americans in the month before a survey was taken by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
E. Each year some 375,000 babies (approximately ten percent of all newborns in the United States) are exposed before birth to illegal drugs, most commonly cocaine. Some hospitals in major cities like New York and Los Angeles report that 20% or more of their newborn patients suffer from prenatal exposure to narcotics. “Innocent victims” by Anastasia Toufexis. Time, May 13, 1991. Pages 56-60.
F. The drug problem in America has become a national scandal. It is believed that use of marijuana, LSD, and heroin are no longer the major problem. Rather it is the 4 to 6 million regular users of cocaine, especially in its easy to use form called crack. Cocaine addiction and use knows no social or economic boundaries. A high lasts only 5 to 20 minutes from one dose, and is followed by an immediate crash.
G. “Crack is cocaine fast food.” It has been processed to a ready- to-smoke stage. When smoked, it can produce a full-blown high in less than 10 seconds. But the high doesn’t last long, and addiction may occur after one binge; with depression following. The setting for these binges centers around crack spots, where crack is sold for take-out, or crack houses where a high can be bought and experienced.
H. The problems most often addressed in company-sponsored employee assistance programs, according to The Wall Street Journal, are: substance abuse, dealt with by 99% of companies surveyed; . . .
I. Drunk drivers are responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people on U.S. highways each year, and another 300,000 are injured in alcohol-related auto accidents. In addition, 90,000 Americans die from alcohol-related conditions (cirrhosis of the liver, certain types of cancer, etc.) annually. Each year 5,000 infants are born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Drinking drives the crime rate higher, too: 49% of all murders or attempted murders, 52% of all rapes and sexual assaults, and 68% of all manslaughter convictions involve alcohol. Friends Journal, Sep 1993
J. Church leaders seem blind to the drug problem within their congregations. 92% of pastors surveyed said drug abuse was a problem in their communities; only 18% saw it as a problem in their congregations. Yet, surveys of churched and unchurched youth don’t bear out that optimism. 80% of churched youth reported drinking beer as compared to 88% of the unchurched; 38% of the churched have tried marijuana, while 47% of the unchurched have done so. 22% of the churched have tried amphetamines/barbiturates with compared with 28% of the unchurched. 11% of the churched have used cocaine in comparison to 14% of the unchurched. “The church’s drug of choice” by David Lynn. Eternity, Nov 1988. Page 20.
K. In negotiating a new seven-year, $1 billion contract to televise its basketball tournament, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) decided to limit the playing time of beer commercials to 60 seconds per hour. NCAA officials said university administrators identify alcohol abuse as the number- one problem on campuses across the country
L. At 14, star actress Drew Barrymore had been in drug/alcohol abuse treatment twice. Group, Apr 1989. Page 12.
M. Almost 50% of U.S. college students are binge drinkers, according to a nationwide survey of 17,592 students, the results of which were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Washington Post Weekly, Dec 12, 1994
N. “An estimated 10.5 million Americans are alcoholics, but that is only a fraction of the number of people affected by the disease.” Approximately 67 million Americans (43% of adults in the United States) have had to cope with alcoholism in their families.
O. The economic costs of alcohol abuse, currently some $128 billion a year, are projected to hit a whopping $150 billion by 1995. “Everybody loves a drunk” by Joe Schwartz. American Demographics, Mar 1992. Page 13.

II. Sexuality –
A. 60% of 16-18-year-olds have had sex.
B. 1.1 million girls will become pregnant this year; about 400,000 will abort their babies.
C. Almost 33% of births are to an unmarried mother.
D. The median number of sexual partners for the American male is 7.3, according to a survey of 3,321 men aged 20 to 39. The study also found that nearly one out of four said they had had more than 20 sex partners, and slightly more (28%) reported having had only one to three partners. Single Adult Ministries Journal, Issue 99, 1994

III. We are a “Been there, done that!” generation. “If it feels good, do it, is the adage of our day.” We have become hard to shock, we have seen it all, heard it all, done it all. My question for this evening – “What happens when you’ve been there, done that and none of it has brought you satisfaction.” There are two individuals in the scripture who can give testimony.

IV. One is Solomon, the son of David. He is the writer of the book of Ecclesiasties. It is a virtual history of his life. Let’s listen in on Solomon’s quest for satisfaction in life.
A. Eccl 2:3 (KJS) I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what [was] that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. {to give…: Heb. to draw my flesh with wine} {all…: Heb. the number of the days of their life} . . . 2:10And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

B. Wine – Solomon could say, “Been there, done that!” Now listen to his testimony. I’m sure yours will agree.

C. v. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all [was] vanity and vexation of spirit, and [there was] no profit under the sun.

D. Now listen to his testimony concerning promiscuous sexuality, the free-love of our age – Eccl 7:25 (KJS) I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason [of things], and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness [and] madness: 26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart [is] snares and nets, [and] her hands [as] bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

E. So Solomon, you’ve “Been there, done that, now what?” Eccl 12:13 (KJS) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.

V. Woman at Well
A. John 4:13 – Married five times, now living in adultery
B. John 4:13 (KJS) Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

VI. When your “Been there, done that” is religion.
A. Nicodemus – John 3:
B. John’s Disciples – Acts 19:1-6
1. Baptized 20+ years ago
2. Received a revelation.

VII. The thing they both discovered could satisfy them – God

Thankfully, the Lord treats all of us alike, and He wants us to treat each other the same way.
In matters not what race or gender,
Rich or poor or great or small,
The God who made us is not partial;
He sent Christ to die for all.
Bribery displays partiality; love displays justice.