Archives for category: Peace

 

Traditional slavery, chattel slavery, is officially illegal in all countries.  However, while most of the world has since eradicated the antiquated systems that once forced multitudes of people into involuntary servitude, today, there is a new form of slavery—a new slave master.

 

According to Cambridge Dictionary, slavery is defined as “the condition of being legally owned by someone else, or the system in which people are owned by others.” Wikipedia puts it this way:  Slavery is “a legal or economic system in which principles of property law are applied to humans allowing them to be classified as property, to be owned, bought and sold accordingly, and they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement. While a person is a slave, the owner is entitled to the productivity of the slave’s labor, without any remuneration.”  In today’s capitalist economy, financial institutions have become the new captains of the slave trade.

 

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender,” (NIV).  No where is this truer than in “free trade.”  The average American is shackled by debt.  According to an article published on Nerdwallet.com, as of October 2015, the U.S. household consumer debt profile was as follows:

  • Average credit card debt: $16,140
  • Average mortgage debt: $155,361
  • Average student loan debt: $31,944

 

The article further went on to say that the total debt owned by American consumers was:

  • $11.85 trillion in debt
    • An increase of 1.4% from last year
  • $918.5 billion in credit card debt
  • $8.09 trillion in mortgages
  • $1.19 trillion in student loans
    • An increase of 5.9% from last year

 

The median household income for 2014 was $53,657. As the numbers suggests, most Americans are in over their heads in debt.  The problem is not so much the debt itself.  The problem is the issue of usury, which is illegal and morally reprehensible.  Merriam-Webster defines usury as, “the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially:  the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates.”  How does one quantify and/or qualify exorbitant?  Today’s credit card APR can range from low 13% all the way to 29.9 %.  I would make the argument that even 13% could be considered exorbitant.  Who determines exorbitance?  I’m sure it’s not the average citizen.

 

The main difference between traditional slavery and economic slavery is that most individuals, at some point, voluntarily entered into their financial engagement(s).  However, the similarity that both conditions typically share is the inability to readily disengage from the entanglement.

 

Let’s take another look at the definition of slavery.  The first part of the definition of slavery asserts that slavery is orchestrated by “a legal OR economic system.”  By definition, the financial system is an “economic system.” So, check.  The second condition of slavery is that an individual is “legally owned” by another individual(s).  Yet, another check.  I must say this, although individuals are not physically owned by financial institutions, they are economically imprisoned and shackled.  Before I expand on this though, I would like to state the third condition of slavery, which is “they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement.”  Check!

 

Most financial institutions are in the business of buying and selling debt.  It is not uncommon for people who are saddled with debt to see their loan(s) change hands several times during the lifetime of their loan.  With each change of ownership, there are new notices and disclosures, which are usually multiple, page documents that are typically indiscernible, microscopic fine-print with an inherent obligation for compliance.  In essence, the borrower does not get to pick and choose which terms and conditions they accept and agree with.  Once the loans are sold, the borrower’s finances become subject to the new lender’s (“owner”) discretion. The borrower cannot readily disengage from the financial obligation without legal recourse or ramifications.  In some cases, many individuals are working solely to pay debts.

 

There are people who are reading this post and are probably thinking that individuals who are indebted are in the position that they are in because of poor decision-making.  While that may or may not be true of some, it’s not true of others, and I caution such thinking.  There are many individuals, who have made prudent decisions, yet have still found themselves victims of circumstances, including divorce, life, sickness, death, fraud or even hunger.  Not everyone in debt is living above their mean.  Some people are simply trying to live.  A mother who uses her credit card to buy food and clothing for her family is a far cry from a squanderer.  A young, doe-eyed humanitarian who made a prudent decision to attend medical school to refine his God-given gifts and impact his community and the world around him is far from what I would call irresponsible.  While I am sure there are people who’ve placed themselves in the lion’s den, this is not everyone’s story, and the truth is, even if it were, do they deserve to be eternally imprisoned?

 

King Solomon said it best when he said, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all,” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, NIV).  One on the worse things that any of us could do on our journey on this Earth is to make distinctions between “us” and “them.”  If anyone has lived on this Earth long enough, one of the valuable lessons learned is that time is the ultimate equalizer where “they” often becomes “me.”

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With liberty and justice for all…

Those are the words on which the United States’ Pledge of Allegiance rests. Unfortunately, the grand jury’s November 24, 2014 ruling on the Ferguson, Missouri shooting has once again exhumed a dirty, American secret—racism.

Racism in America is ubiquitous. It’s in our schools. It’s in our government. It’s in our homes, and it’s even in our churches. Yes, racism is even present in the house of God. For some, “liberty and justice for all” is conditional. For those individuals, the privilege of justice and equality is applied only to the subset of the population that looks and thinks like them.

I’m only three paragraphs into this blog, and I have probably already offended a great majority. When it comes to social faux pas, religion and politics are high on the list. However, I think that is part of the problem. Our nation has become so concerned with political correctness that we have diminished the free exchange of ideas and information and substituted it with a false sense of tolerance. A nation that is tolerant will always be a nation filled with prejudice, apathy, and hatred. You see, tolerance is not the same as acceptance or even love. To tolerate someone means that if given the change, you would rather not interact with them. You tolerate them because you have no choice. For a nation that rests on the principles of God, that is unacceptable!

This morning, as my fingers stroked across my keyboard, I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go with today’s blog. My heart ached as I read about a city stricken by grief and charged emotions. I mourned over a mother who has lost her child. As I tried to make sense of all this madness, I wondered, “Where is God in all of this?” The verse that immediately came to mind was, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” (2 Chronicles 16, 9).

Throughout the bible, God is constantly looking for at least one person who will make a difference in their generation. Before God destroyed the city of Sodom, he said to Abraham, “

“If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it,” (Genesis 18: 26-32).

I believe that God is looking for someone, at least one person, in each generation that will stand up in His name. This means standing up in the face of injustice and inequality. It means speaking love into the hearts and the lives of God’s people.

With liberty and justice for all…

The original version of the Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by Francis Bellamy (1855–1931), a Baptist minister and a Christian Socialist. The original version read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Years later, Louis Albert Bowman ignited a movement to incorporate the phrase “one nation under God.” Now, I don’t know how that all transpired, nor do I know what political processes were in place for that to occur. The point I am trying to make is this: one person can make a difference. Many are called, but only few are chosen. Will you answer the call to be a voice of your generation? The world needs people who are unapologetically, unashamed to stand up for justice—to stand up for God.

The problem is that most people are waiting for someone else to make the sacrifices.  Most people are waiting for someone else to take a stand.  What if that person that everyone is wait on is you?  What will you do?