Monday, March 9, 2009

Community Christian Capitalism at work

I have been watching a travel show on PBS for years and hosted by Rick Steves.

I ran into his bio on Wikipedia and I was just floored by one item listed there at the bottom.

The simplicity of the idea and the scope and depth of an idea of how someone could use their retirement funds as a relatively safe, conservative way to serve mankind, the community and in the spirit of the Christ. I am dumbfounded sometimes by creativity or the random acts of seeming kindness I sometimes run into in this world.

The idea is simple. You get a lot of volunteer organizations like the YMCA and Rotary Club involved to house homeless mothers. Your initial investment is the investment of your retirement fund to buy an apartment building. You are not giving it away. You are leasing it to a community need for a decade or two. With insurance and maintenance your investment is tangible and safe.

You give a pathway for a flow of semi-charitable good works and outside the realm of direct organized religion or government. Religions have a tendency to become bureaucratic and sad to say in some instances corrupt in the distribution of alms and charity to people. Government is government.

Why not do charity and or good works on your own and after fifteen or twenty years take back your investment plus accumulated unearned equity. I do not want to put a label on this such as passive good works or compassionate brotherhood. Compassionate conservatism as a term in the secular sense has perhaps failed terribly and gotten us into two wars overseas.

In 2005 Rick and Anne Steves purchased a 24-unit apartment complex in Lynnwood, Washington and fixed it up to serve as transitional housing for homeless mothers and their children. The Steves invested much of their retirement nest egg and are allowing free use of the complex for 15 years--leaving management responsibilities to the local YWCA Pathways for Women, while Rotarians in the Edmonds Noontime Rotary Club help maintain the buildings, do grounds upkeep, and provide everything from the furniture to the flowers. In addition, the club raised USD $30,000 in donations to build a play structure for the children of Trinity Place. About 100 mothers are expected to ultimately live there.

Steves is an active Lutheran, and has written and hosted educational videos on subjects such as Martin Lutheran and the European Reformation of the Church. He also raises funds for Bread for the World. -- Wikipedia

Think of all the secular no-religion Americans who have seen their 401ks shrink and pension funds evaporate. Think of the bemoaning of “my individual piece” of Wall Street melting away.

Think of all the mutual funds invested in China and Aluminum mines with people making slave wages. Think of the returns on investment of China put into U.S. Treasury notes to feed our national debt and our insatiable godless consumerism. Think of a China that individually dominates or dictates out national policies, really a country we are afraid to challenge at the moment. Think of a godless China that sits on the United Nations Security Council that will veto any humane actions on Darfur to protect its very real national investments in Sudan.

Think how we as individuals do not have to invest in some godless macro Wall Street ponzi schemes in the future. Think about taking the time out to touch and research the needs of your community. Think about investing your money, your nest egg, in the future of the welfare and best interests of your community.

Think of what Jesus would do with your investments.

While you would like to give away everything to the poor, why not just share with them for a while and make the world a tiny bit better. The world is better because you touched the world and the world seems to matter right in front of your eyes.

I would label this as Community Christian Capitalism because it is capitalism. It also serves the community. It most definitely has a Christian flavor.

You are making a cash investment to get back a cash return. Instead of instant millions in immediate return, you get a safe old fashioned rate of return on cash investment which also serves the needs of the community. There is something about this scheme that touches upon the things missing today in over-organized religion or failed government. It has to do with people and community needs and meeting the needs of the less fortunate in a humane and dignified manner. Churches and religions used to touch the earth and communities.

In an abstract dominant secular world “we have to touch people” again. We need to serve others in order to serve our own spiritual selves and needs. This is humanity. This is Christ!

It's a Secular World - and growing as religion declines in U.S.

It is one of the facts of life that religion at all levels has declined.

There are a whole bunch of stats on this in this article.

More Americans say they have no religion
Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

Northern New England surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious region, with Vermont reporting the highest share of those claiming no religion, at 34 percent. Still, the study found that the numbers of Americans with no religion rose in every state.

"No other religious bloc has kept such a pace in every state," the study's authors said.

At least the drift always are not calling themselves atheists. I don't dislike atheists. Atheists have a tendency in my opinion to be anti-religion. They are usually reacting in one or two generations going back and against a mean nasty dose of or encounter with organized religion.

I find that most Jehovah Witnesses I have met are a large part ex-Catholics who do not like that name brand, had a bad direct experience with the name brand or they have transferred bad or unusual family dysfunctional feelings toward the RCs. Just an observation and certainly not scientific. I think of this sect as a social club that has the right mindset but not the guts to be atheists. They seem like half-assed Chrsitans who feel more comfortable under an umbrella of "religious" settings but are uncertain how to use the thing.

There is a great joke of the legendary borsht belt comedian Henny Youngman -
"became an atheist - two, three - had to give it up - three four - no holidays"

While we are listing this stuff, I am an anti-religionist. In principal I am against large organized religion. That doesn't mean much as organized religion loses ground by the stats in the article.

I am a religionist in that I think we need a minimum of theist based philosophy or morals as an alternative to haphazard secular or cultural trends that decide or cause a flavor of the month morality for every day casual use.

I believe that the RC's obsession against abortion is not totally moral. I agree that the numbers of abortions is not a good thing. Nor do I think it a good thing - that bringing an unwanted child into the world, doomed almost from the start without the support and guidance of dutiful parents as a social experiment bound to go wrong.

I believes that RC's abortion rhetoric is to cover up its commoditization of human sexuality, a topic that "celibates" are totally inadequate to explain through lack of self understanding or experience in the subject. Abortion is only one of all birth control methods considered a mortal sin in that sect.

I believe that Religion in America has been on a steady decline since WWII. That cars and highways and suburbs have broken up the traditional needs for social contact in cities and religion has always done well in the traditional Greco-Roman city setting.

Part of that city setting made religion over the centuries part of the social fabric. In many cases for the young, old or in between, religious organizations in the community had been primary as a second family setting. That as the state has taken over a lot of these social functions, churches decline.

The trend in Mega churches has formed around the hub of suburbs and malls. I am an old dog, don't want to learn new tricks. And more than that, despite the fact that I live in a semi-burb of New York City, I have a fear of crowds - as in Mega churches. I am curious to see how, where this trend goes or evolves in our fluid like changing society.

I wish any good, honest and tolerate Christian enterprise good luck.

These stats of course have been accumulated in the recent greedy past where less than good, decent or Christian standards have been advocated in a glitzy 24/7 gimmick get rich quick at any cost world filled with electronic gizmos.

I would not let the stats get you down. All beliefs are local. And all faith in action is local as well.

The key I think to a better future for the Christian faith in America is to use the model of the shopping mall where one large department store or Home Depot type store is called an anchor store. It is many times that an abandoned anchor store kills the life of the mall. It is here where many mega churches have taken root in a real sense.

In a more abstract sense, I believe that the anchor of a good church complex should be a school. It is this that has slipped away first in most of the abandoned and sold off churches I have seen. Education on a K-8 may be an expensive proposition to start up but a K-4 or K-6 school would go a hell of distance in protecting our future moral and cultural Christian values in an increasingly secular and non-moral society. Investment in education is an investment in the future life of the congregation. Investment in Christian education has it's dividend in a moral America.

Education money spent on a church scale level would go 2-3 times further than the money wasted on public schools and the strange secular, scientific, amoral standards of learning being perpetuated and unchallenged coming out of the so-called federal department of education.

So it goes.