Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mooching, Poverty and Giving

As of this writing, I have been reading a book about mooching. Mooching? The premise of this author is that many of us in the US and in the UK are moochers. We think we are entitled to get, get, get while others work for our goods. We want something for nothing. The commodity here? Money. Government money. Taxpayer dollars. What inspires us? Grabbing hold of all the freebies that Big Government is all too happy to hand us, courtesy of the taxpayers. Agreed?

We need to be clear on what programs are actually welfare and what are not. In the US, programs such as Food Stamps, Aid for Families of Dependent Children (AFDC), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and Medicaid are means-tested "welfare" programs. That is, they are based on documented need. They are not "entitlements." Other programs are considered "entitlements" and are not welfare and are not based on financial need, but on other criteria. Social Security Disability (SSD)is for those who have documented disabilities that prevent them from being gainfully employed. Social Security is an entitlement for anyone 65 and over. Veteran's Benefits are for those who have served in the military. Survivor's Benefits go to those who have lost spouses or parents. The programs exist for different needs and situations.

But many people, especially those who subscribe to the conservative viewpoint, tend to see most government programs as "welfare" and agree that we are a "nation of moochers." Much of this is because people who subscribe to the conservative viewpoint disagree with their liberal counterparts about what the government's role in meeting needs should be. In reading the book I have been reading, I wonder if the author changed the names of the "welfare recipients" and "moochers" whom he mentioned by name. It is my hope that he did. As a Christian, I know that we are not to be "moochers" or to have the reputation of being such. We are told that, "If a person won't work, he should not eat." Where the rub is is determining if a recipient of benefits cannot work or will not work. In many cases, even when a person looks able-bodied and so should go get a job, he or she may have an invisible disability that makes getting or holding a job very difficult. Can this person be considered a moocher?

What is the opposite of a moocher? It is a giver. Who can give? Many people labor under the notion that we must have a lot of money to give. Many believe that small financial gifts do not count, and that the "big givers" matter more than the "small givers." But in my Bible, Jesus heaps praise on a destitute widow who dropped two mites in the collection basket. She may have not thought her gift was worth much. But Jesus, seeing the sacrifice that was involved in her gift, lavished praise on her.

I have switched from mooching to giving. I do this because, as good as it is to provide both government "safety net" programs and private aid efforts, we must not neglect those in developing countries. In developed countries, especially the US, the poor usually experience what has been called "relative poverty." But most people in developing countries experience what is called "absolute poverty." While we can do very little about the sea of need in those parts of the world, we can make life better for one child and his or her family. Consider sponsoring a child.

The above two photos are courtesy of Compassion International, Inc.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One Mom & Why All of Us Can Help Her

Causes. Animal rights. Missing persons. Human Trafficking. Race Relations. Disability Awareness. World Relief. Patriotism. All of these and many others are worthy causes. People risk their reputations, maybe their freedoms and even their lives. That is a good thing. It is a good thing to find a cause outside ourselves to not only make a difference in this world, but to bring purpose and happiness to our own lives in knowing that we are making this world a better place than when we entered it. We normally develop a passion for causes which have affected us at a personal level, a family member or a close friend. That makes sense.

But there is one cause that transcends them all because it affects each one of us not only now, but for all eternity.

This is because each of us has a soul and Jesus tells us, in John 14:6 that He alone is the only way to know God, His Father. He said it, not I. Countless Christians in the past, and Christians today, have staked their reputations, their freedoms, and often their lives, because they so believe this. Can all the multiplied millions of Christians be wrong? Who would die for a fraud or a hoax?

Whether you are a Christian or not, let me share with you the story of a woman named Asia Bibi. Asia, a wife and mom of five and a Muslim-background believer, has been behind bars for over five years. She was arrested on June 19, 2009, for blasphemy. All she was doing was defending her Christian faith when she and some Muslim women had engaged in a lively theological discussion. That was a very brave act. For Pakistan, Asia's homeland, has a brutal Sharia law, meaning that anyone who dissents from Islam should be punished and sentenced to death. Despite international advocacy and the assistance of two separate authorities who were assassinated trying to help her, Asia remains in prison and awaits a death sentence to this day. No one will come forward to assist her. She seems to have exhausted her appeals. She suffers chronic illness and weakness.

Would this Christian mom risk all for a hoax or a fraud?

I leave you to answer this question for yourself. But Asia is only one Christian in prison just for what she believes. Worldwide, many Christians languish in jails or prisons just because of what they believe. In China, I learned about the plight of a Christian leader who has been in prison even longer than Asia, six years. Yes, I know that other religious minorities experience severe persecution, but, historically, Christians have been the most persecuted of these groups. But wherever you are in your life journey, you can sign a petition for Asia if you agree that her basic human rights to religious freedom and dignity are being trampled and violated.

You can sign an international petition for Asia and please share it once you have signed it. You can learn more about her and sign that petition here.

The above photo of Asia is courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs, Inc..

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What Is Going On With So Many Parents?

A mother drives her two children into a lake one day, killing them.

Believing that her four-year-old is gay, his mom beats him to death.

A dad leaves his son out in a hot car for seven hours and his son is found dead well before then.

A dad, driving in his car, takes his baby and throws the child out of the car.

Driving her car into the ocean, a mom tries to drown both her children as rescuers save them.

A mom, fed up with her two "mouthy teenagers," hatches up a plan to kill both and succeeds in carrying it out.

Managing to hide seven pregnancies, a mother kills each of her seven babies.

A mom is found in bed, naked with a knife, clutching the bodies of all three of her young children.

A dad, angered that his wife was trying to flee from him with their two children, managed to find them and murder all of them; today he remains a fugitive from justice.

I can go on and on. So can you, I am sure, if you are aware of what is going on. What is causing all this violence among family members? Are we now just hearing more about it because we live in the age of communication and information? Along with all this violence of parents against their children, spouses, youth and even children are becoming more violent. But lately, the violence of parents against their children seems to have spiked at an all-time high. The media, especially CNN, have covered the "car dad" case, hashing every detail of this disturbing and heartbreaking case. When this story first broke, I was mad at the cops for what appeared to be a rush to judgment and a witch-hunt against a dad who may have well made the tragic mistake of his life. They charged him with "Cruelty to Children" and "Felony Murder." They declared with passion: "This is the most shocking case of our careers and to our consciences as fathers and husbands." Couldn't they cut this dad any slack? But as the case unfolded and details kept coming to light, I came to change my mind. It was revealed that on the day that his son was killed, this dad came out to the car in the afternoon and placed something in the car. At his web designer job, he was sexting women, including a sixteen-year-old girl; he sent pics of his erect penis! Details concerning what, to me, were the odd responses of his wife to all of this, also surfaced. Whenever I hear of one case after another like this, I wonder: What about adoption? If these people don't want to deal with their children, why don't they surrender them to relatives or to a safe place? Why do these people turn to murder?

Life is not as valued as it once was. It is getting cheaper and more expendable.

I believe that we, in the West and particularly in the US, have been on a downward spiral since 1973. That was when abortion became legal. Many abortion advocates have argued that by eliminating children (whom they call "fetuses") that we would reduce child abuse and violence. According to this reasoning, getting rid of "unwanted problems" would reduce "stressors" that supposedly drive people to crime and child abuse in particular. But guess what? The legalization of abortion has not reduced child abuse or any other forms of abuse. If anything, child abuse and all forms of violence have increased since then. Because unborn life has become cheap and expendable, the stage has been set for the slippery slope of valuing life at other forms of development less. I don't think this is any accident that this is so. Life has become cheaper. This, combined with our very fast pace of living in the West, has helped us on this downward spiral of violence. People today are more likely to turn to abuse, suicide and murder, to "solve problems" than was the case four decades ago. I had grown up in the 1960's and 1970's, and I don't remember hearing about violence of the scale that is epidemic today. Am I missing something? Was it just swept under the rug? Do we just talk about these things more openly?

All this makes me think, Jesus, can You come back today?

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