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Sunday, May 25, 2008

OUR BROKEN COUNTRY AND HOW WE CAN FIX IT! (II)

Our seemingly madcap, self-indulgent obsession with materialism has caused us to neglect many other important aspects of our society. In pursuit of wealth, we ignore current events and resort to excesses to procure that wealth. Businesspersons routinely cheat on taxes and many laborers steal from their companies. Our moral compasses appear to be broken. This is disturbingly evident even in the behavior of our churches and especially in some of their public postures. In the case of the Catholic Church, there have been a huge number of sexual abuse cases which have come to light. Worse yet, the church's bureaucracy for many years ignored these and tried to cover them up. There have also been numerous cases of sexual misconduct and even pedophilia among ministers in fundamentalist churches, and blatant profiteering engaged in by other churches. Still other churches have embarked on a course of near persecution of certain groups such as gays and those choosing abortion. Churches are broken when they engage in activities like this, and especially when they ally themselves with political parties or groups to forcibly impose their biases on the population at large. Much of this activity contradicts the teachings of Jesus, who taught that people should hate the sin and forgive the sinner. According to the Bible, God declares homosexuality to be an "abomination" but nowhere does He urge the persecution of or discrimination against its practitioners. Jesus said countless times to watch over and take care of the poor. Not once did He ever advocate war on behalf of His church, nor did He ever preach that more should be given to the wealthy or that the poor should be shunned and neglected. Yet many fundamentalist churches in the modern era have espoused war and have allied themselves with political movements blatantly favoring the wealthy while looking down on the poor as lazy and undeserving. This appears to be a harmful contradiction between scripture, values, and practice. Churches should provide moral guidance to their flocks, not political directives. They are at their best when dealing directly with their congregations, not becoming enmeshed in or tainted by political parties or movements. Church congregations must influence their leaders and remind them of this, or churches will become hopelessly compromised and failures as institutions.

Our public education system is broken today too. Roughly half of inner city blacks and barely over half of inner city Hispanics or other minorities finish high school. Across the board, reading, math, and science scores are down. Relative to other countries, we are slipping downward and this trend must STOP and REVERSE. Teachers must be given the legal authority to impose and administer discipline. And PARENTS must spend time with their children after school, helping them with and seeing that they do their homework, each and every night. This means not watching that particular TV movie, sitcom, or sports game on occasion. Helping our children grow in knowledge can be every bit as entertaining and far more beneficial than time wasted on mindless babble in front of the TV screen. This is absolutely vital.

With a record number of single-parent families today, many kids are not getting the TLC and parental input they desrve. Given today's economic hardships, it is not easy for parents to tend to all aspects of their child's development. Nonetheless, children need direct input and supervision from their parents on a daily basis, particularly regarding their education. Many parents are working two jobs and this makes it even tougher. But direct quality time with each child is an absolute necessity. Simply sticking kids in front of a TV screen for babysitting isn't good enough. Fortunately, most schools and churches offer invaluable programs for kids outside of school ranging from religious instruction to community aid to athletics. These activities also provide for needed socialization and should be pursued whenever possible. They can provide much-needed moral and educational background necessary for well rounded growth.

Yes, our country is broken in many areas. But our situation is not hopeless. I have outlined a number of problems and possible solutions these past two weeks. Undoubtedly, you can find many others. But the essential and universal element for success here is benevolent, other-directed ACTION on OUR part. We can no longer afford to pursue only self interest or self fulfilling activities. We must start to act for the public good; the more we go the extra mile for someone and something other than ourselves, the sooner we'll see things start to turn around and mend. And the better off we'll all eventually be. But it's up to each of us. What are you waiting for? Take a step, get a move on, and ACT! :)

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