Ordinary people

The media, the intellectual establishment of both the left and the right, and other members of our ruling class are just pouring contempt on figures like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell.  They are portrayed as dangerous, extreme, and just plain weird.  The criticisms, though, don’t get much traction with the public  because these women are so much like the rest of the public.

A review of a new book about Sarah Palin concludes at just how normal she is:

Her beliefs make her what we once called normal, at least in flyover country. There are moms like her, and moms who strive to be like her without ever thinking of it that way and who might even scoff at the idea, on every street and in every neighborhood in America. They run our offices and schools, they run the local diners and band booster drives, and they get the family from Point A to Point B with military precision. Or they try their best to do all that, while trying to work out what they really believe about everything at the same time. Palin managed to do it, even to the point of running a state while going on oceanic fishing excursions with her husband while her political opponents buried her in expensive, frivolous accusations designed to drive her from office. She sent a son off to war. She’s dealt with a pregnant daughter, a worthless almost son-in-law, and a child with special needs. She’s us, pretty much, except that she also happens to have been nominated for the vice presidency and now commands a national following while also attracting a ferocious national opposition that includes most of the mainstream press.  Her faith and her values have carried her through all the very high highs and the very low lows that life has thrown at her. The rest of us could only hope that we would handle the extremes of being Sarah Palin with half her grace.

The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin: What She Believes and What It Means for America shows that Mrs. Palin is very much what-you-see-is-what-you-get: an authentically and uniquely American woman whose very ordinary beliefs have propelled her to do remarkable things.

via Pajamas Media » The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin: What She Believes and What It Means for America (Book Review).

As for Christine O’Donnell, she is being mocked for agreeing with the teachings about sex of her Roman Catholic Church, along with a big percentage of Americans and the world.  She is also unemployed, like 10% of Americans, and her house has been foreclosed.  It’s odd to hear Liberals mock her for those two things.

The Democratic party was strong when it was “the party of the people.”  The Left was strong when it  was a populist movement.  Think of the collectivism of the union movement, “Solidarity Forever,” “Power to the People.”  Today, leftists have become elitists and the Democrats are the party of the “professional class,” people who think they are experts.  They are so out of touch with ordinary Americans that they think they are scoring points when they make fun of much of the American populace whose votes they would like to have.

Now, astonishingly, the populists have become Republicans, much to the disdain of that party’s old guard, with its wealth and country club status.  This is why the Democrats are doomed.  The left will only revive if it can become a populist force like it used to be.

UPDATE: So far, just about everybody who has commented has missed the point of my post: That populists used to be Democrats, and that now they are Republicans. In the olden days, when I was young and a Democrat, the politicians of the party were full of rhetoric about democracy, equality, “the people,” the common man, etc. Republicans were more suspicious of the mob, wanting exceptional individuals rather than the common denominator. Now the rhetoric seems reversed.

I did not mean this to be an endorsement of Sarah Palin or Christine O’Donnell, or even Republicans. Rather, I am trying to give Democrats some advice that, if they want to win elections, they need to rediscover their populist roots, rather than following the strategy of making fun of ordinary Americans.

As for me, I tend to be like the old Republicans, looking for merit, and, again, vocation. I’m uneasy about some of the people I am seeing coming to the fore in the Republican party.

Cut payroll taxes?

One idea to help the economy–advocated by members of both parties–is  to cut payroll taxes, that money deducted from your paycheck.  Here is the case for that from liberal economist Nouriel Roubini:

A much better option is for the administration to reduce the payroll tax for two years. The reduced labor costs would lead employers to hire more; for employees, the increased take-home pay would boost much-needed economic consumption and advance the still-crucial process of deleveraging households (paying down credit card debt and other legacies of the easy-credit years).

Most policy approaches, including the Obama proposals, have tended to subsidize the demand for capital rather than the demand for labor. That has the problem backward. In the second quarter, capital spending reached an annual growth rate of 25 percent. The argument that increased demand for capital leads to greater demand for labor (i.e., if you buy more machines you need workers to run them) has not held up. Firms are investing in capital goods, equipment and offshore offices that allow them to produce the same amount of goods with less — and lower labor costs. To avoid a chronic increase in the unemployment rate, we need to subsidize the demand for labor — achieving job creation — rather than making it cheaper to buy capital, as investment and other tax credits would do.

President Obama could fully fund the reduction in payroll tax by allowing the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year to expire. Meanwhile, the Bush-era cuts affecting middle- and low-income earners — the vast majority of Americans — would remain in place for the time being. . . .

To maximize the incentives for private-sector hiring, there should be sharper reductions to the payroll taxes paid by employers than for those paid by employees. This will counter the argument that the higher income taxes funding these payroll tax cuts will hurt the wealthy and small businesses (many of which are run by those same high-income individuals) and their willingness to hire. Moreover, any cut in the payroll tax reduces the costs of operation and labor for all businesses. Other targeted policies that induce smaller banks to lend to small and medium-size businesses may be needed.

Low-income workers have historically shown a much higher propensity to consume when given extra money, so the payroll tax cut should be designed to provide a larger-percentage break to those on the low end of the income scale compared with the upper middle class.

via Nouriel Roubini – What America needs is a payroll tax cut.

Chef, cook, butler, host, and food

As we continue our survey of the Divine Service from John Pless’s Narrative Commentary, we come to Holy Communion:

PREFACE, SANCTUS, PRAYER, OUR FATHER

Drawn toward the gifts of Jesus’ body and blood, our hearts are lifted up in thanksgiving and praise as we anticipate the reception of the gifts that carry with them our redemption. The Sanctus brings together the song of heaven’s angels in adoration of the Holy Three-in-One and the acclamations of Palm Sunday; “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.” In the prayer, we give thanks to the Lord for the redemption which He has secured for us by His cross; we ask Him to prepare us to receive that redemption in living and joyful faith. The Our Father, the prayer which Jesus taught His disciples to pray, is the “table prayer’ with which we come to the Lord’s Table.

CONSECRATION, PAX DOMINI, AGNUS DEI, DISTRIBUTION
The pastor speaks the Lord’s own words; these words give and bestow what they declare, the Body and Blood of Christ. The Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood is the vehicle for peace. Showing them His wounds, the Risen Lord declared His peace is given us with the Lord’s Body and Blood. By sharing this “peace of the Lord” with each other, we lay aside all that stands in contradiction of the Lord’s testament. With the words of John the Baptist, the Agnus Dei confesses the mercy and peace that we receive from the Lamb of God in His Supper. We come to the Lord’s Table hungry and thirsty and He feeds us with His Body and refreshes us with His Blood. It is the Lord’s Supper. As Luther reminds us “Our Lord is at one and the same time chef, cook, butler, host, and food.”

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – March 2010.

Spiritual, but not religious

Read Mollie Hemingway’s take on the “spiritual but not religious” line in Christianity Today. An excerpt:

The number of people who self-identify using the long-popular phrase “spiritual but not religious” is still growing. In 1998, 9 percent of American adults told the General Social Survey they were spiritual but not religious. By 2008, it had risen to 14 percent. Among those ages 18 to 39, the increase was even more dramatic, and 18 percent now say they are spiritual but not religious.

The growth is not because people are less likely to identify as religious, but because nonreligious people are more likely to say they are spiritual, says Duke sociologist Mark Chaves.

Part of the phrase’s popularity can be attributed to its sex appeal. No, really. A social psychologist at Britain’s Southampton University looked at 57 studies covering 15,000 experiment subjects, and reported in Personality and Social Psychology Review that North Americans find “intrinsically religious” people desirable—but that the desirability decreases if people portray themselves as extrinsically religious.

Elaborate dating scheme or not, if you wonder what the phrase means, you’ll probably get a different answer from each person you ask. That may be the point.

“Spiritual has, in some sense, come to mean ‘my own personal religion with my own individual creed,’ ” Timothy Paul Jones, a Baptist seminary professor, told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The word religion comes from the Latin religare (re: “back,” and ligare: “to bind”), so the term is associated with being bound. In that sense, defining oneself as “spiritual, not religious” couldn’t be more apt, reflecting a desire to not be bound by any rules, community, or belief. Being spiritual but not religious is the perfect fit for people who don’t like the demands of religion but aren’t quite ready to say they have no soul.

Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft has noted that our culture’s fear “is not the fear of death, as it was for the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, nor is it the fear of hell,” as found in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic societies of the medieval period. No, the fear of the age “is the fear of meaninglessness itself.”

Yet those who oppose organized religion may be missing out on some of the best tools for staving off meaninglessness.

via Faith Unbound | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Is it also possible to be religious without being spiritual?  Would that be better–or  at least less  gnostic–than the other way around?

One out of seven is below the poverty line

The recession is officially over, with a quarter showing positive growth after 18 months. Hooray, hooray. Just like the war in Iraq is officially over. So why don’t we feel better? Meanwhile,
we get news like this:

In the second year of a brutal recession, the ranks of the American poor soared to their highest level in half a century and millions more are barely avoiding falling below the poverty line, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

About 44 million Americans – one in seven – lived last year in homes in which the income was below the poverty level, which is about $22,000 for a family of four. That is the largest number of people since the census began tracking poverty 51 years ago.

The snapshot captured by the census for 2009, the first year of the Obama presidency, shows an America in the throes of economic upheaval.

Since 2007, the year before the recession kicked into gear, the country has almost 4 million fewer wage-earners. There are more children growing up poor. And for the first time since the government began tracking health insurance in 1987, the number of people who have health coverage declined, as people lost jobs with health benefits or employers stopped offering it.

With midterm elections less than two months away, the statistics bare the reality fueling much of the anger toward Washington.

via Poverty stats show the damage.

What the offering and the prayer mean

Next in our ongoing series from The Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service by John Pless:

OFFERING

Having received from the generosity of the Father who is the Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift, we now return of the gifts that we have been given. The offering is accompanied with an offertory from Psalm 51 which teaches us that the highest offering is simply to receive, in faith, the gifts God gives for body and soul.

THE PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

God’s Word is always primary in worship. We speak only as we are spoken to. Gathered in Jesus’ Name, we bring the petitions and thanksgivings before Him that grow out of His Word. This prayer is called the Prayer of the Church for in this prayer, the Royal Priesthood of All Believers does its priestly work of making “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – March 2010.

Again, it’s called the “Divine Service”–the translation of the German Gottesdienst–because in it God serves US!


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