Lesson 01- The Depression
Those of you who are regular listeners are aware that for some time now I have been running reruns of my programs entitled “The Sounds of the Jubilee” consisting of 125 half-hour talks. However, as was customary, I interrupted the sequence of the programs at Christmas and New Years to replay talks that I had made especially for these occasions. It was then my custom to return to the regular sequence after New Years. However, this time I am going to deviate from this because of the harsh economic times that the world is facing so that I might comment on them in light of my past observations. After I have accomplished this, I will return to the regular sequences of my tapes. So here is my contribution to the present state of affairs:
Well, it finally happened! Did it surprise you? It shouldn’t have if you had the “eyes to see and the ears to hear.” For years the Blessed Mother in various visions had been warning us that time was running out and that the world had to either repent and reform or the judgment of God would fall upon us. But even if we didn’t know or believe in these apparitions, common sense and logic should have told us that sooner or later the binge that this country was on had to eventually end. The only thing that surprised me was that it took so long. God has a lot more patience than I do.
Back in the 1970’s I considered quitting teaching because I was frightened by what I was teaching in the Economic segment of my course. At that time, I could see the faulty premises upon which the economy was based and the ultimate collapse that had to come. At that time, I wondered whether teaching high school students was the most productive way to serve the Lord. Fortunately, through various indications, I decided that I was where the Lord wanted me to be.
And why did this happen? It should be obvious. We were acting stupidly which is just another name for sinning. Jesus, as you might remember from previous programs, is the Wisdom of God and the word sin comes from a Greek word that was used by archers when they missed the target. And we were missing the target of rational behavior in many areas of our lives. And although foolishness and stupidity might succeed or benefit us in the short term, they ultimately will destroy us in the long term. In Proverbs 1, Wisdom, or Jesus, says:
“Listen! Wisdom is calling out in the streets and marketplaces, calling loudly at the city gates and wherever people come together: Foolish people! How long do you want to be foolish? How long will you enjoy making fun of knowledge? Will you never learn? Listen when I reprimand you! I will give you good advice and share my knowledge with you. I have been calling you, inviting you to come, but you would not listen. You paid no attention to me. You have ignored all my advice and have not been willing to let me correct you. So when you get into trouble, I will laugh at you. I will make fun of you when terror strikes, when it come on you like a storm, bringing fierce winds of trouble, and you are in pain and misery. Then you will call for wisdom, but I will not answer. You may look for me everywhere, but you will not find me. You have never had any use for knowledge and have always refused to obey the Lord. You have never wanted my advice or paid attention when I corrected you. So then, you will get what you deserve, and your own actions will make you sick. Inexperienced people die because they reject wisdom. Stupid people are destroyed by their own lack of concern. But whoever listens to me will have security. He will be safe, with no reason to be afraid.”
Years ago, a good friend of mine, was fond of quoting this Proverb at a prayer meeting that we both attended. However, when he reached the point where Wisdom says, “So when you get into trouble, I will laugh at you. I will make fun of you when terror strikes, when it come on you like a storm, bringing fierce winds of trouble, and you are in pain and misery. Then you will call for wisdom, but I will not answer. You may look for me everywhere, but you will not find me.” he would skip over those passages. And, to be truthful, I was tempted to do the same thing because we are fond of saying that God is unconditional love and that Jesus will forgive us no matter what we do. In other words, we are more comfortable with a God who demands nothing and overlooks everything. And yet the Bible says that wisdom begins with the “fear of the Lord.”
We have developed the habit of “taking God for granted” and transforming Him into that big marshmallow in the sky who is “sugar and spice and everything nice” and have completely ignored His awesomeness and power. The ancient Jews were so aware of these latter qualities that they refused to say His name and anyone who dared approach Him with familiarity, instead of the awesome respect that he deserved, was declared a blasphemer worthy of death. And that is why they sought to kill Jesus where He declared God to be His father and addressed Him with the familiar title of Abba or Daddy.
But doesn’t the Bible say that God is Unconditional Love and doesn’t it also say that Jesus came to save us, not condemn us? Yes, it does but the problem is that we don’t understand what is unconditional about God’s love or how Jesus saves us. Many of us believe that Unconditional Love means that God will accept us no matter how we behave and that Jesus will save us in spite of our sinning. In previous talks I have addressed both of these issues and thus I will summarize only their conclusions here.
What is unconditional about God’s love is that He will love us even if we don’t love Him. And, according to the Bible, He will chastise and discipline those that He loves. But, wait a minute, that’s not love. Love allows you to do whatever you want to do and it never chastises you. Is that so? Do we as parents believe that it is a loving thing to allow our children to run free to do whatever they want to do and to refuse to chastise them when they are doing things that threaten their safety and well-being? Or do we consider it irresponsible and uncaring to do so? But, of course, the disciplined child will not see this as a loving act and will threaten to withhold his/her love from us and might even declare that he or she hates us. And that is where our idea of love and God’s part company. Whenever we love, we place the condition and expectation that we will be loved in return and we falter in those “tough love” situations where our motives and methods are misunderstood by the other person. And, since we need their affirmation and affections to fill our own sense of self-worth, we capitulate or give in when the price that must be paid is rejection.
God, on the other hand, has no need for our approval or acceptance since, as a Being that knows and accepts Himself completely, He needs no affirmation, approval or assurance from others. You don’t have to like Him for Him to love you. That is why He is capable of loving His enemies who hate Him. Therefore, He alone is capable of loving others objectively by concentrating on what is good for them even when they don’t understand it themselves.
So believe it or not, the current collapse of our economy is a sign of God’s love for us and His attempt to steer us away from dangerous paths that were leading us to even greater destruction and the reason that we fail to see this is because, as the Bible says, His ways are not ours and as far as the heavens are above the earth so far is His understanding from ours. We are judging from the “flesh” and He is judging from the “spirit,” and that is what Jesus was referring to when He chastised Peter for telling Him that it was not necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. In Matthews 16:23, Jesus says:
“Get thee behind me, Satan: you are a stumbling block for me, because these thoughts (that I don’t have to suffer and die) of yours don’t come from God, but from man. Then said Jesus to his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what does it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
From God’s point of view it is our spirit, which is destined to live forever, not our flesh, which will die and decay, that matters. Thus, even the Holocaust, when seen through God’s eyes, was a blessing because prior to it Germany, and the world in general, was in a state of spiritual decay. God, who sees the inner spirit of Man, was viewing a mass of starving, tortured, emaciated spirits, locked within the concentration camp of their own selfishness. Man, who see only the outward appearances, saw a mask of smiling, laughing, drinking and partying empty people who were flitting away their lives lost in the sensations of their flesh. Thus, God was viewing a spiritual Holocaust that far exceeded in consequences the physical Holocaust that was to follow later. Victor Frankle, a German, Jewish psychologist, who was incarcerated in a concentration camp himself, wrote in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that many of these people living meaningless, shallow lives before the Holocaust were transformed into heroic selfless individuals who found meaning in the midst of their suffering that they were never able to find in the cabarets of Germany.
Fulton Osler, in his book, Modern Parables tells of one such incident. He writes of a survivor of Auschwitiz who shocked the Allied soldiers when they freed the inmates at the end of the war by his physically frail but psychologically strong condition. When they entered the camp, the soldiers, who expected a joyous response, were met by hordes of skeletal, frail men with blank eyes that seem unaware of their liberation. However, there was one man who, despite his equally frail physical condition, leapt for joy and seemed fully aware of his deliverance. How, the soldiers asked, was he alone able to maintain his psychological alertness and balance while the others seemed to be drained. This is what he said:
“When I first came here I, like all the other prisoners, was beaten, worked, and starved almost to death. Each day, after a full day of slave labor, we were given a small piece of bread and watered down soup for dinner and if one did not keep a watchful eye, we would steal from each other. At night, we fought each other for an extra inch of blanket as we lay face-to-toe on a plank barely wide enough for two men to sleep.
After about three months, many of us were becoming like animals who fought each other for any advantage that would permit us to survive. I was becoming disgusted with myself and so I asked God to help me to preserve my humanity in the midst of this jungle. Then it came to me. From that point on, I gave half of my bread and soup away to the other inmates. What the guards made me do made me feel like an animal but what I made myself do made me feel like a man.”
He couldn’t change his circumstances but he could change his attitude towards them. And as another survivor of the Holocaust put it, “The secret to survival was to remain a man among wolves.” Or, as Jesus put it, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it and he who loses it for My sake will save it.” Or, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul.” Thus, when seen through God’s eyes, the Holocaust, despite all of its physical cruelties, may have had greater benefit to many of those involved than the “Roaring Twenties” atmosphere that preceded it.
This is not to say that God caused the Holocaust. Rather, Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust flowed
War I that left Germany in a state of ruin, chaos, and confusion,. and concluding with the escapist behavior of the German people whose motto could be described as “Eat, drink, and be merry for why should we care about tomorrow as long as were are free to have fun today.” Post-war Germany was in political and economic chaos and was psychologically ripe for a dictatorial takeover. As Will Durant, the historian said, “When freedom destroys order, the need for order will destroy freedom.” In other words, whenever chaotic conditions exist, the people will go looking for a dictator to restore order. And Adolph Hitler knew how to play on their prejudices and insecurities.
And, yet, according to the Bible, God can always draw good out of evil. In fact, according to both Jewish and Christian beliefs, God uses history to teach us lessons and the Jews, as His Chosen People, often become the visual aid or living example that are used to transmit the lesson. So what did God teach us by allowing humans the freedom to enter World War II and for the Holocaust to take place.
First, He taught us to beware of losing our moral compasses by allowing the “flesh” to overcome the “spirit.” World War I was followed by the “Roaring Twenties” when unabated freedom and personal greed led to the collapse of moral restrictions and, eventually, the Stock Market. The general public’s attitude was “Let it all hang out!” And the attitude of those involved in the Stock Market was to borrow, borrow, borrow so that one could buy stocks low and sell higher. It is interesting to note that just prior to this time, three children in Portugal were receiving visions and messages from Mary warning that if the people did not “repent and reform”, there would be another World War and chastisements from God. As the saying goes, “Those that don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.”
Second, He taught us to be just and compassionate when dealing with a defeated enemy. The results of the Marshall Plan, after World War II, in which billions were spent to help rebuild Germany, and later Japan, stands in stark contrast to the Versailles Treaty following World War I. Today, Germany and Japan are two of our staunchest allies and both have (or had) thriving economies. People who have a lot to lose are much less inclined to start wars than people who have nothing to lose.
Third, He taught us, through the invention of the atomic bomb, that war was obsolete as a method for addressing the issues between nations. We have finally reached the point where “only the meek could inherit the earth, because a nuclear war would leave both losers and winners devastated and could even threaten the existence of life on the earth.
Fourth, He taught us to beware of utopian leaders, like Hitler, who try to take us to the Promised Land by organizing us through our fears and prejudices.
Fifth, He taught us to beware of utopian intellectuals, like the German bioethical scientists, who sought to make a better world by eliminating all problems, including human beings, through any means necessary. It was the premises established by these scientists that Hitler used to eliminate first, the “useless eating mouths” consisting of the poor, the old, the sick, the handicapped and the retarded because they didn’t contribute anything and were a drag on his Master Race. This was followed by gypsies, homosexuals, and Jews whom he considered to be sub-human “vermin” who had no claim to legal or human rights. Then came anyone who disagreed with him and refused to swear total allegiance to him and his utopian vision.
However, this is a lesson that even those who continually remind us that we should “never forget” the Holocaust seem to have forgotten. How else can we explain why so many of them support abortion which is based on the same premise as the Holocaust, that is, “there are humans and subhumans; and subhumans (the children in the womb) have no rights that humans need to respect”? It is equally hard to understand how any Afro-American person could support abortion since it was this same premise upon which slavery and the Dred Scott decision was based.
Sixth, He taught us that “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” And what is the “word that comes from the mouth of God.” He said, beware of those who promise to feed the flesh but, in the process, destroy the spirit. As I explained in a previous program, the ancient Jews considered that there were two dimensions to every human being: the flesh that ate bread and the spirit that ate Wisdom. And they considered it very stupid to spend one’s life feeding the flesh that was destined to die and decay, while starving the spirit that was destined to live forever. And, thus, one of their terms for Wisdom was “the Bread of Life”. And Jesus, who according to the Catholic Church is the Incarnate Wisdom of God, referred to Himself as “the Bread of Life.” Furthermore, St. John, in John 1 refers to Jesus as the Word that was used to create the universe and Proverbs 8 says that Wisdom was the craftsman used to create everything. Thus Jesus, Wisdom, and Word, to a Christina, are all the same thing for whenever God speaks, He always speak Wisdom. Finally, consider that John’s Gospel was written in Greek and in Greek WORD is spelled LOGOS from which we get LOGIC. Thus, Jesus is the Wisdom of God, the Word of God, and the Logos or Logic of God. And what is the basic premise of this LOGIC from which all conclusions flow? “It is the sprit that counts and the flesh is worth nothing.” And this, as we have seen, is the basic premise of the ancient Jews and attitude of God.
Finally, He taught us that all it takes for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing. Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said,
'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'
In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong , and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'
And that is where we find ourselves today. Some people might be questioning why God let this economic collapse happen or, at this moment, are on their knees for the first time in a long time, pleading with Him to save us from the consequences of our stupidity. Few, I suspect, will see it as the just consequences of the choices that we have made or as God’s loving hand pulling us back from a worst precipice that we were about to fall over.
It is easy to praise God when things are going well but even then we fail to do this because with wealth and contentment grows arrogance and self sufficiency and it takes some type of devastation to bring us to our knees. It takes great faith and insight to praise God for our troubles and failures but that is exactly the point that Rev. Caruthers, a Protestant minister, made in his book “The Power of Praise.” If nothing else, it demonstrates that we have matured beyond hedonistic animals who evaluate “good and evil” according to “pleasure and pain.” But even more, it recognizes that no matter what happens in the “world of the flesh”, God is always blessing us in the “world of the spirit.” The difficulties of today are the “crosses” that Jesus said that we must bear if we wish to have eternal life. And even when these crosses are the result of our own stupidity and sinfulness, the Bible assures us that, if we turn to God with a repentant heart, he will bring forth good even from our evil.
So the real test for us today is not so much what is happening to us but, rather, what will be our attitude and reaction towards it. As the present order crumbles because of the faulty premises upon which it was based, the challenge is for us to rethink our values and premises so that we don’t make the mistake of trying to rebuild on the same faulty foundation that caused the present system to collapse. We are, as Charles Dickens said in the beginning of his novel, ‘A Tale of Two Cities”, “in the worst of times and the best of times.” He was talking about the period of the French Revolution when the old monarchies were crumbling and new democratic republic were replacing them. We are talking about now when both Communism and Capitalism are crumbling and the world is looking for a new system that will retain what was best in both while looking for a new approach that corrects each o f their defects. That new approach, for a Christian, is the Kingdom of God where the Wisdom of God will replace ig Ignorance of Man. It was stupidity that brought us to where we are, and only Wisdom can take us to where we ought to be. And, as in all situations involving sin or stupid behavior, the first step is to “repent” of our pass errors and to “reform” our lives and world to correct the mistakes. Our guiding principle should be, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all the rest shall be added unto you.”
This, by the way, is not a call to create a theocratic state, comparable to what radical Muslims seek, in which one religion dominates all others and places them in a second class status. Rather it is a call for Christian to lead by example by living out in their own lives the principles upon which the Kingdom of God rest. Then we will be following the advice of St. Paul who said, “Let your Light shine for all the world to see so that men will see the good you do and give your Father (God) praise.” The world is sorely in need of two essential qualities, Love and Wisdom, and we are suppose to be the conduits for both.
However, as humans, we are very reluctant to radically change any system, even one that is full of problems and dangers. As the saying goes, “The devil that you know is better than the devil that you don’t know.” Thus, radical change almost requires the current system to fall apart before people will consider newer and better alternatives. Thomas Jefferson noted this in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote: …”All experience hath shown that Mankind is more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to abolish the form to which they are accustomed…” He then goes on to list all of the things that led to the decision that the situation with England had become intolerable. Therefore, in like manner, in future t programs in this series, I will attempt to identify and list some of the foolish things that have brought us to this situation and to suggest some possible solutions. However, before one can change or analyze anything, he must first understand it and, in order to do that, we will have to study how humans have dealt with economics issues in the past and how our present system came to be.
This will require that I spend some time teaching you something about history and economic theory and I run the risk of confusing or boring you, or perhaps both. However, I don’t know of any other way to help you understand the steps that brought us to our present conditions. As followers of Jesus we are suppose to be “lights unto the world” which means that we should be able to show them the way out of their mental darkness. But we can’t do that if we ourselves are in mental darkness. And, if we are, then, as the scriptures say, “when the blind lead the blind they both fall into a ditch.” And, according to St. John, the only reason God condemns us is because the Light came into the world and we loved darkness. But what is this light that he is talking about. Obviously, it is Jesus. But who is Jesus? He’s the Incarnate Wisdom of God. So what is St. John really saying. He is saying that God’s Wisdom, Jesus, came into the world but men loved ignorance and stupidity and so they kept repeating the same actions while expecting different result. In other words, they were insane because they were out-of-touch with Reality which is simply another name for Truth.
The time has come for all of us to grow up spiritually because the stakes are too high for us to continue to act like spiritual infants. It is not enough for us to simply follow religious practices and attend religious ceremonies. We have to start living the gospel in our everyday lives both individually and corporately. Like all growth processes, this will required tough decisions and, as St. Paul say, we must put away the things of a child so that we can become grown.
If I were to ask Christians, “ Do you love Jesus I suspect that most of us would immediately conjure in our minds a Holy Card picture of Him in which he is portrayed as the nicest, sweetest, most gentle person we have ever know. And, to some degree He is. But that is only a partial picture of who He really is. I have already quoted Proverb I in which Wisdom, who is Jesus, chastised those who refused to listen to Him. Perhaps, the reason we fail to fully understand Him is because we avoid dwelling on His role as the Final Judge in the Book of Revelation where He throws into the Darkness those who failed to feed, clothe, or visit Him in His time of distress. But He said Himself that the Father judges no one. All the judgment is left to the Son. To love Jesus is to love Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. In short, to love Jesus is to love the Truth because only it can lead us out of darkness into the light of understanding. Well, I see that my time is up.